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Brief Published: 11 Nov 2015

China & Beyond: Singles’ Day Goes Omni-Channel

Tmall Singles Day

China's Singles' Day – an annual, Valentine's-style homage to single people, celebrated on November 11 – has evolved into the world's largest online shopping event. Developing the concept for 2015, Chinese multi-brand e-commerce giant Alibaba is extending the celebrations offline and into tech-enhanced retailers.

Originated by the group in 2009, the company reported taking a record $9.3bn in sales on its AliExpress platform – an e-tail site devised to connect Chinese brands with global consumers – during 2014's celebrations. Now, joined by other Chinese e-tailers including JD.com and Dealmoon, and with 56% of Chinese online shoppers planning to spend more this Singles' Day than last year (Nielsen), spending is set to increase substantially.

Anticipating this rise, Alibaba is taking Singles' Day offline for the first time this year, leveraging location-based technology and broadcast media to enhance results.

Beacon Power: Online consumers will receive Singles' Day offers through Alibaba's Taobao (its peer-to-peer or small-business-to-consumer marketplace) mobile app when they enter any of the 180,000 participating stores in China. Notifications will be sent via beacons – see Sales-Boosting Beacons for more on this technology.

Product Experience Zones: Extending this further, department store Intime, general retailer Suning and consumer electronics brand Haier are establishing special 'product experience zones' in their Chinese stores.

Spring Gala Shopping Broadcast: Alibaba is also hosting a home-shopping extravaganza dubbed Spring Gala. The live, four-hour event will be broadcast globally via its Tmall site – Alibaba's main e-tail platform, a spin-off from Taobao. Consumers are expected to view the celebrity-packed event while purchasing goods simultaneously from second screens.

Although Singles' Day is currently a Chinese phenomenon, its impact is spreading fast. While in the US November 11 is also Veterans' Day, acknowledged by major retailers with discounting tactics, UK spend also increased. According to international data analysts SimilarWeb, in 2014, British brands Debenhams, New Look and Marks & Spencer saw a 50%, 43% and 21% rise in traffic respectively on November 11.

For more on Singles' Day and Chinese spending habits, see China's Affluent New E-Consumers, China's Consumer Tribes, Affluent Asian Consumers and Asian Millennial Mothers. For more on omni-channel retail, see Start-Pause-Go: Retail in Hyper-Flow, Heal's 'Digital Discoveries' and Reactive Retailing.