SocialSocial CommerceAlibaba Proves Itself on Singles Day, Again

Alibaba Proves Itself on Singles Day, Again

Alibaba netted $9.3 billion on this year's Singles Day on November 11, and mobile was a key point of sale.

History was made last week as Alibaba put Singles Day on the record books as the most successful and lucrative holiday ever, pulling in a whopping US$9.3 billion in transactions and beating all estimates. Putting it in perspective, the first billion was reached in the first 20 minutes – in stark contrast, 2013’s Cyber Monday in the U.S. drove a record $2.29 billion in sales – in a whole day. 

Whatever you want to call it – November 11, 11.11, Double Eleven, or simply Singles Day – it has truly become a special day for Chinese consumers, since Alibaba created this single-day online shopping festival back in 2009.

As the name suggests, it was originally created to celebrate single people in China. However, today it has evolved into a much larger proposition catering to everyone looking for great deals. Since its original launch, it did take a few years for the day to start picking up steam, but in 2012 it really hit its stride, driving in a modest $3.04 billion, and jumping to $5.75 billion in 2013.

Alibaba offers deals across numerous product categories, including food, electronics, apparel, cosmetics, and home appliances to name a few. In 2013, even a 13-carat diamond was sold for nearly $4 million through the platform.

This year Alibaba’s sales continued to draw from a variety of wide-reaching product categories and it was able to sell more than 1 billion unique product listings. At the lower end, it recorded sales from more than 3 million lighting products and more than 200,000 bottles of detergents. At the mid-end range, Alibaba sold more than 1.2 million “large” home appliances. And at the high-end it was successful in selling 50,000 cars from across its growing retail businesses that it has been focusing on building up since launching Alipay, which provides retailers the ability to drive sales through the platform.

A few key areas that impacted its success this year were the volume from mobile, the integration with retailers, and its expansion to include overseas buyers. 

Increasingly Mobile 

According to the Google Consumer Barometer, one in three Chinese smartphone users used their phone in their last purchase – one of the highest rates in the world at 33 percent.

For Alibaba, mobile is key. In 2013, the company achieved 45 million payment transactions, which represented 32 percent of its total transaction value in that single day. This year, however, mobile accounted for 45 percent of transactions.

Alibaba will continue to harness the power of mobile and its integration with retail to create a fully omni-channel experience. 

Geographic Expansion 

This year was the first year the platform was opened to include more than 200 countries, allowing other markets to take part in the online festival. This is definitely in line with Alibaba’s growth plans to extend beyond the borders of China to other emerging areas of Asia that are showing strong promise, before finally moving to more mature regions in the West.

Alibaba has built a strong ecosystem in China around key core pillars: data, mobile, social, and logistics. And it will look to replicate this model as it continues to expand overseas. 

Retail Collaboration 

Alibaba estimates that 27,000 merchants and 42,000 brands were involved in the 11/11 sales this year. Online sales have been helped by the fact that Alibaba’s version of PayPal – Alipay – which extends to offline retail partnerships, has also drastically grown.

Categories like automotive, financial products, and travel services, among others, which were not traditionally common online, have also been brought online, making the potential average spending per consumer much higher than in the past.

Singles Day attracts the big and the small when it comes to brands. Most of the big Western brands were of course selling that day, including P&G, Apple, Nike, and others. However, this year, the majority of the top sellers were Chinese brands. Xiaomi, the Chinese smartphone brand, took the top slot, followed by Huawei, another mobile phone brand, while Haier topped the home appliance list.  

Analysts suspect that Singles Day will continue to break its own annual record for the foreseeable future. As it grows in mobile, integrates with retail environments, and expands globally to attract greater audiences, this day seems unstoppable for Alibaba.

It does take more than one great day to make a lasting company, but I am still bullish.

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