Singles’ Day, the world’s largest online shopping festival, is celebrating its 10th anniversary. There’s no doubt that we will see another record-smashing year, although gross merchandise volume (GMV) will no longer be the highlight.
Singles’ Day has always been Alibaba’s testbed for new business models and technologies, and this year is no exception. AI and New Retail were the keywords of Singles’ Day 2017. In 2018, we expect to see Alibaba expand its business models, partnerships, and technologies internationally as it:
- Applies its New Retail model to international markets. For example, El Corte Inglés, the largest department store chain in Spain, is adopting Alibaba’s “buy online, pickup in-store” model. It sells over 3,000 items on AliExpress and has set up more than 2,000 offline pickup spots.
- Brings AI to Southeast Asia via Lazada. Leveraging the success of its AI-powered customer service chatbot “Ali Xiaomi,” Alibaba is expanding the technology to Lazada and will officially launch the Lazada customer service chatbot on Singles Day. Lazada’s chatbot has the capability to support 560 million consumers in six Southeast Asian countries in four languages — English, Thai, Indonesian, and Vietnamese.
- Collaborates with more global partners across industries. For example, Fliggy, Alibaba’s online travel platform, allows users to share loyalty membership with Singapore Airlines.
- Upgrades cross-border payment and logistics. Alibaba has also invested in 14 global fulfillment centers, 50 flights, and 1,000 containers to ensure smooth international shipping for its global customers. Alipay is also partnering with nine local mobile payment services to ensure a smooth payment experience.
Domestically, Alibaba is branching into new industries, such as automotive, and is moving up the retail value chain into “New Manufacturing.” It is tackling:
- Cars. Tmall’s automotive pre-Singles Day’ sale event shows Alibaba’s ambition in the automotive space. It sold a total of 80,000 cars, the equivalent of the annual sales volume of 30 car dealers.
- Hotels. Alibaba will launch its futuristic hotel for the first time on Singles Day, elevating the unmanned store idea to the next level.
- C2B products. Alibaba will also leverage its consumer data to help brands launch consumer-to-business (C2B) products based on consumers’ unfulfilled demands.
JD.com is another key player on Singles’ Day. It will also implement its “boundaryless retail” model on a larger scale on Singles’ Day. This year, JD.com is partnering with offline store retailers like Qumei; creating JD pop-up stores; and hoping to attract consumers to these offline stores by converting WeChat steps to JD points that consumers can use to redeem rewards in these physical stores.
I will publish a post-event report on Singles’ Day 2018. Stay tuned.