E-commerce propels Singles Day sales

Updated 2017-11-20 09:04:13 China Daily
The packaging staff at the warehouse of a hat e-commerce company based in Nantong, Jiangsu province, pack products sold on Singles Day, Nov 11, 2017.(Photo/Xinhua)

The packaging staff at the warehouse of a hat e-commerce company based in Nantong, Jiangsu province, pack products sold on Singles Day, Nov 11, 2017.(Photo/Xinhua)

Retailers take in over billion an hour on 11/11 as compiled data are used to focus on consumers

Over 168 billion yuan in 24 hours-that translates into billion per hour being spent by bargain hunters during the largest single-day shopping festival on Nov. 11.

That sheer number almost tripled the size of last year's Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the United States combined and accounted for 5 percent of China's total retail sales of consumer goods in October, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

While e-commerce is already big business in China, these stats exemplify just how deep-pocketed Chinese shoppers can be-and how technology can take retail to new heights.

Singles Day had a humble beginning in 2009, taking its name from the way Nov 11 was written numerically as four 1's, which resemble the unattached. But today it has become the most watched event in the world's retail calendar, thanks to its scale, variety and sophistication.

A brainchild of e-commerce behemoth Alibaba Group, the gala has today drawn in a number of e-commerce players to jump on the shopping bandwagon.

For example, JD.com, the nation's second-largest digital shopping site, rolled out an 11-day promotion through Nov 11 and harvested an impressive 127.1 billion yuan (.1 billion) in sales.

With Singles Day becoming a China-trademarked event, its significance has far surpassed that of gross merchandise volume, or GMV, and ever-rising numbers.

Instead, tech giants are wielding much power in revamping commercial infrastructure and mobilizing merchants to optimize online and offline experiences, experts said.

"The whole new retail development is helping to improve efficiencies on the retail infrastructure and greater engagement with consumers, including reaching into the rural market," said Matthew Crabbe, Asia-Pacific research director at consultancy Mintel, explaining the higher-than-market-expected increase of 39 percent year-on-year.

New Retail is the catchphrase of Alibaba this year, meaning the effort to help brands merge online and offline resources to offer customers a seamless shopping experience with the aid of artificial intelligence, big data and cloud computing technologies.

JD.com has its own version, dubbed "borderless retail", but shares that very same core.

To be more specific, AI is redefining the shopping experiences through an array of subtle enhancements, from uncannily precise product displays and prescient search engines that recommend relevant goods to customer-service chat bots that can resolve consumer complaints with minimum human intervention.

But that's just a tip of the iceberg. Tech gurus are converting retail outlets into "intelligent stores" that have drawn thousands of labels, from Nike to Shiseido to Wyeth. Through an interconnected system, they allow shoppers to track product availability at other locations in real time and get timely delivery to their doorsteps while choosing to pay with their phones.

The promotional event serves to roll out, test and validate the grand retail experiment.

"It (New Retail) is all about being even more consumer-centric, by featuring curated product assortments, exclusive services, elevated environments and user experiences, all tailored to the consumer," said Dennis van Oossanen, vice-president of Nike's direct sales division in China.

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