For Catholics, November 11th marks the beginning of the Carnival season. But in China Singles’ Day (光棍节 guanggunjie), taking place on 11.11, has grown into a shopping event that dwarfs its American counterparts Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Conceived to celebrate singleness (four times one), Alibaba and other online retailers jumped on the opportunity to establish an opportunity for people to spend guilt-free.
Since 2009, Alibaba’s e-commerce retailers Taobao and Tmall have been hosting Singles’ Day sales and promotions. By 2012, the same year China became the No. 1 outbound tourism source market, Singles’ Day sales surpassed those of Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.
Since 2015 Singles’ Day is promoted with a four-hour televised spectacle the night before, involving foreign celebrities such as Daniel Craig, Katy Perry and Kim Kardashian. That year, Alibaba’s sales jumped to more than 14 billion USD.
In 2017, Alibaba began incorporating 60 physical pop-up stores across China, all equipped with AR and other digital shopping technologies such as “magic mirrors” that allowed customers to virtually try on clothes and accessories, and 100,000 “smart stores”, where customers could view the availability of products on digital screens and scan an item’s QR code to purchase it on Tmall. The number of these stores has by now more than doubled.
This year, it took only until 18.31 h to surpass last year’s results of 1,042 billion orders and sales of 213.5 bilion RMB. At the end of a frenzied period of 24 hours, the new record stood at 268.4 billion RMB (US$38.4 billion), 26% higher than the previous year. More than 500 million persons from inside and outside of China are believed to have been participating in this year’s Double Eleven.
For Catholics, and for all others not residing in China, the development of China into a cashless society has resulted into big problems when travelling in China, never mind during Carnival or other times. Alibaba, while offering their Chinese customers a chance to spend online like never before, at the same time also solved this problem of foreign visitors to China. With the help of the “Tour Pass” mini program, Alipay can now be used by international travellers to pay with their smartphones while visiting mainland China without a local mobile number or bank account required.
Visitors can download Alipay for iOS or Android and register with an overseas mobile phone number to access the “Tour Pass” mini program. They need to submit proof of a valid Chinese tourist visa and passport. After that, they can use their international credit cards to load funds onto a prepaid card provided by the Bank of Shanghai within the mini program.
However, given the fact that the maximum amount to load is 2,000 RMB, it will take a really long time before all the visitors to China together spent the same amount as the Chinese within a single day today.
Best wishes as always for a peaceful and profitable week from Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt and the COTRI WEEKLY team.