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Alibaba uses tech innovation to attract Single’s Day shoppers

By Dave Howard

Single’s Day, or 11.11, was a scarcely known concept outside of China, before Alibaba turned it into the world’s biggest shopping event when it launched its annual Single’s Day sales seven years ago.

The ecommerce goliath has made such a success of the event that it was the biggest sales event in 2015, generating sales of $14 billion US, more than double the total online sales from Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined in the US (Forbes).

This year, it looks set to smash its own records – just 12 hours into the event, sales had reached 82.4bn yuan, $12.1 billion US (BBC).

Single’s Day Banner Advertisement, www.tmall.com, 11 November 2016

“These days are an attempt to create an artificial sense of scarcity,” said Steven Noble, Senior Ecommerce Analyst at Telsyte. “Online retail generally is exciting and empowering for retailers.”

To capitalise on its success, this year Alibaba has expanded the event from 24 hours to 24 days, finishing today on Single’s Day itself.

The extension of a one day sales event is also being trialled by Amazon which has extended its Black Friday sales event from 24 hours to two weeks – its ‘Black Friday Store’ will open on Monday 14 November, until Black Friday which falls on 25 November. Amazon is also hoping to profit from Single’s Day, having launched its Amazon Prime service in China just one week ahead of the sales event.

Alibaba and Amazon obviously forecast that the extended sales events will increase their profit margins. However, there are many analysts that have cautioned that shoppers may fatigue if these retail events last too long.

“If every day was your birthday, there would be nothing to celebrate anymore,” cautions Danny Levinson, an early-stage tech investor with Matoka Capital in Beijing. “So there is a delicate balance of stretching the consumer savings to a reasonable length of time before the novelty is lost on the netizens.” (Forbes)

Innovating to increase shopper engagement

Despite the cautionary words from analysts, Alibaba is finding increasingly inventive ways of keeping shoppers engaged throughout the sales event, which it’s calling its Global Shopping Festival.

The e-tailer is using a mixture of tech innovation, special events and celebrity endorsement to keep the magic of the sales event alive throughout the 24 day period.

Alibaba’s Single’s Day target demographic are some of the most avid mobile shoppers in the world – 92 percent of 25-34 year olds in China regularly shop online, the majority via their mobiles (The Drum).

To peak their excitement, Alibaba is showcasing its Buy+ virtual reality shopping experience. Having purchased a cardboard headset (for approximately 15 cents), shoppers will be able to browse virtual aisles with their mobiles and will have the option to showcase apparel on virtual models.

Although this technology may excite these consumers. Alibaba and Amazon will need to ensure that product content is comprehensive and up-to-date. With a heavy focus on white goods and technology products, the e-tailers and respective manufacturer partners should ensure that listings contain an adequate number of product images and particularly videos. Shoppers are anywhere from 64-85 percent more likely to buy a product after watching a video about it (Kissmetrics).

In a recent interview, filmed exclusively by Brand View, Nathalie Nahai, Web Psychologist and ecommerce expert, explained that the most important element to consider online is offering a compelling experience to the shopper. For these new innovative experiences to be successful, they must provide the shopper with a compelling reason to purchase the product.