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A Singular Event: Singles’ Day Shopping in China

Online sales promotion is big business in China

November 11 is Singles’ Day in China and to celebrate, Alibaba hosted a major sales promotion via its Tmall website, triggering a flurry of online purchases.

It’s a phenomenon that appears to be replicating across the world.

It began with Cyber Monday, an online sales event in the US that’s aimed to emulate the offline Black Friday sales. Now, similar promotions have sprung up globally, such as Australia’s Click Frenzy event.

Yesterday (November 11), was Singles’ Day in China. The day was chosen for the fact that only the numeral ‘1’ appears in the date, but unfortunately Singles’ Day isn’t a public holiday.

The Chinese e-commerce heavyweight Alibaba recognised Singles’ Day’s potential nevertheless.

The success of these online sales is yet to be fully realised, as some promotions are technically ongoing and figures will continue to be collated in the coming week or so. However, in the first 12 hours of the promotion alone, Alibaba Group’s online sales volume reached 8 billion yuan ($1.23 billion). In that sense, the fledgling sales event outdid last year’s Cyber Monday.

During the first minute that the promotions appeared on Tmall (Alibaba’s B2C subsidiary), more than 10 million consumers had accessed the website. By 2:19 am, Tmall’s sales volume reached 3.37 billion yuan, and by 1:38pm it had reached 10 billion yuan.

The prevalence of these online sales events has some experts saying that ongoing promotions and price wars are the future of the industry. On the other hand, others fear that it may lead to a ‘race to the bottom‘, where price competition begins to outweigh other concerns like customer service and quality assurance. Either way, it appears that the flash sales model is evolving and these sales are proving extremely popular among consumers.

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