Commentators suggest ‘retailtainment beats discounting’
Singles’ Day estimated at $40 billion
Alibaba ‘Singles Day’ sales over $9 billion
$2 billion in sales through Alipay app within the first hour and 11 seconds of November 11th
US sales over $12 billion between Black Friday and Cyber Monday
US consumers spent a record $1.2 billion via mobile on Friday
Sources: Forbes; Market Watch; TechCrunch
Summary: Using entertainment marketing, Alibaba in China focuses on the shopping experience, unlike western markets which focus on discounts. Singles’ Day has consistently outperformed shopping events in western markets since 2012. Whatever way is being promoted, and whatever the market, it seems mobile is becoming a key channel.
Point of View
This time of year has multi-day shopping events in the US and China which generate interesting comparisons. Deborah Weinswig on the Forbes web site strongly argues about the benefits of entertainment marketing used for Singles Day over the discounting used in the US and other western markets for Black Friday / Cyber Monday. She makes a compelling case for the whole shopping experience being a driver for better sales. In particular with Alibaba’s approach, new technology is used to enhance the consumer experience. The following are the highlights Deborah draws out for this year:
Letting customers experiment with Virtual Reality (VR) through to their Tmall virtual shopping centre, with recognised brands
Using Augmented Reality (AR) to gamify the online to offline (O2O) experience
Enabling ‘see now, buy later’ giving consumers the ability to order ahead at events that stimulate interest, such as fashion shows
Making the countdown to the kick-off part of the show, and allowing viewers to participate using VR from home.
Whatever the approach adopted to the shopping holidays, the mobile channel continues to grow in importance. In the US, the mobile channel had a record spend of $1.2bn on Black Friday. While consumers made a startling $2bn value of purchases in the first hour and 11 minutes on Alibaba’s app for Singles’ Day.
With Alibaba’s expansion of the experience to consumers outside China, including consumers in 200 countries and suppliers in 20 countries, it is rapidly meeting CEO Jack Ma’s 2014 goal to make it a global event within five years.
The Forbes article is an interesting analysis of two different approaches to multi-day shopping holidays on different sides of the world. Clearly, both have their place (and generate significant sales volume), with retailtainment probably being the more exciting for both customers and market analysts.
Perhaps, the main takeaway from the Singles Day vs Black Friday debate is the way new technology is already enhancing the shopping experience and making the ‘event’ more memorable.