The shopping phenomenon you’ve never heard of just racked up USD 30b in a day

It’s a good time to be single. Well, it’s a good time to be Jack Ma, thanks to single people. 

The Chinese T-Rex of online shopping Alibaba has just announced the end of its one-day Singles’ Day sales event and the results have decimated last year’s sales record, with customers spending USD 30.7 billion in just 24 hours.

In 2017 Alibaba raised a poxy USD 25.3 billion – but even these numbers dwarf Western e-commerce equivalents: Amazon Prime Day brought in just USD 4 billion – almost eight times less. The USA’s nuttiest shopping experience, Black Friday, most recently raised USD 8 billion in sales and its slightly more sophisticated sister Cyber Monday made USD 6.6 billion.

Travel bonanzas

According to Alibaba, shoppers made just over one billion orders – and let’s not forget that local e-commerce rivals such as JD.com also had sales on today.

The Singles’ Day event – and later online promotion – was started by Alibaba in 2009 as a way to celebrate people not in relationships with the date 11/11 said to represent single people. Now, everyone is in on the act with brick-and-mortar stores also taking part, and the event is starting to gain traction outside China, for example in Southeast Asia (though Alibaba-owned Lazada).

alibaba-singles-day

Recently, the madness has spread to Alibaba’s travel subsidiary, Fliggy, which is also reporting record results, having launched new itineraries especially for the Singles Day event, including tours to the Arctic Circle, Amazon rainforest and Mount Everest.

Other Chinese OTAs and companies like Hotels.com, Ctrip, Lvmama, and Qyer jumped on the bandwagon and launched their respective promotions. Destinations also took notice and, for the first time, Alibaba launched destination marketing to cater to Chinese tourists.

The Indonesian government and Alibaba have agreed to sell five local products through the “Indonesia Pavilion” on its Tmall and Taobao e-commerce sites. The five products are Luwak Drip from Kapal Api Coffee, Richeese Nabati biscuit, Papatonk Premium Shrimp Crackers, Yang TyTy Sarang Burung Walet (swift’s nest), and Indomie noodles from PT Indofood. The Indonesian products were reportedly packaged with Indonesian travel information.

Other destinations chose to work with Chinese OTAs and airlines to offer promotions. The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) worked with Fliggy and Ctrip to offer special packages and promotions at the sale. Thailand suffered a huge drop in Chinese tourists following the tragic accident in Phuket in July. The country hopes to win the trust and confidence of Chinese tourists once again.

“There are 300 million middle-class consumers in China.”

Commenting on Chinese consumers, Joe Tsai, executive vice chairman of Alibaba Group, said: “There are 300 million middle-class consumers in China and I think in the next 10, 15 years, that number will double to 600 million.

“That trend is not going to stop, trade war or no trade war. You are seeing this upgrading of consumption of Chinese consumers. I think that’s a long-term trend.”

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