Alibaba adds 9.9 wine and spirit event to its list of online shopping festivals

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On September 9, Alibaba will add a 24-hour wine and spirit online shopping spree to its existing stable of popular consumer festivals. The new event has been dubbed Jiu Jiu and is being launched on the company’s B2C ecommerce marketplace, Tmall.

Jack Ma, Alibaba’s chairman has become the king of online shopping festivals. His hugely successful Singles Day, held each year on November 11, raked in US$14.3 billion in gross merchandise volume (GMV) at the 2015 event – making it the world’s biggest global ecommerce event.

Ma will be hoping to generate similar success as the company launches its first 9.9 Global Wine & Spirits Festival. The event offers Chinese consumers access to 100,000 international wines, cognacs, whiskeys and other spirits from 50 countries.

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China’s is the world’s fifth largest wine market and almost half of all imported wine brought into the country is sold online, according to Alibaba sources. There are a number of reasons why online purchasing of wine is growing in popularity in China. These include:

  • Convenience
  • Greater choice and product ranges
  • The Chinese consumer’s growing confidence in making online purchases – especially on mobile
  • A proliferation of online distribution channels
  • An increase in the frequency Chinese consumers are drinking wine

Wine in China was previously seen as an indulgence of the elite, but is today being embraced by many of the country’s 152 million middle-class consumers – especially those in first-tier cities such as Beijing and Shanghai and in the 20-something age demographics, according to Alibaba. It cites figures from Wine Intelligence which estimates 48 million people in China drank imported wine last year, a 26% increase on 2014 – at 38 million. Alibaba says 10 million consumers purchased wine and spirits on its Tmall platform in 2015.

Nick He, China country manager for Italian winemaker Gruppo Mezzacorona, told Alizila, he believed the business’s flagship Tmall store would help the brand to reach every corner of China, including cities where it has never been before.

In the lead up to September 9, Gruppo Mezzacorona is live-streaming from its wineries in Italy, showing Chinese consumers how grapes are picked and how the wine is made. An interactive element encourages Chinese consumers to ask online questions about the brand.

Other international brands participating in the inaugural event include Californian wineries Robert Mondavi Winery and Gallo Family Vineyards, France’s Lafite and Japan’s Suntory Yamazaki.

A number of foreign wine and spirit brands will also be using the event to launch their products for the first time in China.

Getting the most from China’s online shopping festivals

Mark Tanner, managing director, China Skinny, says brands need to be open-minded when participating in online festivals.

“I wouldn’t look at them as an opportunity to make large margins but more to build awareness and positive reviews for your products, which are both very important in China’s cluttered market,” he says.

Brand building

To maximize the benefits of participating in an online event, Tanner advises brands use it as an opportunity to include something with the delivery that will hook the customer into your brand and/or social media account. “This helps brands to build a more sustainable relationship beyond discounted promotional events,” he adds.

Online-to-offline and omnichannel marketing

Mixing the online and offline worlds was a key theme of Alibaba’s 2015 Singles Day. In line with that ethos, a further 5,000 bars and pubs will offer free tastings, education and distribution services during the 9.9 event. Tanner says having offline venues participate in an online event is an example of how Alibaba and many Chinese brands are increasingly using omnichannel to reach larger audiences and engage them in a way they wouldn’t have been able to by purely shopping online.

He adds: “Tmall have created festivals that are full of excitement and really get the consumers engaged online and increasingly offline. The likes of Singles Day has created a gala atmosphere loaded with big name international celebrities on television to reach new audiences, particularly older ones to get them into the mindset of online shopping. Likewise with relevant verticals such as 9.9, they’ve done a great job of creating buzz around a fast growing category that is flying online.”

9.9 is being held on September 9. This date has been chosen for its close resemblance in spoken Chinese between the number nine (九, jiu) and the word for alcohol (酒, jiu).

*Featured image: Tmall

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