Singles’ Day gets bigger every year, and 2016’s figures leave no doubt that the event is a huge success. The total sales for the day were a record-setting $17.8 billion in gross merchandise volume (GMV) on Alibaba’s platforms alone, which is a remarkable 32 per cent rise over 2015’s figure of $14.3 billion.
However, this fell short of the forecasted $20 billion that media reports were expecting, and the overall growth didn’t quite hit the levels seen the year before; Singles’ Day GMV rose 60 per cent between 2014 and 2015. Retailers also reported that the cost per order dropped slightly from 2015.
The 2016 sales figure of $17.8 billion is even more staggering when you consider the fact that just three years earlier, Singles’ Day noted $5.14 billion in sales. Now they can hit that amount in just one hour.
It is important to take into account the fact that these figures do not include returns, which some estimates place as high as 30 per cent.
Meanwhile, Alibaba competitor JD.com said that orders had risen 78 per cent over 2015 by noon. Whilst the retailer did not post sales number, analysts say JD.com made up 20 per cent of the day’s purchases.
How It All Unfolded
The event takes place each year on November 11, which is a day that young Chinese people celebrate being single. Retailing giant Alibaba sensed a marketing opportunity, turning the day into a 24-hour sales event in which singles’ and married people alike take advantage of generous discounts to buy gifts for themselves.
Alibaba had already surpassed $100 million in sales just 40 seconds into the sale in 2016. CNBC reports that during the first hour of Singles’ Day, Alibaba received 175,000 orders per second; the day’s average was 120,000 transactions per second. Alibaba says its GMV passed the $1 billion mark just 4 minutes and 54 seconds into the sale. By 15:19, they had already passed 2015’s total.
According to Forbes, online sales on this day in China exceeded the projected e-commerce sales in the entire country of Brazil for all of 2016, which is no small feat. It easily surpassed the $2.74 billion and $3.07 billion in online sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday respectively in the US.
Mobile Sales Rising
A remarkable 82 per cent of Singles’ Day sales took place on mobile devices, which is very promising given the fact that 800 million Chinese consumers have smartphones. Last year, mobile accounted for just 69 per cent of sales. Contrast this with the US, where TechCrunch says mobile typically accounts for less than 35 per cent of sales on the big shopping dates.
Participation is also on the rise, with more than 14,000 brands choosing to take part in 2016’s sale, no doubt encouraged by the impressive figures noted the year before. When Singles’ Day was launched in 2009, just 27 merchants participated.
International brands and merchants accounted for 27 per cent of the total GMV, with orders coming from 207 different countries and regions. This is believed to have been helped by the fact that foreign brands are becoming savvier when it comes to connecting with Chinese shoppers.
A four-hour “countdown gala” in Shenzhen with celebrities like David Beckham, Scarlett Johansson and Kobe Bryant was held to help raise its international profile. Top sellers amongst Chinese shoppers included foreign brands like Apple, Adidas, Siemens, Uniqlo and Nike. Chinese brands that performed well were Meizu, Midea and Haier.
Alibaba’s affiliated payment system, Alipay, which is akin to PayPal, handled more than a billion transactions during the sale. Its logistics arm, Cainao, delivered 657 million packages, and more than 1.7 million delivery workers were needed to pack and ship the orders.
Around 61 per cent of the shoppers on Singles’ Day were women, whilst 39 per cent were men. Singles’ Day has been embraced by all shoppers regardless of their single status; more than 60 per cent of shoppers were actually married. Chinese Millennials accounted for around three fourths of total shoppers, with people aged 26 to 35 making up the majority.
Even though growth slowed slightly in 2016, the overall figures continued to set records, and the event is expected to be even more successful in 2017.1