This Year’s “Singles’ Day” in China Reached US $30.8 Billion in Sales
Alibaba’s relentless focus on customers drives its new products and services.
Credit: Getty Images, danielvfung
Credit: Getty Images, danielvfung
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Thursday, December 20, 2018 | 2:00pm ET
While the U.S. was celebrating Veterans’ Day and Europe was celebrating Armistice Day, China was going wild with Singles’ Day.
Singles’ Day or Guanggun Jie is a holiday that celebrates pride in being single in China. The date, November 11th, was chosen because the number “1” resembles an individual who is alone. But Singles’ Day has become so much more after Alibaba started promoting it a few years ago. This year, shoppers bought $30.7 billion worth of merchandise in 24 hours. Sales were up about 27 percent from last year.
Alibaba, is a Chinese multinational conglomerate specializing in e-commerce, (B2B and B2C) retail, artificial intelligence, and other technologies. Alibaba is the world’s largest on-line shopping company, far outpacing Amazon and eBay. You may remember that when Alibaba went public in 2014, it was the single biggest IPO in history. As with so many things in China, Alibaba’s Singles’ Day retail events seemingly came out of nowhere to top Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the western world.
On Singles’ Day, people are encouraged to buy something for themselves, and deep discounts are offered on thousands of products. The day has become a major event, kicked off by an exciting all-day TV show with this year’s performances by Mariah Carey and Cirque du Soleil. Brands and products are woven into the performances. A Chinese girl group performed a song called ‘Wanna Buy Wanna Buy’ as backup dancers pushed shopping carts.
As supply chain professionals, there are a lot of things we can learn from Alibaba’s relentless focus on creativity and innovation and customer engagement and excitement.
Innovation in Supplier Management
Alibaba has developed a way to manage its relationship with suppliers electronically. This means that inventory can be kept and managed at the supplier’s own facilities and delivered directly to consumers. Suppliers can check Alibaba’s records electronically to determine the rate of sales, inventory levels, pricing, replenishment schedules, and other information to best manage their business.
Innovation in Delivery
Alibaba delivers goods around the world, but primarily in China, where front-door deliveries are not very common. Instead, Alibaba customers can retrieve goods from electronically coded lock boxes in central and convenient locations such as train stations and local shopping malls. Alibaba Logistics is Alibaba’s subsidiary that handles shipping and last-mile deliveries on behalf of its merchants on its marketplace. Alibaba, like Amazon is developing its own fleet of trucks. According to Alibaba founder Jack Ma, the target is to eventually ensure single-day delivery across China and 72-hour delivery to the rest of the world. “We have to think clearly today. We must understand what infrastructure is needed to support one billion parcels a day,” Ma said.
Innovation in Payment
To pay for goods and services, Alibaba developed Alipay, a mobile payment solution for online and in-store payments. The predecessor to Apple Pay, Alipay is widely used throughout China instead of currency. Alibaba’s relentless focus on their customers drove the development of this solution to make it easier for customers to pay for products.
Innovation in Returns
Returns or reverse logistics is a difficult process for any company, but especially for eCommerce companies that handle all sizes, shapes, and values of items, shipped from many different locations. To solve this problem, Alibaba has designed a returns system that is focused on facilitating direct returns to the merchants, instead of Alibaba’s distribution centers. Alibaba provides helpful instructions and on-line chat to assist customers.
Innovation, Innovation, Innovation
Alibaba’s relentless focus on customers drives its new products and services. Innovation is in its DNA and has resulted in the continuous creation of new ways to serve merchants and customers. Alibaba serves as a reminder to supply chain professionals to always have our customers in mind and always create products, processes, and services to serve them.
While the U.S.- China trade war rages on, consumers in China continue to be optimistic. This year, they bought more imported goods from Japan than from the U.S., which begs the question – “What will happen next year?”
About the AuthorRosemary Coates Ms. Coates is the Executive Director of the Reshoring Institute and the President of Blue Silk Consulting, a Global Supply Chain consulting firm. She is a best-selling author of: 42 Rules for Sourcing and Manufacturing in China and Legal Blacksmith - How to Avoid and Defend Supply Chain Disputes. Ms. Coates lives in Silicon Valley and has worked with over 80 clients worldwide. She is also an Expert Witness for legal cases involving global supply chain matters. She is passionate about Reshoring.
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