A review on Alibaba’s Singles’ Day 2016

A review on Alibaba’s Singles’ Day 2016

What else on top of the key figures, and implications behind a series of dazzling promotions.

After all the fireworks and confetti, Alibaba’s annual online shopping festival Singles’ Day was over. Chinese shoppers got what they want at steep discounts and were all happy.

Going Global, Playing Up Technology

Echoing Jack Ma’s dream of “serving two billion global customers”, Alibaba played up the “go global” element further in terms of promotion and actual scale of the fiesta this year. Promotions were kicked off way earlier with something new as part of the run up to the 24-hour shopping spree on top of the usual star-studded countdown party, including:

  • An eight-hour live-streamed “See now, buy now” fashion show: featuring merchandizes from 80 brands including major global ones like Adidas, New Balance, Burberry, Paul Smith, Gap and more during which viewers can pre-order the items.
  • Gamifying shopping: an augmented reality (AR) mobile game similar to Pokémon Go was released in the lead-up to Singles’ Day to encourage shoppers to follow the Tmall cat mascots and visit merchants around China to earn discounts and prizes.
  • Piloting “Buy+”: claimed to be world's first complete virtual reality (VR) shopping experience, the Alipay-integrated solution enables everything – from product viewing to purchase to check-out – in a VR environment.
  • Recruitment of a “CMO” a.k.a. Chief Maimeng Officer (“Maimeng” is a Chinese slang, meaning “sell its cuteness”) from around the world – another “go global” element.

Besides, Alibaba also extended the event to markets outside mainland China – Hong Kong and Taiwan – for the first time, and consumers therein could enjoy the enticing discounts via Tmall.

Chinese consumers were still the majority

While the event is progressively going global, the majority of Singles’ Day shoppers this year were still Chinese consumers, as they’d already developed the habit of doing intense shopping around Singles’ Day to benefit from the steep discounts.

And, under the lead of Alibaba and enthusiastic participation by major ecommerce players like JD.com, Yihaodian, GOME and international giant Amazon, shoppers of both genders and all generations across China were successfully engaged. The atmosphere simply turned even the coolest consumer into a shopaholic around the day.

Let’s take a look at the sales performance and metrics this year:

  1. Alibaba posted a record sales total of RMB120.7 billion (USD17.7 billion) this year, a YoY rise of 32%. Sales hit USD5 billion in the first hour and passed the 2015 total at 15:19 on the day. Meanwhile, JD.com and Suning both reported YoY rise in total sales of approximately 60% and 100% respectively. Mobile purchases accounted for 82% of purchases, a double-digit increase from 72% in 2015, according to Alibaba.
  2. Apparels and mobile phones were the most popular product categories, as well as air purifying products in response to the aggravated air pollution conditions in major Chinese cities.
  3. 61%+ of shoppers were women and 39% were men. More than 60% of shoppers are married individuals.
  4. Around three quarters of shoppers were Chinese Millennials, and those who’re aged 26-35 were the major group of shoppers.
  5. Flying Pig, the travel brand under Alibaba reached a sales total of RMB 2.17 billion on Singles’ Day, with over 50 of its merchants pocketing sales revenues of over RMB10 million. Japan, Thailand, Korea, the US, France, Italy and Switzerland were the hottest outbound travel destinations picked on the day. The UK made the top ten as well.
  6. Best performing foreign players: The US became the bestselling country for the second year in a row. Meanwhile an Australian drugstore became the only foreign seller to achieve a total sales of RMB100 million+ at the festival this year. Uniqlo – Japanese fast fashion brand that topped Tmall’s women’s apparels list – announced it was “out of stock” around noon on the day.
  7. Best performing foreign players: The US became the bestselling country for the second year in a row. Meanwhile an Australian drugstore became the only foreign seller to achieve a total sales of RMB100 million+ at the festival this year. Uniqlo – Japanese fast fashion brand that topped Tmall’s women’s apparels list – announced it was “out of stock” around noon on the day.

Way Forward – The Next Singles’ Day, and the Future of Ecommerce

As we can see, mobile transactions accounted for an even larger share of the pie this year as expected – up to 82%. This once again proved mobile’s predominance when it comes to online shopping in the market.

To advertisers, I have prepared below some noteworthy implications for the next Singles’ Day besides the “go mobile” cliché (and the way forward of doing ecommerce in mainland China):

  • When it comes to Singles’ Day, it’s all about the deals, prioritize sales over other ad metrics.
  • Design tailored offers with customized ad creatives for your target genders and age groups to enhance conversion – especially for the up-and-coming mobile-centric Chinese millennials. Adopt programmatic media buying to precisely deliver your customized ads to the right audiences.
  • Social + mobile is a must in your Singles’ Day marketing mix – studies show Chinese consumers tend to research for their Singles’ Day target items on social. Hence a smart combo of social + mobile, plus a mobile-friendly landing site would be a must to ensure smooth transition.
  • The rise of virtual reality applications in the ecommerce scene – for brands which do not have a brick-and-mortar presence in China, leveraging VR technologies to create virtual shopping experiences could be a game changer.
  • Foreign brands are not only competing with other foreign brands but increasingly with the reputed local brands – in 2016, many of the brands in the top ten sales lists on Singles’ Day across multiple product categories were indeed local brands.
  • Opportunity to lure shoppers in other Asian markets with once-in-a-blue-moon discounts – while Alibaba extended the event’s reach to Hong Kong and Taiwan this year, it is likely Alibaba would open it up to further Asian markets next year. It can surely mean a more complex marketing mix when multiple markets are involved, and at the same time, an even bigger opportunity.

Darren Jacobs, Head of Agency Sales, EU and SEA

Email: darren.jacobs@i-click.com

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