Your browser is no longer supported. For the best experience of this website, please upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

My amazing 24 hours: Singles’ Day in Shanghai

Practicology chairman and White Stuff non-executive director Martin Newman was in Shanghai for Alibaba’s Singles’ Day – the world’s biggest shopping festival – on 11 November.

Library events photo46 large

With Black Friday upon us, UK retailers and brands are asking themselves how they can create buzz around what they are selling online without resorting to deep discounting.

It might be a little late to take on board this year, but for future reference western retailers should certainly draw inspiration from the east, and specifically the increasingly global phenomenon that is Singles’ Day.

I was lucky enough to be invited to the live event in Shanghai by Alibaba, as part of its Key Influencers Programme, and spent 24 hours watching the live 11.11 shoppable show, and media centre watching the sales stack up.

It’s like the opening of the Harrods’ Sale, a fashion show, pop concert and Black Friday have all been rolled into one. Most importantly, it reminded me that shopping can, and should, be fun.

11.11 gala vs 111116

Kicking off the evening before Singles’ Day, Alibaba has become famous for its live countdown gala show, which this year featured celebrities including Nicole Kidman, Pharrell Williams, Jesse J and Luis Figo.

Live-streaming is a huge trend in China, and consumers there are encouraged to order products displayed during the gala straight away, and the Tmall app complements what they are seeing on their TV screens. Around 90% of sales during the event are made via smartphones.

I spent 24 hours watching the live 11.11 shoppable show and media centre watching the sales stack up

With an estimated audience of 300 million, the show helps to stoke demand and has enabled Alibaba to position Singles’ Day as a festival, rather than just a discounting frenzy. Special edition and unique product is increasingly important to the event, and allows retailers and brands to make sales without slashing prices.

11.11gala kobebryant 111116

Once the bell sounded for the start of 11.11 proper, we were whisked on to the media centre – an experience in its own right – to watch the numbers begin to rise. Large screens displayed volumes of data, including satellite views of China showing the trends in where orders were being placed, demographics and more.

Top international brands on the day included Uniqlo, Vero Moda, Nike, Adidas and Skechers.

The festival embodies many of the trends that western retailers and brands are being urged to adopt to survive in this tough climate in which we find ourselves. There’s content, it’s highly visual, there’s a sense of entertainment and theatre – and yet at the same time Alibaba has a relentless focus on making it easy for customers to shop how they want (mainly on mobile).

Look beyond the huge sale number – $25bn in gross merchandise value this year – and there is much that western retailers can learn and replicate.

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.