The numbers are in for Singles’ Day, and once again China’s largest online shopping festival smashed records. Generating a total GMV of $25.3 billion in 24 hours, the November 11 event’s sales were double the online sales of last year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.
In addition to staggering sales numbers, Singles’ Day is also an opportunity for its founder Alibaba to show off its new technology developments. This year’s 11.11 had a significant focus on Alibaba’s omnichannel “New Retail” program as the e-commerce giant continues to widen its influence offline.
For example, Alibaba’s Tmall partnered with retailers to equip around 100,000 smart stores across China. With participants including Gap, Bose, Wyeth, and Nike, the stores featured mobile QR code check-ins to redeem coupons and Tmall-connected touch screens with product tag scanning to look up items, as well as QR codes to scan with a mobile device and purchase. Some fashion brands’ fitting rooms were outfitted with Alibaba’s FashionAI digital stylists, which scanned clothing items and recommended matching pieces that could be requested through the screen.
Adoption of in-store omnichannel capabilities has not yet reached all brands in China. L2’s Activewear China report finds that Nike is ahead of its peers on omnichannel, offering the option to buy online and pick up in-store and reserve appointments online.
Alibaba has been at the vanguard of the push to get more brands to adopt omnichannel capabilities in China. Tmall also partnered with brands including L’Oréal, Maybelline, Shiseido, Clarins, and Clarisonic to open 60 11.11 pop-ups in malls located in 12 Chinese cities, featuring interactive technology such as mirrors that let users see their reflections wearing the featured makeup products. Other screens let users take full-length selfies in order to virtually “try on” clothes and purchase them with a QR code, while some featured games that users could play by using their smartphones as controllers.
Mobile device gamification was a heavy element across Alibaba’s omnichannel promotions. Tmall’s Pokemon Go-style “Catch the Cat” game attracted users to smart stores and popups by incentivizing participation with coupons, while “Catch the Golden Cat” events brought people together in one place at a specific time to play the smartphone game for bigger rewards. Other games included a social game that allowed users to scan QR codes on others’ mobile devices to receive “red envelope” coupons, as well as a “shake phone” feature giving coupons to those who shook their phones when an icon appeared on Tmall’s 11.11 livestreaming programs.
Alibaba and its main rival JD.com are actually ahead of Amazon in omnichannel development, having made significant investments in brick-and-mortar retailers long before Amazon bought Whole Foods. Alibaba’s Hema Supermarket chain functions as both a connected grocery store and warehouse, allowing consumers to scan products with their smartphones for information, arrange for delivery within three km, and sign up for membership using Taobao or Alipay. Alibaba is also building its own five-story mall in Hangzhou and has made investments in brick-and-mortar retailers like department store chain Intime and retail conglomerate Bailian, launching omnichannel initiatives for both.
Meanwhile, JD.com has made its own foray into omnichannel through a partnership with Walmart, offering special online-offline promotions such as in-store QR codes that can be scanned for JD.com coupons, integrated inventory management systems, shared customer data, click-and-collect services, and a JD.com home electronics store in a Shenzhen Walmart.