On Wednesday this week, many countries of the world will pause to reflect on the sacrifices of their military veterans. But November 11 – known to many nations as Veteran’s Day, Armistice Day or Remembrance Day – takes on another, less somber, much more lucrative meaning in China: Singles Day, when young, unmarried people go on a national shopping spree to buy each other gifts.
Singles Day was initially considered a joke holiday, created a few years ago as a backlash to the commercialization of romantic couples on Valentine’s Day. But since then, it has become an international phenomenon, generating some serious sales figures that no retailer can afford to ignore. Last year on Nov. 11, the Alibaba Group, one of the pioneers of the Singles Day concept, took in an astonishing US$9.3 billion via its Alipay mobile and online platforms from about 278 million shoppers in a single 24-hour period.
This year, despite the weakened Chinese economy, Alibaba is trying to keep the momentum going by calling the holiday “Double 11 Day” (for 11/11, all singles – get it?), and beefing up its Cainiao Logistics network to handle the expected buying frenzy at its online platforms, such as Tmall and Taobao Marketplace. Cainiao has also formed partnerships with dozens of Chinese logistics providers, including EMS, ZTO Express and YTO Express, as well as foreign logistics firms such as the U.S. Postal Service, Singapore Post and the U.K.’sRoyal Mail.
Cainiao estimated that this year it will have to deploy more than 1.7 million delivery personnel and dispatch 400,000 vehicles and 200 aircraft to handle the load from more than 5,000 warehouses across the region. Cainiao also launched its “Hassle-free Logistics Service,” which is supported by 49 cross-border delivery partners, to handle more than 4 million packages on Nov. 11. The network has arranged for accelerated customs clearance to handle the extra load for cross-border traffic and has set up a data-sharing network to manage flows between the cities of Shanghai, Hangzhou, Ningbo and Guangzhou.
To complete the deliveries, Alibaba has established more than 300,000 pick-up stations, where customers can collect online-ordered goods in more than 190 Chinese cities, while more rural areas will be served by regional last-mile delivery firms that have been coordinated via Cainiao.
According to a Barclay’s report, Alibaba will cooperate with “more than 180,000 physical stores across 330 cities nationwide to provide an online-to-offline (O2O) integrated service, offering seamless shopping experience to its customers.”
With all the preparations in place, all that Alibaba needs is shoppers to follow through, in spite of the currently shaky economy. But according to Reuters, there is reason for hope. A Nielsen survey of more than 1,000 internet users in China, conducted last month, found that 56 percent said that they would spend more on Singles Day this year compared to 2014. A third of the respondents said they were likely to spend about the same, and only 6 percent planned to spend less, the study found.