How Alibaba & Other Chinese Retail Companies Are Trying to Bring in the Money during Singles’ Day

Alibaba; Singles Day
Alibaba Group website Tmall.com created the Singles' Day sales promotion in 2009.
Courtesy of company

When any given day sends millions of people online shopping, many will want to tap into this enormous business opportunity.

Singles’ Day — a Chinese shopping holiday that encourages young consumers to celebrate the fact that they are single by buying clothes and home products — falls each year on Nov. 11.

The event vastly surpasses Cyber Monday in the number of generated sales and has been the largest shopping day in the world for years.

With Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba accounting for 71 percent of all Singles’ Day sales in 2016, it is by far the largest company behind the event. For years, most of the online sales have taken place almost exclusively at Alibaba’s Tmall and Taobao stores, and in 2012, the company trademarked the Chinese character used to refer to Singles’ Day.

Last year, it generated $17.8 billion in gross merchandise volume on Alibaba’s platforms alone, with analysts predicting an even larger number in 2017.

In advance of the day, Alibaba plans to both bank on past successes and introduce new strategies to draw in shoppers. They will be starting off the day with a four-hour countdown celebration directed by Oscars producer David Hill and featuring performances from Pharrell and pianist Liang Liang as well as an appearance by actress Zhang Ziyi.

Jack Ma kicks off Singles Day in China Jack Ma kicks off Singles’ Day in China in 2015. Getty Images.

As part of its efforts to hit more than $20 billion in sales, Alibaba also plans to blend entertainment and shopping, further expand its “See Now, Buy Now” feature and promote international luxury brands such as Guerlain and Furla in its online stores.

But while Alibaba remains unsurpassed both when it comes to Singles’ Day notoriety and online shopping in China in general (the company announced that it beat all analyst expectations by bringing in 61 percent revenue growth this week), other Chinese retail companies have been trying hard to bring in their own share of Nov. 11 sales.

JD.com, another very popular Chinese e-commerce company, which brought in approximately 20 percent of  Singles’ Day sales in 2016, has partnered with Walmart and Chinese investment company Tencent in order to bring in a larger sliver of sales.

This year, JD.com plans to use Tencent’s popular WeChat (the Chinese messaging app has nearly a billion monthly active users) to arrange payment. Soon, sales will reveal whether these efforts will give JD.com a larger portion of the Singles’ Day pie.