Alibaba unveils plans for its massive Singles’ Day event
October 20, 2016 02:35 PM
Chinese e-commerce goliath Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. today foreshadowed a few of its plans for Singles’ Day, the 24-hour online shopping extravaganza held Nov. 11 in China. Last year the event generated 91.217 billion yuan ($13.53 billion) in online marketplace sales for Alibaba, up 54% from the same date a year earlier.
At a press conference in Hong Kong, with representatives from global brands including Macy’s Inc., No. 6 in the Internet Retailer 2016 Top 500 Guide, and Costco Wholesale Corp. (No. 8), Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang said the shopping festival, which takes place on Nov. 11 (the repetition of the number “1” in the 11/11 date is said to denote people who are not married), has evolved far beyond a 24-hours sales event.
“From today through Nov. 11, consumers will discover, explore, play, watch, comment, share, recommend and shop across our entire ecosystem with our merchants both online and offline,” he said. “Leveraging our robust infrastructure, global merchants have been empowered with unprecedented capability to seamlessly engage and serve customers through new technology and new environments.” Alibaba expects 40,000 global merchants to participate in the Chinese shopping festival this year. That’s up from 27 merchants in 2009, the inaugural year of Singles’ Day.
Alibaba operates Taobao and Tmall, the dominant web marketplaces in China. Taobao is a wide-open online bazaar that is open to any Chinese resident to sell goods. Higher-end Tmall attracts larger brands, including Target Corp. (No. 22 in the Top 500), Apple Inc. (No. 2) and Dell Inc. (No. 3)
On Sunday, Tmall will host an eight-hour fashion show in Shanghai, with 50 international brands and 160 models. The show will be streamed live via the Tmall and Taobao mobile apps, during which viewers can pre-order items as they appear on the catwalk.
Additionally, starting Friday through Nov. 11, more than 600 international brands will stream live broadcasts on Tmall that will market to targeted consumers about their brand and Singles’ Day promotions, Alibaba says.
A big goal for Alibaba with this year’s Singles’ Day event is to bridge online and offline shopping. To support this initiative, from Nov. 1-11 Alibaba will pilot a virtual reality shopping program called “Buy+” in which Chinese shoppers will be virtually transported to international retail stores and can shop, select a product and pay through virtual reality. Consumers will be able to virtually browse products in stores of eight merchants in the U.S., Australia and Japan, including Macy’s and Costco. Alibaba’s Taobao marketplace is selling 150,000 virtual reality-enabled cardboard headsets for 1 yuan (US 15 cents) each on Taobao beginning Friday. To buy a product via virtual reality, a shopper uses the Taobao App and the cardboard headset to stare at the product she wants and make purchases with saved payment information.
Alibaba also is releasing a location-based augmented reality mobile game at the end of this month to promote Singles’ Day. Consumers can follow the Tmall Cat mascot on an adventure across the Alibaba online marketplaces, and China-based retail stores and eateries to earn promotions and prizes. Participating merchants include Suning Commerce Group Co. (No. 2 in the Internet Retailer 2016 China 500), Intime shopping malls, Beijing Joy City shopping mall and Shenzhen Coastal City shopping mall, as well as global brands such as Shanghai Disneyland, KFC and Starbucks.
Intime department stores, in which Alibaba owns a stake, will enable consumers to touch and try products from online-only brands on Tmall. Additionally, Intime mall stores and other stores will offer in-store pickup of web orders and will fulfill online orders. Shoppers also can scan QR codes to purchase products on Tmall that are not available at physical stores, and consumers can buy online products on Tmall storefronts and collect them from nearby physical stores in as little as two hours.
Alibaba also is helping Tmall brands with store and web inventory management over the holiday. For example, when a particular item sells out during the sale, an inventory management system will check available stock in stores for the product. Alibaba says it is working with more than 1 million stores for Singles’ Day promotions.
While helping international brands sell into China, Alibaba also is introducing a pilot program this year to help global merchants sell beyond China. Alibaba is in its early phases of expanding its infrastructure, including logistics and payments, to allow consumers overseas to purchase international products through Tmall, starting with Hong Kong and Taiwan. Alibaba says it wants to serve 2 billion consumers and support 10 million small businesses, brands and retailers globally over the next decade.
More than 100 brands have joined Alibaba’s global selling pilot program and will offer products to Hong Kong and Taiwan consumers during Singles’ Day, including Sketchers USA Inc. Products will be displayed in local currencies, Alibaba says, and consumers can use major credit cards such as Visa and Mastercard and such local payment methods as Octopus in Hong Kong to pay. Products will be shipped directly from the brand’s own stock and delivered to consumers through Cainiao, the e-commerce distribution network for Alibaba. In Hong Kong, the average delivery time is about 37 business days, Alibaba says. Customer and refund services will be available in Hong Kong and Taiwan.