Online retailers selling on Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd.’s Taobao.com and Tmall.com marketplaces rang up 213.5 billion yuan, or $30.8 billion, in sales during Singles Day, the 24-hour sales holiday held Nov. 11. That’s up 27% from the 168.2 billion yuan Singles’ Day generated last year.
It took less than 90 seconds for the first billion in sales to roll in, the marketplace operator says.
Taobao and Tmall are the No. 1 and No. 2 online marketplaces in the world, ranked by the total value of goods sold through their platforms, according to Internet Retailer’s Online Marketplaces Database.
Held annually on Nov. 11, or 11/11, Singles Day was once known as a day for single people in China to celebrate their relationship status, but Alibaba, through a mix of deep discounts and over-the-top entertainment, has transformed the day into the largest online shopping day in the world.
The biggest online shopping day in the U.S., Cyber Monday, is small potatoes in comparison, generating $6.6 billion the Monday following Thanksgiving last year. Amazon.com Inc.’s annual mid-summer sale, Prime Day, generated $4.2 billion in 2018.
Alibaba’s closest competitor in the Chinese market JD.com Inc. reported sales volume on JD.com reached 159.8 billion yuan, about $23 billion, from Nov. 1-11, during its Singles Day Shopping Festival. JD.com is the fifth-largest online marketplace in the world.
“The success of [Singles Day] shows that discounting is still an important driving force for sales in China,” Jarlin Jia, chief strategy officer of marketing consulting firm Co.media tells Internet Retailer.
Chinese consumers also made purchases with foreign brands selling through Tmall on Singles Day. Tmall Global, Alibaba’s imported products marketplace, says it has 19,000 brands from 75 countries. Sales generated by 237 of those brands, including Apple Inc., Estee Lauder Cos. Inc., Buick, Gap Inc., Dyson, Nike Inc. and Levi’s, exceeded 100 million yuan, or $14.36 million, each, according to Alibaba. All told, more than 40% of Singles Day shoppers bought from international brands.
Imports from Japan garnered the most sales, followed by products from the U.S., South Korea, Australia and Germany. Top-selling imported products included Australian food supplement brand Swisse, Japanese cosmetics brand Kao and German baby formula brand Aptamil.
To deal with the surge of orders it expected on Singles Day, Nike had 12 distribution centers in China ready to ship orders placed on Singles Day, as well as 54 stores in China shipping from their inventory, the company wrote in a blog post. Nike offered same-day home delivery in Shanghai and used drones to deliver to customers in the countryside.
It also made Singles Day and China the launch day and market for its Nike Air Jordan IV Tattoo sneaker. Consumers in the rest of the world won’t be able to get the shoe until after Christmas.
Sales made on Singles Day can be a launching point for foreign brands to connect with Chinese consumers. Brands are able to interact with consumers more closely. “For example, after following a brand store on Tmall, consumers can receive promotional messages from the store regularly. Such functions are relatively rare in U.S.” Jia says.
Henry Locke, founder of E Brand Group USA Inc., which helps international brands sell into China on marketplaces, said pre-order activity in the run up to Singles Day was positive. “The growth of our total sales will exceed 100% during [Singles Day],” he told Internet Retailer ahead of Nov 11.
But it takes time for international brands to get traction in China, Locke says, so U.S. sellers drawn by Singles Day and China’s big e-commerce figures need to be patient. If a brand is not a famous brand in its home market, Locke says it may take three to five years for a brand to get real liftoff in China, and a market budget of at least $3 million to $5 million if starting from scratch.Favorite