Alibaba looks to ramp up the excitement over this year’s Single’s Day
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Alibaba looks to ramp up the excitement over this year’s Single’s Day

By now, you’ve probably heard of Single’s Day. If not, here’s the short version: it’s a kind of Valentine’s Day equivalent for single people that was cooked up by a bunch of Chinese university students some years ago, and is now the focal point for the world’s biggest online retail extravaganza. The reason for the transformation is simple: Alibaba. The country’s pre-eminent ecommerce player, a leader in everything from online retail to cloud computing and fintech, has single-handedly turned Single’s Day into a retail phenomenon.

Alibaba’s share price has appreciated by 22% year to date

Alibaba July 15

Source: Yahoo Finance

Single’s Day isn’t until November 11 (the date was chosen because the Chinese characters implicate “loneliness”). But Alibaba is already looking to turn the holiday into a global event by expanding the experiences around it into new markets. Those experiences are the Countdown Gala Celebration and a live variety show, which have significant coverage in China in the hours prior to Single’s Day kick-off. They’re a big deal: in previous years, stars like Nicole Kidman, Scarlett Johansson, Mariah Carey, Pharrell Williams, David Beckham, Maria Sharapova, and Kobe Bryant, have been involved. We don’t yet have a line up for this year – but, based on Alibaba’s plans, expect it to be even more bombastic than usual.

A pertinent question is: does the value of a single day even justify the undeniably lavish spending Alibaba has previously committed to, and plans to ramp up? Unequivocally, the answer is yes. Last year, China’s 11.11 festival saw a gross merchandise volume of $30.8 billion – more than Thanksgiving Day, and the Black Friday to Cyber Monday weekend combined. Worldwide, Single’s Day is a standout winner.

Alibaba’s top brass have been clear to the media that this year’s 11.11 entertainment will be bigger and better than ever. Liu Bo, general manager of Alibaba’s marketing platform business and coordinator for Single’s Day this year, told reporters: “The gala is extremely valuable, capable of bringing in conversion and brand impressions that far exceed any period in the campaign. All of the energy, attention and emotions of consumers are concentrated within those few hours leading up to midnight.”

Yvonne Zhang, vice president of Alibaba’s digital marketing arm Alimama, added: “Just like any other form of content, the gala is a space for brands to engage and learn about their customers. The value of that interaction stretches beyond the gala into the long term.”

But it is perhaps Robin Lin, president of Youku and Single’s Day producer this year, who made the most of this year’s increased efforts, saying: “This year, we want to bring [the audience] a lasting experience, to create a ‘classic’ show that would stay in the memories of this generation.” That’s quite the artistic ambition.

Alibaba is pumping money into the marketing run up for its biggest event of the year for good reason. Already the biggest online retail day worldwide, the company is looking to spur growth even further by appealing to new markets. If it can manage that feat, then it will be worth almost any price the company can pay for a few more celebrities and more network coverage.


Dominion holds Alibaba in its Global Trends Managed Fund.

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