Mark Tanner
13 October 2015 0 Comments

Single’s Day has transformed a traditionally quite period in China’s shopping calendar into the world’s biggest day of online shopping. No event represents the rise of China’s consumer class and their reverence to all things online better than 11-11. It’s the stuff of legends.

On 11 November 2014, 278 million orders worth $9.3 billion dollars were bought on Alibaba’s platforms during the 24 hour period – including ¥1 billion worth of Xiaomi mobiles. That was 63% more than 2013’s $5.7 billion and over double the size of America’s largest online shopping day, Cyber Monday.

With Alibaba now publicly trading for a little over a year, investors will be watching this year’s Single’s Day closely. They’ll be eager to see if Chinese consumers’ spending continues, and if Alibaba still has its pulling power with them. It comes at a time when there has been a lot of press about falling Chinese stocks and the worsening state of the economy.

Someone who will be pinning his hopes of big sales this Single’s Day will be Michael Evans, the 20-year veteran from Goldman Sachs. Evans was hired 3-months ago as President of Alibaba Group. Alibaba will have high expectations of his experience and networks in the finance industry to help drive the stock price north. His appointment was unfortunately timed just after the Chinese stock meltdown, which saw Alibaba stock prices fall to record lows on the NYSE in late September.

Ecommerce has come of age in China, and like many maturing industries in China, execs are less likely to predict the mouth-watering growth rates of previous years. Nevertheless, Evans and Alibaba have a lot riding on a great showing for this year’s Single’s Day and will be hoping for another stellar day to prove to the bears that China, and Alibaba, still have plenty of wind left in their sails.  Attending today’s unveiling of 2015 Single Day at Alibaba’s Hangzhou campus, we were interested to learn how Alibaba will again dazzle the online public with a bigger, brighter show this year.

China Skinny's Mark Tanner at Alibaba's Hangzhou Campus for the unveiling of the 2015 Single's Day festival

China Skinny’s Mark Tanner at Alibaba’s Hangzhou Campus for the unveiling of the 2015 Single’s Day festival

The unveiling was the first such event Alibaba has hosted prior to a Single’s Day. It makes sense to create buzz in the build up to the event through the 600 media who attended. The big names all spoke including CEO Daniel Zhang, Mike Evans and the man himself, Mr. Jack Ma, with his usual charismatic presentation in English. Three dozen Ambassadors and Consul Generals from every corner of the world were also there, indicating how seriously countries exporting to China now consider ecommerce.

Last year’s Single’s Day had a strong focus on mobile commerce, which accounted for 42.6% of sales, helping to drive the overall shift to smartphone shopping. 2015’s 11-11 Shopping Festival milestones made no mention of mobiles or growth targets, but focused on three key themes:

1. Beijing

Since Single’s Day began in 2009, the chief command and war room have been at Alibaba’s HQ in Hangzhou. This year it will be in Beijing. The move represents how important the Chinese Government is in Alibaba’s continued growth in the Chinese market. Beijing has been a big supporter of Alibaba and ecommerce in general, cementing it as a key pillar to the future of China’s economy, and including it as a core component in its Internet Plus strategy. It is also where the national media and TV stations are located.

2. Countdown Gala

On the evening of 10 November, Alibaba will partner with a ‘Beijing TV station’ (CCTV?) to build momentum in the warm up to the 11-11 event. Although digital channels have become the most powerful channel to attract consumers, TV is still an influential medium, and can be very effective when integrated with online platforms. We’ve seen this before through previous partnerships such as the A Taste of China series, where consumers could purchase food seen in the show directly on Tmall. The televised exposure is also likely to attract more of the older TV-watching demographic to participate in the shopping festival, which has traditionally been led by consumers born after 1980.


As China’s dominant online shopping platform, Alibaba has a huge amount of data about what consumers are looking for and interested in buying. It is clear from this year’s 11-11 ‘globalisation’ focus, that Chinese shoppers are searching for quality, safe and authentic imported goods. There will be a significant emphasis on foreign brands in 2015 Single’s Day, particularly in the food and beverage segments, with products and brands from a slew of countries discounted and promoted on Single’s Day.

2015 Single's Day Globalisation

Ambassadors and Consul Generals from three dozen countries added to the Globalisation theme for the 2015 Single’s Day Festival

Another component of the globalisation is Chinese vendors selling directly to consumers abroad. We saw the start of this at 2014 Single’s Day, with consumers from 217 countries and regions shopping on Tmall, but expect it to be bigger this year. Key countries will include the United States, Russia, Spain, the UK, France, Brazil and Israel. This is part of Alibaba’s overall strategy to become a truly global company. Alibaba announced today that they are opening offices in Italy, France and Germany in the coming months, and expanding their business activities in the U.K. They are also carefully evaluating expansion strategies in the U.S. following some poorly performing acquisitions there, and expanding into other parts of Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

Mike Evans ended his speech leaving no doubt of Alibaba’s global aspirations, “Over the past decade, Alibaba measured our impact and our success by how much we changed China. Going forward, we will be judged by how much we change the world.” And Single’s Day is just the start of it.