Singles day, November 11th, 11.11, Double Eleven, whatever you want to call it, has truly become a special day for Chinese consumers and has firmly put itself on the map as being the single largest e-commerce event of all time.
And yesterday lived up to the hype. Already in the first eight minutes alone it racked up just north of USD one billion in sales. And by the close of the day it netted USD 14.3 billion. Last years USD 9.3 billion (a record already) simply pales in comparison.
As you would suspect in a market like China, which already has a surging mobile economy, yesterday’s sales through mobile devices accounted for nearly 70 per cent of total sales. Interestingly, sales on mobile this year even exceeded sales across all platforms last year.
Alibaba originally created Singles Day as a more or less formal online shopping festival back in 2009 as a way to provide super discounts to, well, single people. However, it has evolved into a much larger event catering to everyone looking for great online deals. It took a few years for it to catch on, but by 2012 it was already pulling in USD 3 billion in sales, jumping to USD 5.75 billion the following year.
This surge in popularity finally gained global interest and by 2014 there were already 200 countries participating in the day. Yesterday, Alibaba announced that buyers and sellers came from 232 countries with over 16,000 different international brands selling at least one item.
All this is somewhat expected if you really look at the numbers in China. Even amidst a reported ‘slowing economy’, all things digital are still booming. Doubling of time spent on mobile in the last year, increases in overall internet consumption, explosion of new ad channels like online video which is seeing 36 per cent growth rates this year, are all contributing to their thriving online economy. Not to mention the huge proportion of the population outside of the big metro areas who will be coming online for the first time in the next year. This represents more potential future sales for Alibaba.
However, for brands looking to enter China or who are new to the market, they should be wary not to hinge their efforts on this one day. Yes, you will probably achieve strong reach, but you don’t want to set the expectationor train your potential buyers to wait for a sale to buy your product. You want them to be paying full price.
The above numbers are the unaudited figures while we wait for Alibaba to tally up the final sales results which should be announced later this week. Regardless, it was a massive day for them and underscored the strength of the digital economy in China.
Alibaba has figured out how e-commerce works. They have strong logistics in place, a usable online buying experience, great customer service, and a platform of product variety catering to millions of interests and needs. There are a ton of lessons here other markets and players in the sector can learn from in order to scale up and add a boost to their own e-commerce hopes.