Alibaba Singles Day Breaks Records With $30.8 Billion in Sales

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Alibaba Singles Day 11/11

Alibaba Group’s 10th annual Singles Day sale on 11/11 racked up $30.8 billion (RMB213.5) in sales, and set a new record for the platform with a 27% rise over last year’s $25.3 billion take.

A total of 230 countries and regions had completed transactions for the gross merchandise volume (GMV) settled through Alipay, and 180,000+ brands and businesses participated including Nike, Adidas and L’Oréal. And 237 brands exceeded $14 million in GMV including Apple, Dyson, Kindle, Gap, Estée Lauder and Nestlé.

The event was spurred to record sales in part by a burgeoning and tech-savvy Chinese middle class and Alibaba’s addition of in-store retail via more brick-and-mortar stores and food and hotel services.

The company’s Singles Day volume once again exceeded US online sales from Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined, and topped Amazon’s Prime Day shopping extravaganza.

For context, however, it’s important to remember that Alibaba counts 666 million mobile monthly active users—twice the US population.

“That trend (of a rising Chinese middle class) is not going to stop, trade war or no trade war,” Alibaba executive vice chairman Joe Tsai said. China’s “middle-class consumers have experienced significant real wage growth over the past decade, and they are looking for high-quality products to satisfy their discretionary spend and an increasingly sophisticated lifestyle.”

Daniel Zhang, CEO of Alibaba Group, said participation from the Alibaba ecosystem augmented consumer engagement. “Today we witnessed the strength and rise of China’s consumption economy and consumers’ continued pursuit to upgrade their everyday lifestyles. Looking ahead, Alibaba will continue to lead the evolution towards the future digital economy and lifestyle.”

“Brands have this year doubled down harder on digital-first marketing strategies like influencer marketing and social selling,” said Mimrah Mahmood, regional director of media solutions, Meltwater APAC. “However, many of these channels are still relatively new—and we fully expect e-commerce players to continue innovating and coming up with creative new ways to leverage these new ways of selling.”

Skeptics such as Bloomberg argue that GMV is not a reliable metric, lacking a standardized measurement that correlates with revenue. “There’s a clear disconnect between Singles Day GMV and annual revenue or profit at Alibaba, and the gap is widening,” it reports.

The Verge concurs. “Disputes over the validity of GMV matter because of the challenges facing Chinese retailers,” it noted. “This year’s sale may have broken records, but with GMV growth slowing to 27 percent year-on-year (down from 39 percent last year), the shopping holiday’s runaway growth might not last.”

When Alibaba first monetized Singles’ Day in 2009, 27 brands signed on.

Alibaba launched official promotion of the holiday to counteract traditionally slow sales between October’s National Day and the Chinese New Year in January/February.

Popularized at universities along China’s east coast, “Singles Day”—which translates to “Bare Sticks Day,” in reference to the visual look of the date 11/11—began as a way for single college students to celebrate bachelorhood. The anti-Valentine’s Day has since morphed into a commercial craze, and retailers’ deals are now matched by promotions at restaurants, movie theaters and other businesses.

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