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Is the Alibaba 11.11 event worth it for brands?

Alibaba’s annual Singles Day e-commerce festival generated a record $30.8 billion (RMB 213.5 billion) in sales, but is the shopping festival a good idea for brands?



Alibaba’s 2018 11.11 event once again eclipsed all records from previous years with sales surpassing $155 million (RMB 1 billion) within the first 20 seconds and $1 billion in just one minute 30 seconds.


As of midday, Alibaba had chalked up $21.5 billion and at 4.05pm the total sales reached $25.3 billion passing 2017’s total sales.


The record-breaking total sales represented a 27% increase in sales year-on-year, however, the growth is slowing in tier 1 cities such as Shanghai and Beijing while it grows in lower-tier cities.


According to Alibaba, around 75% of new users in on the site in the last quarter were from “less developed” areas, particularly lower-tier cities.


Japan, United States and Korea were the top three countries selling goods to China, followed by Australia and Germany. The most popular categories for imported goods were health supplements, milk powder, facial masks and diapers.


What the brands did?


Brand activity was once again heavy across all categories and sectors. The 11.11 event saw eight brands attract more than 1 billion RMB in sales, these were Apple, Nike, Adidas, Uniqlo, Haier, Huawei, Midea and Miui.


Uniqlo harnessed online to offline marketing channels to drive consumers in-store as well as online. Physical stores carried 11.11 promotions and the brand heavily promoted offline pick-up options to provide consumers with ways to overcome the issues with sizing and any delays in delivery. This approach, combined with targeted messaging and promotions helped the brand achieve sales of over 100 million RMB in just 35 seconds. The Japanese brand went on to secure the top position in the men’s and women’s apparel categories.



Lancome leveraged the influence of its brand ambassadors to drum up excitement around its 11.11 promotions. Cosmetic and perfume KOL Wang Junkai, along with skincare ambassador Yu Feihong, and makeup ambassador Liu Tao, harnessed their huge social media followings to encourage fans to buy Lancome makeup products and drive a huge amount of traffic to the brand’s profiles. Lancome also utilised its logistics to ensure its products were first out the door with many consumers noting their Lancome purchases were the first to arrive.

Starbucks also embraced 11.11 leveraging its partnership with Alibaba and its Ele.me platform to provide Chinese consumers in Beijing and Shanghai with delivery services. Starbucks worked with Alibaba’s Hema supermarkets to create Starbucks Delivery Kitchens to ensure it could provide order fulfilment throughout the day on 11.11.

It wasn’t just the big brands, Alibaba also made this year’s festival more accessible to small businesses with more than 200,000 “mum-and-pop stores” powered by Alibaba platforms. These local businesses were able to provide online sales promotions and utilize augmented reality (AR) initiatives to provide customer discounts at 3,000 Tmall Corner Stores.


How can marketers take advantage of the 11.11 festival?


  1. Embrace online to offline

Ever since Alibaba coined the term “New Retail” to describe the seamless integration of online and offline shopping experience, brands have been working to leverage the two channels in a bid to drive sales. Brands can combine all the innovation of an e-commerce experience with the instore experience to create greater engagement with customers. This includes AR initiatives, mobile payments and social apps and digital technologies in store.


  1. Pre-event marketing

While Singles Day refers to the 24-hour shopping event, brands that start promoting their products and promotions ahead of time tend to achieve greater results. With so much promotional noise in the market, it’s important that brands aim for targeted activity and creating a sense of exclusivity and scarcity around sale items is a great way to ensure a strong sales event.


  1. Working with KOLs

It cannot be said enough how significant a KOL endorsement can be for a brand, or individual product’s, success. Partnering with well-known KOLs and Chinese celebrities can deliver strong results as the star power of these high profile and influential individuals is a key brand differentiator for consumers.


  1. Purchase experience and logistics

It goes without saying that the entire shopping experience and fulfillment process has a huge impact on how consumers feel about a brand. Ensuring a smooth and seamless buying experience as well as ensuring a fast and accurate order fulfillment and delivery will keep the consumers coming back for more – and the word-of-mouth marketing humming along nicely.