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Alibaba’s annual mega-sales day, known as Singles Day, is set to be bigger than ever this year as it introduces its “New Retail” strategy, which further connects online and offline shopping.
The event, which takes place on November 11 every year, is celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2018, with the ambition to top last year’s record-breaking $25.3bn revenue in 24-hours. The focus will be on expanding scale and reach, according to the e-commerce giant, which includes moving beyond its home in China.
“Over the last two years, we have pioneered the concept of New Retail to accelerate the digital transformation of the offline,” said Alibaba’s CEO, Daniel Zhang.“We are excited by the impressive results achieved to date and will continue to be the driving force innovating for merchants and customers in the coming decades.”
As for geographical reach, platforms in the Alibaba ecosystem (TMall World, AliExpress and Lazada) are focused on bringing the event to overseas shoppers. Lazara, for example, will host its own festival for customers in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.
Moreover, Alibaba’s TMall plaform is already offering 500,000 items for pre-order as of October 20, following a see-now-buy-now fashion show on the same day, which enabled the company to respond to any insights on demand.
This year also includes a new focus on independent retailers. The retailer is working with 200,000 mom-and-pop shops which have been upgraded with Alibaba’s technology tools, such as AR-enabled discounts in-store and online promotions.
Other brands including L’Oréal and Starbucks have also announced plans in place. L’Oréal China will launch a series of pop-up stores allowing customers to interact with virtual mirrors using AR and AI as well as vending machines, according to Hagen Wuelferth, the beauty group’s chief digital officer.
The shopping day’s extraordinary growth over the past 10 years aligns with China’s appetite for digitally-enabled experiences, which have not reached the same level in the West.
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Alibaba’s Singles Day, China’s biggest online shopping holiday, is just around the corner. Last year, the e-commerce company’s online marketplaces Tmall and Taobao pulled in a total of $17.8 billion of sales within 24 days. Citigroup forecasted that sales in 2017 will reach $24 billion.
In the lead-up to the event this year, Alibaba Group has made great marketing efforts to stoke Chinese consumers’ anticipation for the event. It hosted a “See Now Buy Now” fashion show ahead of the festival, inviting a slew of Chinese celebrities to wear outfits and carry products provided by participating brands while performing on stage. The show was broadcast on a number of different channels, including China’s biggest online streaming site Youku and several local TV stations. Chinese consumers could watch the show on their mobile phones and place orders directly if they were interested in items shown by performers.
With the Singles Day shopping holiday, Alibaba has provided international fashion and luxury brands with a golden opportunity to reach out to Chinese consumers. According to Alizila, the company’s PR portal, the size of Singles Day has grown to more than 18 times that of Amazon Prime Day, and 2.5 times larger than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.
For luxury and fashion brands, the festival is the one annual retail event that they cannot miss if they want to get the most out of the Chinese market. Currently, top-tier luxury labels still refrain from participating in it. The event features lots of discounts and sales, which goes against the traditional pricing principles of the luxury business. However, we have seen an increasing number of premium labels decide to give it a try in recent years.
Some new labels such as Jason Wu and Opening Ceremony joined the festival this year, in addition to long-time participants including Ralph Lauren, Guerlain, and Estee Lauder.
The luxury fashion brands that do participate in Singles Day all use WeChat as a crucial communication channel, to inform consumers of their Singles Day promotions. The following are eight great WeChat campaigns released by brands that caught our attention:
Coach has rolled out a very nicely planned WeChat campaign to promote its Singles Day sales. On November 7, the brand published an article to introduce this year’s deals. Readers can also peruse a much more visually-appealing, interactive HTML5 page by following the link provided at the end of the post. Users can navigate through the HTML5 page to get detailed information, such as descriptions and discount rates, on each deal. When they click on items that they’re interested in, shoppers will be directed to Coach’s Chinese e-commerce website where they can place an order immediately.
To celebrate this year’s Singles Day, the fashion footwear label Stuart Weitzman is calling on its followers to purchase some of its most popular shoes to reward themselves, especially those who are single. On November 11, consumers will enjoy 20% off of any order that they place on the brand’s official e-commerce website. Stuart Weitzman’s WeChat campaign has done a good job of encouraging readers to purchase products. At the end of Stuart Weitzman’s post, consumers can click to enter the e-commerce site and order directly. There is also information on offline store locations for those people who want to visit a store and try on the footwear.
The Taiwanese luxury fashion brand Shiatzy Chen, which is often referred to as the Chanel of Taiwan, not only sees Singles Day as a chance to boost sales, but also to acquire new members to sign up on its online boutique store. In the brand’s WeChat post, it encourages followers to register in order to receive a promotional coupon for Singles Day.
The German affordable luxury brand MCM published a WeChat article on November 8, three days before the launch of Singles Day, to offer tips on what readers should buy from the brand and how to be prepared to score the best deals. The article has a direct link to MCM’s new WeChat boutique store, where followers can browse through the Singles Day deals and add interesting items to their carts. The sales event officially starts at 10am and ends at 9pm on November 11. Consumers can use WeChat Pay or Alipay to make purchases on its WeChat boutique store.
Capitalising on the Singles Day fever, Michael Kors released a WeChat campaign one week ahead of the festival where it listed a wide range of products for readers to purchase. Under every item that the brand promotes in the post, users can click a button that will take them to the Michael Kors’ Chinese online store for them to place orders right away.
Ralph Lauren has launched its promotions on both Alibaba’s Tmall and JD.com to participate in this year’s Singles Day. Its WeChat campaign, nonetheless, seems to be separate from the sales activities on e-commerce sites, with no direct links to facilitate purchases. The post on WeChat focuses on promoting “Polo Bear”-themed items to readers. Additionally, Ralph Lauren is also trying to drive more viewers to officially enrol in the brand’s WeChat customer relationship management (CRM) system. To encourage them to do it, the brand gives away a “Polo Bear” WeChat emoji as a perk once they sign up.
Another American affordable luxury label, Kate Spade, also requires users to enrol in its CRM system on WeChat to receive Singles Day coupons. Consumers can use them to purchase any Kate Spade products in any China store between November 3-12.
Following the official launch of its flagship store on Tmall earlier this year, Furla has participated in Alibaba’s “See Now Buy Now” fashion show for Singles Day. The goal of the brand’s WeChat account is to direct more users to purchase products on Tmall. The post explains in detail what steps Chinese consumers should take to pre-order from the “See Now Buy Now” fashion show.
Despite the holiday countdown being truly underway, the past week’s top stories are less about the festivities and more to do with a look forward – whether it’s the launch of more tech-enabled stores or significant developments with the likes of drones and blockchain.
Also worth checking out is a view on fashion immediacy from Burberry and Tommy Hilfiger, some further uptake of chatbots and an overview on this year’s major fashion and beauty mergers.
Blockchain is being adopted beyond Bitcoin, from fashion to finance [JWT Intelligence]
Report: Few retailers are omnichannel ‘leaders’ [Retail Dive]
Burberry and Tommy Hilfiger: Lessons in fashion immediacy [BoF]
Why retailers stop selling online: the hidden cost of e-commerce [The Guardian]
Move over Singles’ Day: Alipay’s ’12.12’ event breaks records [Jing Daily]
Luxury and charity are like oil and water – they don’t mix well [LeanLuxe]
Harvey Nichols profits tumble on aggressive revamp [The Telegraph]
Young, quick and very hip: Missguided and Pretty Little Thing hit the big time [The Guardian]
The year in major fashion and beauty mergers [Glossy]
Dove flips #MannequinChallenge in extension of Real Beauty campaign [The Drum]
How Stuart Weitzman is using WeChat to expand its Asian footprint [Glossy]
New Nordstrom mobile chatbot is ready to help shoppers find the perfect holiday gift [GeekWire]
How sporting giants Nike and Adidas are pushing the future of retail [Fortune]
With the world reeling from the news of the US election over this past week, analysts have been trying to wrap their head around exactly what a Trump government will mean for retail. There are several good reads listed below.
Also hitting the headlines has of course been the mindblowing success and growth of Alibaba’s Singles’ Day – this year a $17bn affair, up from ‘just’ $14bn in 2015.
Meanwhile, some lighter bits to absorb: a wealth of new campaigns launched for the holiday season. John Lewis vs Marks & Spencer has got us excited, but also below is everyone from Gap to Macy’s, Debenhams and Kohl’s.
ps. Don’t forget to sign up for our Snapchat Masterclass – we’re currently offering 20% for our readers using code “community”.
The Wall Street Journal has a deep-dive story on just what it takes to produce all the imagery for Farfetch’s listed boutiques. Every weekday, it posts an average of more than 1,000 new listings, each with at least five different photographs. Alongside that, perhaps appropriately, comes a new set of stats about Amazon, proving the fact it’s expected to surpass Macy’s to become the biggest apparel seller in the US next year.
Sustainability is also top of mind within the industry of late, with lots of ongoing thoughts around Everlane’s transparency claims and Patagonia’s slow fashion aims. Also worth reading this week are various Snapchat campaigns, not to mention some insights on the pros and cons of retail technology. Don’t forget to also sign up for our Snapchat Masterclass before the early bird rate ends on Oct 31.
Where luxury fashion is a high-speed, high-volume business – on site with the photography crew at Farfetch [WSJ]
Radical transparency: Are H&M and Zara actually more transparent than Everlane? [The Fashion Law]
Amazon is expected to surpass Macy’s to become the biggest apparel seller in the US next year [Business Insider]
Vine video-sharing app to be shut down by Twitter [The Guardian]
Alibaba takes Singles’ Day to global buyers, sellers [China Daily]
Sales surge at Kering’s Gucci, slip at sister brand [Yahoo]
American innovation: 5 questions with Shinola CMO Bridget Russo [BrandChannel]
How Outdoor Voices founder Tyler Haney plans to grow the brand into the next Nike [Fashionista]
In an age of fast fashion, Patagonia is going slow [Yahoo]
Following the screenshots: How Topshop is hacking Snapchat [Digiday]
Everlane’s social strategy: drive community engagement, not sales [Glossy]
Why Snapchat is winning out over Pinterest for River Island [The Drum]
H&M and Kenzo leverage iOS iMessage integration [Glossy]
REI’s ‘#OptOutside’ returns, and other brands have joined to help make it a new American tradition [Creativity]
Target channels Hamilton and The Nutcracker for holiday campaign aimed at Hispanic shoppers [AdWeek]
Cyber Monday is now Cyber Sunday. That’s official. Well, at least as far as Walmart is concerned. The company is going to launch its Cyber Monday deals a day early this year.
Why? Is the retail giant-of-giants regretting pulling back from Black Friday now that the momentum is really building, or is this a logical move that simply reflects reality? Maybe a bit of both.
Walmart.com CEO Fernando Madeira pointed out the logic of changing tack. “The customers have changed but Cyber Monday hasn’t changed with them,” he told Reuters. “Now everyone has [the] internet.”
The fact is that Cyber Monday is no longer the year’s biggest online shopping day. China’s Singles Day has taken that crown and in some markets like the UK, Black Friday beat it last year too. Even in the US, the gap is closing with Adobe predicting $3bn in online sales on Monday but as much as $2.7bn on Friday.
It used to be that Americans got back to their offices on the Monday after Thanksgiving and took advantage of all those new-fangled computers and the high speed wifi they found there to go shopping. Seems almost funny now.
What it means as far as Walmart is concerned is that instead of the smattering of teaser deals it offered on the same Sunday last year, there’ll be 2,000 online-only specials available from 8pm.
The power of online
The move to Cyber Sunday also reflects a wider online-driven trend that sees retailers deciding when is the best time to offer deals and knowing that their smartphone-toting customers will be ready.
Black Friday is still key, of course, as its timing is perfect for Christmas shopping. But the rise of online shopping has shifted the shopping event scenery to create alternative Black Fridays at other times. Amazon has proved that with its Amazon Prime Days earlier in the year. Alibaba has proved it with Singles Day on November 11.
The onward march of online has also changed Black Friday itself and we’re seeing proof of that this year with a whole load of tweaks to usual retailer behaviour over Black Friday/Cyber Monday, of which Walmart’s move is the highest-profile.
Why is the change happening so fast in a world where e-sales are still the smallest percentage of total sales? Currently, more than 92% of total US retail sales still happen in physical stores and in Britain, the figure is still around 90%. But for both countries, online is a disproportionately large force in special shopping events like Black Friday. In the UK, for instance, over a third of the near-£2bn likely to be spent on the day will be online.
And that gives retailers the chance to extend the event on their websites as they’re not bound by shoppers’ abilities to get to stores. In fact, a lot of retailers launched Black Friday early this year with plenty of deals available last week and this week even more.
In France, where physical retail is still reeling from the Paris attacks, online is also changing the landscape and Black Friday is morphing too. La Redoute, which said the Friday-through-Sunday period was its second biggest shopping weekend in 2014 (as pictured), has renamed it Le Grand Weekend. But despite the use of the word “weekend”, its deals start today and end next Monday.
So whatever happens on Black Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday and Cyber Saturday, Sunday or Monday, one thing we know is that shopping will never be the same again.
This post first appeared on Trendwalk.net, a style-meets-business blog by journalist, trends specialist and business analyst, Sandra Halliday