As Singles’ Day, the world’s largest online shopping festival, approaches, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and tens of thousands of brands are working together to create new product buzz beyond the recorded transaction volume that will occur on Friday.
In last year’s 24-hour shopping extravaganza, online consumers spent 91.217 billion yuan ($14.32 billion) on online marketplaces operated by Alibaba. The huge sale in China, started by Alibaba in 2009, is held Nov. 11. The repetition of the number “1” in the 11/11 date, also called “Double 11,” is said to denote people who are not married.
This year, consumer technology products are popular. Headphone maker Beats by Dr. Dre, owned by Apple Inc., is promoting its new Solo 3 Wireless product for Singles’ Day. “Our partnership with Tmall is focused on delivering the best of wireless and premium sound to the tech-savvy, innovation-loving Chinese audience,” said Luke Wood, president of Beats by Dr. Dre, in a recent Tmall press meeting. “We hope to grow with Tmall and its consumers as part of our commitment to bring great products to music fans across China.”
Other consumer electronic brands—Samsung, A.O. Smith, Siemens, Midea, Leica, Bowers and Wilkins—also consider Singles’ Day a marketing opportunity to launch new products.
For global companies eager to promote their brands in China, Alibaba does more than just offer an online marketplace where those brands and retailers can sell their goods. Through rapid organic growth and aggressive mergers and acquisitions, Alibaba has evolved into a diversified business complex that strives to more efficiently connect sellers or brands with online shoppers.
Brands and retailers are purchasing more ads on Alibaba’s e-commerce marketplaces and affiliated ad network in the run-up to Singles’ Day. Data from research firm eMarketer reports that Alibaba will become the largest online ad company in China in 2016, and Alibaba’s share of the global digital ad market will jump to 6.5% this year compared with 5% a year ago. “Alibaba has been constantly evolving our ecosystem to support today’s new era of commerce powered by the Internet and new technologies,” said Daniel Zhang, CEO of Alibaba Group. “With more than 439 million active users on our platforms, Alibaba owns a robust database of real-time consumer insights that not only fuels our ecosystem, but serves as an extremely powerful source of market intelligence for our partners and clients.”
In the weeks leading up to Singles’ Day, some brands like Unilever China were utilizing engagement opportunities within Alibaba’s ecosystem, such as microblogging site Weibo and video streaming site Youku, to maximize their brand exposure and consumer interaction during this period. The brands used such tools as mobile live streaming, virtual reality shopping, games and entertainment, and online-to-offline promotions.
Using these assets, Alibaba helps brands reach their targeted consumers more efficiently. Weibo followers of actor and singer Cheney Chen, a Unilever brand spokesman, and consumers who watch videos featuring Chen on Youku are identified as potential Unilever customers, and marketing messages are pushed to them. Unilever says it secured more than 100,000 brand followers in a month on Tmall for its Lux line of personal care products.
Macy’s Inc. is another example: Through a live online broadcast about New York Fashion Week in September, Macy’s attracted about 100,000 Chinese viewers, and they generated about 150 million posts to the Chinese social network Weibo, according to Macy’s.
Singles’ Day continues to expand beyond China. Payments processor Worldpay said it handled an average of more than 9,000 transactions per minute globally during last year’s Singles Day. In the U.S., Singles’ Day sales increased by 80% in 2015, with 2016 promising to continue the trend of outstripping Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Boxing Day sales.
Besides selling on Tmall, many U.S. brands and retailers work with Chinese shopping recommendation sites to promote products on Singles’ Day. For example, more than 250 U.S. brands and retailers, including luxury shoe brand Jimmy Choo, online marketplace Jet.com (now owned by Wal-Mart Stores Inc.), and Neiman Marcus worked with Chinese deal site Dealmoon.com to sell directly to Chinese consumers with specific Singles’ Day online coupons.
Tmall’s presale rankings in the apparel category, as of Nov. 4:
1. Nike (U.S.)
2. New Balance (U.S.)
3. Sketchers (U.S.)
4. Adidas (Germany)
5. Uniqlo (Japan)
6. Semir (China)
7. Bosideng (China)
8. Ochirly (China)
9. Peacebird (China)
10. Puma (Germany)