March 7, 2021

Alibaba and Singles Day; a celebration of selling

Dr Peter Mowforth

Alibaba’s annual merchandising is now well over $600 billion giving it a turnover that is larger than the GDP of 90% of the countries in the world. Last week it announced a 55% rise in second quarter revenue helping make Chinese ecommerce now worth more than the ecommerce of both the US and the UK combined.Like other large businesses, Alibaba have both the people and the budgets necessary to fundamentally change markets and create new selling opportunities. In the same way that Coca Cola invented Santa Claus as a coca-cola branded Christmas figure or De Beers inventing both the diamond engagement ring and the eternity ring as mechanisms to increase diamond sales, Alibaba made the phenomenon that is now Singles Day.The original concept for Singles Day came from a group of students at Nanjing University who wanted to make the date 11/11 (Double eleven - now trademarked by Alibaba) a cause for celebration for single people. The concept was a rebellion against Valentine's day. Since 2009, Alibaba has been promoting it as a special shopping day for Singles. Their Singles Day sales in 2015 were a whopping $14+ billion over the 24 hour period. How this was achieved was a simple combination of two things. First, the recognition of a massive on-trend social media phenomena conflated with an equally massive selling machine with the reach and engagement necessary to pair the singles concept with the singles purchase. Each fuelled the other in a turbocharged frenzy that has now escaped it’s Chinese homeland and has quickly established itself as the global ecommerce top selling day of the year.

For those of us with a keen interest in the business of ecommerce, the key question is“what do you need to do to make the most money from singles day”? So ...

  • Look at what you sell (or could sell) and creatively think about how that can be relevant to single people. Think about a product that’s aimed at providing something special as a treat for a single individual.
  • Use social media and email marketing to spin your singles day products as the must-have purchases. Carefully consider the marketing messages to make them relevant to ‘self’ rather than to a group, a couple or sharing.
  • Offer a compelling discount or voucher that’s only available for this special price on Singles Day.
  • Make sure you are marketing and selling in all the places where potential customers might be looking for something to buy. As well as your own site, don’t forget about key marketplaces such as eBay or Amazon or secondary marketplaces such as Etsy and NotOnTheHighstreet.

If your marketing reach is good and the product offering relevant then ensure you have the capacity so as not to disappoint any of your customers.Alibaba are predicting their Singles Day sales for 2016 to top $20 billion. While your own sales figures may well involve moving the decimal point a good few places, the key is to recognise Singles Day as a selling opportunity and then (in a selfish sort of way) do all you can to maximise it.

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