SHANGHAI — Singles’ Day with Alibaba is getting a big update to its format, with the company adding Nov. 1 to 3 as an additional shopping window before the main event arrives on Nov. 11, creating a four-day-long sale in total.
The Hangzhou-headquartered company, which engineered the world’s largest consumer event, will host its first countdown gala on Oct. 31, allowing shoppers to buy over those following three days before the sales take a pause, coming back with yet another livestreamed gala show and another 24-hour shopping period on Nov. 11.
“It’s still three 1’s,” said Chris Tung, chief marketing officer at Alibaba, referring to Nov. 1 or 11/1, the date when the sale will now begin.
In years past, Alibaba allowed customers to add Singles’ Day deals to their shopping carts days or even weeks in advance but they could not check out until Nov. 11. The new format allows the consumer to receive Singles’ Day products more than a week prior to Nov. 11 and could spur an increase in spending with a second round of shopping.
In addition to taking the pressure off of Alibaba’s delivery network, the move will prove pivotal to merchants as it allows them to more accurately gauge demand. If a deal product underperforms, it can be moved off and the discount can be applied to another item during the second window. By that same token, if a product overperforms, stores can move to restock and capture surplus demand during the final 24 hours of shopping.
Even for experienced retailers, the Alibaba event can be overwhelming. Last year, the sale drew in $38.4 billion. This year, the firm expects 300 million new users to participate and Tmall Global, the cross-border e-commerce division of the marketplace, alone will see 2,600 new brands join. Many of the newcomers are small to medium-sized businesses that joined Tmall after COVID-19 made physical retail impossible. But larger ones, including luxury brands Prada, Cartier, Montblanc, Piaget, Balenciaga, and Chloé, are first-timers to the festival, too.
In Southeast Asia, where Alibaba operates Lazada, the company will stick to just one 24-hour sales period on Nov. 11 however. Awareness of Singles’ Day is still growing in the region but this year’s event could be pivotal in it becoming the frenzy there that it is in China. Online shopping adoption rates have been historically low in the region but with COVID-19 lockdowns of varying degrees still enforced, consumers are expected to move online in a big way.
“With the push for Alibaba to increase global participation, and the trend [for online shopping] already going up, and on top of that you have COVID-19, it could be a watershed year for Lazada in Southeast Asia,” said Jason Ong, a director at AlixPartners.
AlixPartners data found that spending is likely to rise for Singles’ Day, with 39 percent of consumers indicating they plan to spend more than they did in 2019, more than double the 15 percent who said they are planning to spend less than last year.
Local, familiar and value brands are expected to be this year’s Double 11 winners, according to Bain & Co., with the consumer electronics, health and wellness, and fresh food categories the most likely to see upticks.
After several years during which local brands outgrew foreign ones, 2019 was the first year in which this historical trend reversed, with foreign brands outpacing local labels, Bain’s Singles’ Day survey found. “However, local brands suffered less than the foreign brands in the COVID-19 period. One of the reasons for this movement to local brands is renewed consumer interest in great value and low prices arising from economic uncertainty.”
“The impact of COVID-19 puts greater pressure on the day to make up for retailers’ lost sales in the first half of 2020,” said Jonathan Cheng, Bain & Co. partner. “This year’s event is the most important since the first Double 11 as retailers and brands have a dual focus on new penetration from lower-tier cities and increased share of wallet from existing higher-tier consumers.”