Chinese e-commerce retailer Alibaba, known for creating the shopping event surrounding Singles Day, just celebrated American Independence Day — and 100,000 people showed up to watch.
Among the participating retailers was Macy’s, which hosted a live-stream shopping tour of its New York flagship on Alibaba’s Tmall app. This was the first live video shopping event of this kind, and Alibaba reports that the live-stream attracted 100,000 viewers and 880 comments. Other participating retailers included GNC, Childlife and Puritan’s Pride.
The live-stream was an effort to build cross-border cultural education, according to a company spokesman, and included a host providing a tour of the store’s floors, a history of the store and old wooden escalators. Unlike other live-streaming sites in China, a company spokesman said, Alibaba’s live-streaming platforms are created to serve online shopping and provide practical guidance to shoppers.
While it might seem unexpected that a Chinese retailer would make a major nod to a distinctly American holiday, it was a convenient time to enhance brand-building between Macy’s and Alibaba; Macy’s had already been selling its products on Alibaba’s Tmall platform.
With Macy’s recent entry into the China market, Macy’s China managing director Dustin Jones said the event would bring “energy, celebration and the experience of the Fourth of July” to Chinese customers. “Through Tmall’s live video technology,” he said, “we will introduce Tmall customers to the world’s largest store in New York.”
Macy’s distributed coupons in China during the live-stream, and similar to live shopping on channels such as HSN or QVC, customers could purchase items that were introduced during the live show.
According to a spokesman, mobile live videos are powerful tools for U.S. brands, especially for those that have no physical presence in China and rely on virtual means to promote their brands.
“Macy’s has always been a brand of experience, celebration and entertainment,” Jones said. “It is one of the characteristics of the brand that its customers love.”
Celebrating holidays with shopping is something that Hallmark, creator of Valentine’s Day, made famous.
On July 12, Amazon will host its second “Prime Day,” which is a “holiday” created by the e-tailer last year and was its highest sales day of the year. That is comparable to Alibaba’s Singles Day, which it started in 2009 on Nov. 11. In 2015, Alibaba Singles Day sales came in at $14.3 billion.