Alibaba's Singles' Day sale set new records in 2019. Source: Shutterstock

Alibaba’s Singles’ Day sale set new records in 2019. Source: Shutterstock

Singles’ Day gives Asia 38 billion reasons to bank on e-commerce in 2020

ALIBABA Founder Jack Ma conceptualized and popularized the Singles’ Day [November 11] sale in China almost a decade ago. Today, it’s a phenomenon across Asia, with sales soaring year on year.

This year, Chinese consumers spent US$38.4 billion during the 24-hour period of the sale — beating last year’s figures by almost 26 percent. In fact, in the first 30 minutes of the sale, the e-commerce giant grossed US$10 billion.

The growth in sales figures beat a recent forecast by Oliver Wyman, which expected consumers to spend up to 10 percent more than they did last year.

While Alibaba owns Southeast Asian e-commerce giant Lazada and export-oriented e-commerce platform AliExpress, the sale figures primarily come from the company’s domestic platforms Taobao and Tmall.

Despite economic slowdown in China, consumers purchased mobile phones, electronics, and even cars online during the Singles’ Day sale. Xiaomi, China’s fourth-largest smartphone manufacturer reported sales of US$143 million in the first hour of the sale.

“Our survey shows ‘more choices of brand’ is now a top 3 reason for spending more this year, up from number 5 last year,” said Oliver Wyman Head of Retail and Consumer Goods in Greater China Jacques Penhirin.

“Attractive discounts and more choices of products are the other two reasons that have helped maintain Chinese consumers’ frenzied involvement in the festival.”

Penhirin also predicted that the demand for imported goods will not be affected by the trade tensions — which seem to have come true as US and Japanese products did well during the sale.

Although numbers from Lazada’s sale in Singapore and Malaysia are not in yet, there’s strong reason to believe that figures will indicate a robust interest in online shopping among consumers in the region, and reinforce the need for companies to build a robust e-commerce strategy.

Oliver Wyman’s study found that Singles Day has become a festival for the whole year, not just for November.

“Most discussion focuses only on the total sales of Singles Day, but this misses the longer-term impact on consumers. Over 60 percent of respondents state that in the future they will shop more at places from where they buy items during Singles Day,” explained Oliver Wyman Partner Alex Shutter.

“The winners during 11-11 will continue to benefit from their success in the future. So it isn’t surprising that we’re seeing brands and retailers investing heavily on more than just price discounts; notably through new product launches during Singles Day, as well as the increased usage of more engaging formats such as live-selling.”

In 2020, businesses need to re-think their e-commerce strategy to ensure they’re able to capture the growth that the online channel offers.

A simple presence on e-commerce platforms or a mere e-commerce website won’t do any longer — companies need to find new and interesting ways to engage with customers, delight them, and win their hearts to get them to stay loyal, return time and again, and even advocate for the brand on social media.