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Singles Day makes splash as e-shopper buys 17m yuan boat

By HE WEI in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2017-11-14 07:45

Fiji vacation packages, iPhone Xs and even an Aston Martin powerboat: These were some of the things shoppers bought on this year's Singles Day on Saturday.

Such purchases give a glimpse into how Chinese consumers are shifting from bagging a bargain on everyday merchandise to scooping up higher-priced, higher-quality goods and experiences on the biggest event on the world's retail calendar.

The promotional event is growing in size, variety and sophistication as technology improves services. Sales topped 100 million yuan ($15 million) for each of 167 merchants using platforms of internet behemoth Alibaba Group, and shoppers plunked down just over $1 billion an hour during the daylong discount gala.

A user from Guizhou province splurged on a 17 million yuan Aston Martin powerboat, becoming the most extravagant spender on Alibaba's Tmall platform.

The event had humble beginnings in 2009, as Alibaba used a holiday for singles-the numerical date looks like four single people-and turned it into an online discount day.

This year, Alibaba's platforms tallied total sales of 168.2 billion yuan, up 39.3 percent from last year, and No 2 platform JD.com logged 127.1 billion yuan during an 11-day promotion through Saturday.

JD.com officials said daily sales of travel packages were up during the promotion by 4.58 times the usual daily sales. Items like after-sales service for cars and Disneyland tickets experienced "explosive" growth, the company said, without disclosing details.

The shopping festival "is a good opportunity for brands to show consumers how online and offline could work together… something in which China is actually leading the way," said Matthew Crabbe, Asia-Pacific research director of consultancy Mintel.

Brands drove online traffic to brick-and-mortar stores using technologies such as the augmented-reality mobile game Catch the Cat to boost customer engagement, said Neil Wang, president of consultancy Frost& Sullivan, China.

Japanese cosmetics brand Shiseido employed technology allowing customers to try lipstick virtually, and Danish apparel brand Vero Moda let customers use a virtual fitting room.

Parcels also arrived earlier this year, as robots, algorithms and big data were widely applied to all aspects, from product selection to delivery.

It took just 12 minutes for a customer surnamed Liu in Shanghai to receive his snacks after placing the order in the early hours of Saturday, according to Cainiao Network, Alibaba's logistics arm.

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