U.S. e-retailers set a record last year when they sold $1.465 billion worth of merchandise on Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving, comScore Inc. says. But that pales in comparison with the sales today on China’s big online holiday shopping day, Singles Day.
The 24-hour event produced $5.75 billion (35.0 billion yuan) in web sales, nearly double the $3.0 billion (18.3 billion yuan) last year on the two big marketplaces, Tmall and Taobao, operated by Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd., China’s dominant e-commerce company and No. 1 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Asia.
While Alibaba launched the Singles Day event in 2009 to help promote Tmall, a marketplace it had launched the previous year, it’s grown into a national e-commerce holiday. When all of China’s e-retailers are counted, sales from today’s event could reach $8.2 billion (50 billion yuan), Alibaba estimates.
Among the other retailers promoting big sales today was Autohome.com.cn, which says it sold 17,776 cars during the 24-hour event for $427 million (2.6 billion yuan).
Retailers often offer discounts of up to 50% on Singles Day, a pseudo-holiday that takes off from the 11/11 notation of Nov. 11 to celebrate those who are unmarried. Alibaba says it makes a good time for a big online sales day, because there typically are not major retail sales between China’s national day, Oct. 1, and its Spring Festival, typically toward the end of January.
From 27 participating Tmall merchants in 2009, the event has grown to include more than 20,000 sellers on Tmall, Alibaba’s marketplace that caters to larger brands by letting them create their own storefronts, and its larger, less regulated Taobao. Among the non-Chinese brands participating this year were U.S. companies Nike, Adidas, Gap, Toys ‘R’ Us, and Forever 21, and Japan’s Uniqlo.
“We hope to turn 11/11 into a day where merchants can thank consumers, so that once a year merchants will be able to take their best products and sell them for the lower prices in order to thank consumers for their support and transform that relationship for the better,” says Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group. Alibaba, which claims the volume of merchandise it sells exceeds that of Amazon.com Inc. and eBay Inc. combined, is planning an initial stock offering that’s considered likely to value the company at around $100 billion.
Consumers were ready for the sales to begin at midnight last night. They bought 1 billion yuan ($163 million) worth of goods in the first six minutes and seven seconds of the sale, reaching a figure that took 37 minutes to achieve last year. In the first hour, sales on Alibaba sites totaled 6.7 billion yuan ($1.1 billion).
Here are some other statistics from today’s Singles Day sales on Alibaba sites:
- 402 million consumers, or 68% of China’s 591 Internet users according to CNNIC data, visited Alibaba sites today. That was nearly double the 213 million that visited last year. CNNIC is the common abbreviation for the China Internet Network Information Center.
- A total of 171 million orders were placed; Alibaba says it will ship 78 million packages to fill those orders.
- Mobile devices accounted for about 15% of sales, $877 million, up 455% from $158 million last year. In terms of number of orders, 21% came from phones and tablets, a big increase from 5% last year.
- The top seller on Alibaba sites was Xiaomi, which sold more than 500 million yuan ($82 million) worth of its mobile handsets and accessories. Among the brands selling more than 100 million yuan ($16.4 million) were household appliance makers Haier and Skyworth, and apparel brands Camel, Jack Jones (owned by Denmark brand Bestseller) and Uniqlo.
“Joining 11/11 is not like taking part in any marketing promotion,” says Kevin Shih, CEO of Jollywiz, mainland China distributor of Taiwanese skin care brand Naruko. “It’s a whole business model change. You have to change every aspect of your business to cater to this day, from selecting products that can be shipped quickly and yet customers want to buy to changing your logistics and warehousing supply chain. But it’s worth it, because our usual daily sales is about RMB 500,000 ($82,000), and on this year’s 11/11 it could rise 90 times to RMB 45 million ($7.4 million), all in a day.”