BEIJING — Alibaba’s Singles’ Day sale is about to turn 10 years old, and while it gets harder each year to top the mouth-dropping sales numbers and spare-no-costs entertainment and production values associated with the event, the tech giant has revealed that this year’s festival will go more global, and more omnichannel.
“Now it’s not only a festival for online, a festival for Chinese people, it’s for the whole world,” said Alibaba Group chief executive officer Daniel Zhang. Recently named successor to chairman and cofounder Jack Ma, Zhang was speaking at a press conference here to kick off the shopping event.
This year’s Singles’ Day sales will involve Lazada and Daraz, the Southeast Asian and South Asian e-commerce platforms majority-owned by Alibaba Group, for the first time, and offer deals in Australia, Canada, the U.S., Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore.
Preordering for Singles’ Day deals begins on Saturday and goes until Nov. 11. For the third year running now, the shopping event was kickstarted with TMall’s “See-Now-Buy-Now” fashion show, which opened with a performance by Jaden Smith, who collaborated with G-Star Raw for special China collection. It was broadcasted on 10 platforms in China, allowing viewers to directly place orders as they view the runway offering special products from the likes of Anna Sui, who was making her Singles’ Day debut, M.A.C. Cosmetics, and Burberry to name a few.
Last year, the total gross merchandise value for the Singles’ Day sale was $25.3 billion, more than five times the $5 billion in online sales seen in the U.S. for Black Friday last year.
Singles’ Day is typically prime time for Alibaba to debut technology innovations for its “new retail” strategy. Zhang highlighted in his speech that biotechnology could completely redefine wallets.
“Now we have this habit that we don’t use any cash at all,” Zhang said of China’s consumers, who have quickly adopted e-payment solutions. “Maybe we don’t even use any mobile phones. Maybe our body becomes the wallet.”
The company also outlined ways it would experiment with bringing the festival offline. Dan Friis, ceo of Bestseller Group, which owns brands such as Jack Jones and Vero Moda, said last year it had four physical stores participate in Singles’ Day, resulting in an uplift of 250 percent compared to the year before. This time, the group’s 1,500 stores will participate in the festival.
Rob Schilder, ceo of G-Star Raw, added that despite the heavy spending for Singles’ Day, the event doesn’t create a fallow period immediately following Nov. 11. At least for a foreign brand relatively new to the market, it creates an awareness that helps fuel sales after the fact.
“Of course, we see an increase in demand [going into Singles’ Day] but the fairly good thing is that it doesn’t have a big impact on the weeks after. It remains stable and goes up. It really accelerates,” Schilder said. “In the four to eight weeks after, we see an incredible uplift.”
Similarly to last year, Alibaba’s star-packed signature Singles’ Day countdown gala will be held on Nov. 10 at Shanghai’s Mercedes Benz Arena. Its 2017 countdown stage featured appearances from Nicole Kidman, Kris Wu, Pharrell Williams, Maria Sharapova and the Blue Man Group, among others.