Alibaba set to break records again for 11.11 with $5bn in sales in first two hours

Alibaba's 11.11 kicks off

Aibaba is set to smash records again on its annual ‘Singles Day’ or 11.11 sale, according to Declan Kearney, managing director of Clavis Insight APAC, which is supplying live data throughout the day.

Latest data from Clavis Insight APAC:

  • GMV of US products on Singles Day through the first two hours has surpassed the total value sold during the 24-period in 2014
  • Total sales are at $5 billion through two hours, with 84% of sales coming from mobile devices
  • There have been 200 million transactions through Alipay during the first two hours of sales
  • Apple, New Balance, UGG, Haier appliances and Uniqlo clothing are some of the most popular brands through the first two hours of sales

Analysis:

The biggest international online shopping event, Singles Day, kicks off this week. This year’s event is expected to be even larger than last year’s record-breaking $14.3 billion event.

In its short life span, Singles Day has already surpassed its predecessors in terms of consumer engagement and sheer sales volume. Shoppers spent more than $11.4 billion in the first eight minutes of trading alone and broke the 2014 sales record in just 14 hours.

With Alibaba having already launched discounts and promotions three weeks in advance, the stage is set for another blockbuster.

This year’s event promises to be a true omni-channel happening, including an all-star TV gala and fashion show, to support a staggering combination of internet, mobile, and offline offers. Already, weeks in advance of the day itself, Chinese consumers have been selecting millions of products and adding them to their baskets in Tmall, and other online stores, in the hope that as the clock ticks over to the 11th, their chosen products will be discounted for check-out.

Apparel and footwear, which accounted for 21% of all sales last year, are expected to gain a stronger foothold among consumers. Average discounts on apparel were 57% across retailers last year, so shoppers can again expect more steep discounts.

Last year, international brands, including, Columbia, Sketchers, The North Face and Gap continued to gain in popularity. While most featured apparel items were Chinese brands such as Camel, Peacebird and GCG, retailers will put a greater focus on international brands as Singles Day becomes a more global event.

Social Commerce and Key Opinion Leaders

Celebrity endorsement has become central to the expansion of ecommerce in China. On top of the new Singles Day TV gala, we can also expect to see more “ecommerce Live” this year. Ecommerce Live is a particularly Chinese phenomena where video of shoppers choosing products in physical stores is streamed to online consumers, who can interact with in-store shoppers. In addition, Alibaba hopes to boost sales with its Buy+ TV shopping program, where shoppers can virtual shop in major stores.

The combination of eCommerce Live and Key Opinion Leaders, online celebrities such as movie stars and pop stars, who are paid to drive conversion with live demos, endorsements, and interactive question and answer questions has proven to deliver better and more immediate results than traditional TV advertising, while also taking pressure off the customer service infrastructure of major online platforms. By keeping the focus on the event itself, shoppers are more inclined to spend and engage in content throughout the day.

Personalization to Target More Shoppers

Tmall says it also aims to better target consumers with a renewed emphasis on personalization. Last year, Tmall focused on four key promotional mechanics: presales, flash sales, deposit discounts and “red envelope” coupons. Based on the success of last year’s event, they will be rolling out similar initiatives again this year.

While Singles Day is becoming an increasingly mobile event, with 68% of sales originating from mobile devices, retailers will try to entice customers with in-store only discounts, to further spending across all channels.

11.11 has become China’s national shopping festival, despite attempts by competitive ecommerce platforms to build rival festivals- such as JD on June 18th and Suning focusing on August 18th. However, for Alibaba’s competitors it has become a case of “if you can’t beat them, join them” with most now also offering discounts on Singles Day in a bid to mitigate some of the ecommerce behemoth’s pulling power.

The recent announcement of a partnership between Walmart and JD.com to offer more choices for Chinese shoppers ahead of Singles Day, is one example of how more retailers have been drawn into the fray. The partnership includes two-hour delivery services at some Walmart stores and the introduction of Sam’s Club on JD.com’s cross-border platform, JD Worldwide.

JD and Walmart will push hard for a greater share of sales on 11.11, but given the investment from Alibaba in its TV gala, omni-channel, social commerce and personalization, it’s unlikely to surrender much of its share of the online shopping goldmine.

Declan Kearney is managing director of Clavis Insight APAC who is updating with live data throughout Alibaba’s 11.11 (or Single’s Day sale).

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