Alibaba celebrated a milestone with its Singles Day this year. The popular Chinese shopping holiday turned 10. To top off the decade, the eCommerce retailer had some pretty big ambitions. It billed this year’s happening as “the largest ever in terms of scale and reach” in the October lead-up to the event – and Alibaba did not disappoint.
The eCommerce retailer beat its previous Singles Day record with hours to spare before the holiday concluded on Sunday (Nov. 25), surpassing the 2017 record of $25.3 billion in sales at approximately 5:30 p.m. By the time the day closed, the retailer had raked in $30.8 billion or 213.5 billion in Chinese renminbi for gross merchandise volume (GMV) for the event, marking a 27 percent increase from the prior year’s event.
Alibaba Group CEO Daniel Zhang noted in an announcement of this year’s results, “Today we witnessed the strength and rise of China’s consumption economy and consumers’ continued pursuit to upgrade their everyday lifestyles. Participation from the entire Alibaba ecosystem enabled our brand and merchant partners to engage with consumers like never before. Looking ahead, Alibaba will continue to lead the evolution toward the future digital economy and lifestyle.”
The retailer held a televised gala to promote the event, which had a decidedly global flair and featured Australian model Miranda Kerr and Mariah Carey. More than 40 percent of consumers made purchases from international brands. Around 240 brands exceeded 100 million RMB in GMV, including large multinationals such as Apple, Nike and L’Oréal. Overall, the top countries selling to China included the U.S., Japan, Australia, Germany and South Korea.
But, in a move uncharacteristic from his showman personality, Alibaba Founder Jack Ma didn’t appear onstage for the gala. Instead, he participated in a video that featured him in competition with employees of the company “delivering meals” and “taping packages,” among other tasks, according to The Wall Street Journal. A company official told the outlet that Ma’s annual gala participation differs each year, but the article noted that he plans to retire in the coming year.
JD.com’s Consumer Goods and Foods
Beyond Alibaba, other Chinese eCommerce retailers took in quite a haul for Singles Day. JD.com saw a record approximate $23 billion transaction value, or 159.8 billion in Chinese renminbi. Like Alibaba, JD.com noted that global brands – like Apple, Dell and L’Oréal – “saw impressive sales performance.” It also said that products from Germany, the U.S., Japan, South Korea and the Netherlands “proved especially popular.”
Lei Xu, who holds the positions of both CMO of JD.com and CEO of JD Mall, said in an announcement of this year’s results, “there is a noticeable shift in China toward quality over price, which we see in the growing numbers of consumers who are willing to pay more for branded and imported goods. By establishing trust with consumers and brands, thanks to our zero-tolerance policy toward fakes and our innovations in areas such as blockchain traceability for product safety, JD is in a unique position to meet that demand.”
During the event, the company also noted that its fast-moving consumer goods and foods business group sold more than 400 million items, doubling the amount of imported fresh food by selling over 29,500 tons of items like fruit, meat and seafood. (That number included 12 tons of lobster from Canada.) Smartphones were also popular with consumers, and shoppers bought over 25 million products from the home and life category, which encompasses cookware and furnishings, among other products.
There are some differences in the timing between JD.com and Alibaba’s events, however. Alibaba’s sale was for 24 hours on Sunday (Nov. 11), while the event for JD.com began on Nov. 1 and lasted for 11 days. But whether the festival runs for days or weeks, the events do highlight a common trend: Chinese consumers are on the hunt for premium products from global brands as they scoop up deals this year.