Singles’ Day: Will Alibaba have another record-breaking year?

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Nenad Cetkovic Lengow COOAt the end of October, Alibaba revealed the core strengths that will support this year’s Singles’ Day. More than just a sales operation, this event also gives us a glimpse at the ecommerce trends of the future. Today Nenad Cetkovic, Lengow COO, takes a deeper look at what we can expect from Singles’ Day 2017:

In the last few years Singles’ Day (also called 11/11 Global Shopping Festival) has gone from being a 24 hour shopping event to a 24 day festival. Made popular by Alibaba founder Jack Ma, this e-commerce celebration is exactly what you would expect from a man who never does anything half-heartedly. Not one to let milestones go unnoticed, Jack Ma put on a real show for his 40,000 employees in a stadium in Hangzhou last September, to celebrate Alibaba’s 18th birthday. With nearly 500 million active consumers per year and 549 active mobile users per month, the Alibaba Group is sure to be a major player in e-commerce. No doubt, it’s certainly the Chinese giant’s famous shopping festival every November 11th that continues to draw attention from the global e-commerce ecosystem. According to Alibaba, 11/11 is 18 times bigger than Amazon’s Prime Day and 2.5 times bigger than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.

Record-breaking Singles’ Day in 2016

While the 11/11 shopping event was created in 2009, it wasn’t until 2016 that it had a global impact, following Alibaba’s record-breaking results on the day. 17.8 billion dollars in transactions were carried out in one day (and more than 80% of orders were placed on mobile), and at peak periods there were up to 120,000 transactions/second on the group’s payment platform, Alipay.

This year, Alibaba has reported that more than 140,000 brands will participate in Singles’ Days (as opposed to just 27 in 2009), with promotions on more than 15 million products.

‘New Retail’: blurring lines between online and offline with entertainment

This year’s Global Shopping Festival is dedicated to ‘New Retail’, something that Jack Ma has already incorporated into his strategy in his quest to eliminate all barriers between online and offline. An important fact to remember is that online retail represents 18% of total retail in China and for that reason, more than a million 11/11 partner retailers have put both online and offline actions in place to offer a more streamlined buying experience to the consumer. At the same time, ‘smart’ stores and pop-ups have appeared all over China, offering virtual try-ons of both clothes and beauty products, payment by facial recognition, in-store ordering for at-home delivery, and more.

Moreover, the Global Shopping Festival would have nowhere near the same amount of success without the entertainment aspect that Alibaba brings to it. The ‘See Now Buy Now’ Fashion show is a prime example of this. COmmenting on this, Chris Tung, Chief Marketing Officer for Alibaba, stated that the event ‘perfectly illustrates the merging of online and offline shopping.’ This fashion show, which was live streamed a few days ago, allows participants to save or buy items in real time from their mobiles. During the annual Lengow Day, Guido Ghedin (International Marketing Consultant at highlighted that 1 in 3 participants of the live stream in 2016 bought a product during the show. It gave international brands like LVMH, GAP, or Estée Lauder the opportunity to introduce themselves and interact with consumers during the 4 hour-long event.

To encourage consumers to actually go out to shops, Alibaba relies on gaming. First available to customers in 2016, the AR enabled mobile app ‘Catch the Cat’ is making a big comeback this year. The concept revolves around capturing the Tmall Cat mascot with their mobile in partnering sales locations to win points and benefits such as discounts and coupons. Furthermore, shoppers who use Tmall Genie, Alibaba’s voice assistant, will have the possibility to gain more benefits from 3,000 brands by answering questions asked by the voice assistant. Finally, there is a gala organised the eve of the event to celebrate the festival.

This event is therefore a perfect example of Chinese consumers’ involvement in the act of purchasing, where the social element, the content and entertainment are a winning trio.

An opportunity to make yourself known on the Chinese market

The international success of the day was shown in 2016, with 11,000 international brands participating in the Festival and almost 40% of consumers placing an order with international brands and retailers. This year, there will be even more international representation with more than 60,000 foreign brands available on Alibaba’s platforms. Thanks to their comprehensive understanding of Chinese consumers’ habits, Alibaba might be foreign e-commerce players’ perfect gateway to China, especially when Chinese buyers have shown such a strong interest in foreign brands.


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