Alibaba sets Singles’ Day record with big focus on livestream shopping

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba set a sales record on Singles’ Day on Monday (11th November), the world’s largest 24-hour shopping event.

By the end of the event, Gross Merchandise Value stood at 268.4 billion yuan or $38.4 billion – a 26% rise from the figure posted for Singles’ Day 2018. That’s a marginally slower growth rate than the 27% seen on last year’s event, but well above last year’s 213.5 billion yuan record (nearly $30.5 billion).

Also called the Double 11, the shopping festival takes place on November 11th. During the 24-hour period, which began at midnight in Singapore and Hong Kong, Alibaba offered huge discounts across its e-commerce sites such as Tmall.

Electronics gadgets, beauty and fashion items were among the most sold goods in the 11th edition of the Singles’ Day annual event, company executives said in an interview.

Livestreaming at the heart of sales growth

To help boost sales, Hangzhou-based Alibaba expanded the number of discounted items in this year’s event and put a heavy emphasis on livestreaming via its platforms to help sell goods.

Livestreaming has become a big part of the shopping experience on Chinese e-commerce sites. In fact livestream shopping generated $4.4 billion in Chinese sales in 2018, according to Deloitte, as customers took to products they could inspect live and in 3D.

More than 100 million viewers in China watch a live online video event every month, according to Gartner. When used for e-commerce, livestreams typically involve a celebrity or social media influencers, known as wanghong, demonstrating a product and answering questions from a digital audience in real-time.

Online personalities often speak to their followers and talk about products as well. For example as part of the Singles’ Day extravaganza, Kim Kardashian hosted a livestream announcing her fragrance brand KKW will be available for sale on Tmall.

Companies are selling items from cars to cosmetics via livstreaming. Alibaba said on the first day of its pre-sales that more than 17,000 brands started livestreaming. Chinese smartphone-maker Xiaomi’s livestream attracted over 200,000 online viewers within the first 10 hours.

Sustainability is finally on the agenda for Singles’ Day

Singles’ Day has often be criticised for the amount of packaging waste and transport delivery miles it clocks up as millions of consumers scramble to order bargains online.

However Alibaba says it wants the shopping event to be about sustainability as well as consumerism.

This year Alibaba set up 75,000 stations across China to recycle packaging as it sold $38.4 billion 268.4 billion yuan of goods during its annual Singles Day event, up 26% year-on-year.

The Chinese ecommerce giant allowed customers to recycle unwanted packaging at 40,000 stations set up by subsidiary Cainaio and 35,000 set up by courier partners.

Customers recycling packaging can scan a QR code via one of Alibaba’s apps to receive “green energy points”, which can be redeemed in various sustainability projects in China. Customers could also pledge in advance to recycle and receive discounts during the sale, with 20 million people doing so as of 11 November.

Room for green logistics

Niu Zhijing, head of Cainiao’s Go Green Campaign, said: “Green logistics are an essential part of our business model. We believe that sustainability can be only tackled through joint efforts across the value chain, from packaging suppliers, ecommerce platforms and brands to express-delivery companies, consumers and policymakers. All stakeholders need to act together.”

“We want to inspire consumers to action, too, by making it easier to participate through small actions.”

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