A Singles Day Primer

As I've told people I'm heading to China this week for "Singles Day", I've found I need to remind some what this holiday - also known as "11.11" and also the world's biggest shopping day - is. In a couple of cases, people who work in tech and on the periphery of retail were wholly unfamiliar with it. I hope this post helps anyone who wants to catch up on what was a $14bn day last year do so.

Alibaba now refers to the event it created for one reason or another eight years ago as the 11.11 Global Shopping Festival. And global it is, with 11,000 international brands selling during the 24-hour period and finally reaching customers in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Also trying to get a piece of the volume on Friday will be JD.com and Walmart.

More than ever before, global retailers are paying attention to China and its "consumer upgrade". Some in retail organizations are looking for points of entry while others don't yet see China or the Chinese as a priority.

Anyone who considers retailers their customer also should be thinking about China -- what will retailers need, what technology will be proven in China before migrating to the US, how are Chinese shopping around the world, how will Alibaba impact consumerism globally?

Below you'll find:

1. What I'm most excited to learn more about in Shenzhen

2. Key quotes from Alibaba's earnings conference call last week

Throughout, I'm linking to recent articles about 11.11, Alibaba and its competitors.

I'm hoping to hear more about 4 topics when I spend time with Alibaba this week:

1. Jack Ma's strategy for connecting physical stores and e-commerce in China, especially against the possible threats of AmazonWeChat and retailers' own China e-commerce sites

2. What's working - or not - for large retailers and smaller brands on Alibaba's Tmall

3. Commercial impact of livestreaming, socialVR, etc. across Alibaba's platforms such as Tmall and Taobao

4. Alibaba's plans outside China, specifically for the US and Southeast Asia

On Wednesday, Alibaba (NYSE: BABA) reported quarterly revenue (+55% to USD ~$5bn) and earnings that beat analyst expectations. While the stock fell for a few possible reasons, numerous analysts see major growth potential for it. Here's why, as quoted from the earnings call transcript:

  • [10% e-commerce penetration in China] was an important milestone because it was the clear inflection point that called for us to leverage the fundamental infrastructure for commerce that Alibaba has built: marketplace payments, logistics, cloud computing, big data, to transform the RMB30 trillion China retail economy
  • The most important opportunity on the horizon is helping traditional business to upgrade into a new retail model and not continuing to grow online business in isolation... Online and offline will be a single, seamless experience, not just in consumer interaction, but also in the entire business operation and execution. We want to improve efficiencies across the entire value chain of product design, manufacturing, distribution and services.

  • Tmall continued to provide unique value to brands and retailers that contributed to growth of their overall business... More and more merchants are experimenting with live streaming to connect and engage with consumers.

  • Our compelling 'see now, buy now' feature built into the video-stream technology, enabling merchants to provide instant gratification to customers. Merchants are increasingly leveraging celebrity assets in campaigns to attract and convert their fan base.

  • Among the innovations [at this year's 11.11 Global Shopping Festival] is the launch of the pilot program enabling select merchants from around the world to sell to consumers in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Consumers will also experience a world-first, end-to-end VR shopping experience and an interactive mobile game that leads them on an adventure across online and [offline merchant locations].

* Alibaba is subsidizing my trip. The company hasn't asked me to write about the company nor the 11.11 Global Shopping Festival. I don't own Alibaba stock.