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Alibaba’s Singles’ Day goes omnichannel

Alibaba has announced several real-world events that will take place ahead of and alongside its Global Shopping Festival, the e-commerce company’s online sales event on November 11, known as Singles’ Day in China.

Alibaba first started offering deep online discounts on Singles’ Day in 2009, and the day has now turned into the world’s biggest online sales event. Last year, the Chinese e-commerce giant generated US$14.3 billion in sales.

Over time, the event has expanded to include international retailers selling through Alibaba’s e-commerce platforms. This year, Alibaba wants to take the online event into the physical world through a number of omnichannel initiatives.

For instance, the company will launch a location-based augmented reality mobile game about two weeks before November 11 this year. Consumers can follow the Tmall Cat mascot across the Alibaba online and offline retail ecosystem to earn special promotions and prizes. Participating merchants include Suning, Intime shopping malls, Beijing Joy City shopping mall, Shenzhen Coastal City shopping mall, as well as global brands such as Shanghai Disneyland, KFC and Starbucks.

Other offline events include an eight-hour fashion show for 50 brands on October 23 in Shanghai. The show will be live streamed on the Tmall and Taobao mobile apps, so viewers can pre-order items they see on the runway. A festival gala on November 10 will feature celebrity performers like Katy Perry, the event’s global ambassador. And on Singles’ Day itself, Alibaba will launch Buy+, a virtual reality experience which lets people conduct the entire shopping process, from product selection to payment, in certain international retail outlets.

At a press conference in Hong Kong yesterday, Alibaba Group’s chief executive Daniel Zhang, described Singles’ Day as redefining the retail experience for consumers.

“11.11 has evolved far beyond a 24-hours sales event. From today through November 11, consumers will discover, explore, play, watch, comment, share, recommend and shop across our entire ecosystem with our merchants both online and offline. Leveraging our robust infrastructure, global merchants have been empowered with unprecedented capability to seamlessly engage and serve customers through new technology and new environments,” Zhang said.

In future, the event will also be available to more consumers. Alibaba has announced it is in the early phases of expanding its infrastructure, including logistics and payments, in order to allow consumers overseas to purchase international products through Tmall. Hong Kong and Taiwan are the first markets outside mainland China where this will be available.

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