November 11th, also appropriately dubbed “Singles’ Day” in China, is a day to honor singledom and independence. However, over the years, Single’s Day has become synonymous with “online shopping”. Started by Chinese college students in the 1990s, Single’s Day began as a version of Valentine’s Day for people without romantic partners. Years later, China’s Single’s Day now rivals America’s Cyber Monday as the world’s busiest online shopping day.
According to a report by SinaTech, over 10 million shoppers swarmed Tmall.com within the first 60 seconds after the shopping festival began on November 11th. The e-commerce site’s sales reached 250 million RMB (40 million USD) in 10 minutes, 1 billion RMB (160 million USD) in 37 minutes, 2 billion RMB (320 million USD) in 70 minutes, and 5 billion RMB (800 million USD) in eight hours.
Alibaba Group, China’s biggest e-commerce player and the parent company of B2C platform Tmall.com and C2C platform Taobao.com, generated a total sales of 19.1 billion RMB (3 billion USD) on this year’s Single’s Day. This number greatly exceeded the 1.25 billion USD that Americans spent on Cyber Monday last year and makes Single’s Day the biggest e-commerce sales day on record.
Whether it’s the singles’ excuse for shopping therapy or the opportunity to purchase a special present to woo that special single someone…
Leveraging on existing Single’s Day consumer mindsets, online retailers tempt consumers further with steep discounts and generous promotions. Nearly 10,000 brands participated in the online shopping frenzy, including Nike, Adidas, Uniqlo, Gap, and Forever 21.
Smaller B2C sites, such as VIPshop and Yintai, participated via storefronts they have on Tmall.com. Yoox.cn, the Chinese version of the luxury e-commerce site Yoox Group, held an entire “Single’s Day Happy Shopping Weekend” promotion that began on November 8th and offered discounts up to 50%.
Online retailers started preparing for Single’s Day months in advance. At its headquarter in Hangzhou, Alibaba set up 200 lounge chairs for its 800-strong staff to rest on the Sunday. The company also rented 180 rooms at nearby hotels for employees to take longer breaks. China’s delivery companies had 800,000 workers working, including 65,000 temporary workers hired specifically for Single’s Day. However, even with all these preparations, consumers still exceeded anticipations and overwhelmed the retailers. Chinese netizens complained about not being able to confirm orders or finish online payments on Weibo, China’s own version of Twitter.
With 193 million online shoppers, China has the largest “e-population” in the world. It is also forecasted to exceed the US and Japan and rise to first place in online spending by 2015. In an interview with CCTV, Alibaba CEO Ma Yun said that the era of e-commerce had arrived, and Chinese online stores were bringing a revolution to the doorsteps of traditional retailers. “It is just like the laws of Mother Nature, lions always eat lambs,” says Ma.
And so the revolution has begun. Boston Consulting Group reports that more products were sold through Taobao.com in 2010, about 48,000 per minute, than at China’s top five bricks-and-mortar retailers combined.
photo credit: taobao.com