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Alibaba pulls out all the stops for Singles' Day e-spree

By Chang Jun | China Daily USA | Updated: 2014-11-11 12:46

Companies and enterprises in the world's largest economy are stepping up their efforts to develop new markets outside of China and target customers the world over. The most recent example is Alibaba, which just held the biggest IPO in history in September and has pledged to tap into the international market.

Just days before Singles' Day, Nov 11, China's equivalent of Valentine's Day, Alibaba unveiled a global initiative by inviting Tmall Global and AliExpress to join in this year's shopping spree, enabling overseas Chinese to buy on its Taobao Marketplace using credit cards issued outside of China.

This is the first time Alibaba has tried the concept of a 24-hour cyber-spending blitz on Singles' Day with no territorial borders. In order to increase its chances of success, the company has bolstered both its product offerings and operations systems.

On the merchandise side, Alibaba has done 11.11 promotions worldwide for international brands such as online jewelry store Blue Nile and luxury electronic carmaker Tesla. The US-based bulk discount retailer Costco in October also joined the holiday blitz by offering its popular health supplements, American nuts and apparel with the promise of five-day international shipping for Chinese customers.

On the operations side, Alibaba has sharpened the operating capacity of Tmall Global, its B2C platform for outside businesses, and AliExpress, its e-commerce site for users outside of China.

AliExpress marketplace will offer 50 percent discounts to international clients from more than 220 countries and regions. Shoppers in Brazil, Spain, Russia and other key markets will get free international shipping for selected items, said AliExpress.

For the first time this year, Chinese shoppers can buy promotional products from foreign countries directly through Tmall Global.

To date, 27,000 outside merchants have registered to participate in this year's Singles' Day sale, according to Alibaba, adding apparel from the US and Europe like Uniqlo, Only and Nine West, and cosmetics from Japan and Korea. Tesla, the luxury electric carmaker, is also joining the platform.

Singles' Day was started by a group of university students in Nanjing 20 years ago as a day for bachelors and bachelorettes to celebrate single life. Nov 11 was not associated with shopping until Alibaba got in the game in 2009 and has since hyped it up into a nationwide cyber-spending frenzy by offering deep discounts - usually 50 percent or more - on everything from clothes to cars. Initially, only 20 or so companies offered discounts on Singles' Day but none of them were able to stir it up into the phenomenon that Alibaba did.

Alibaba sales on Singles' Day last year reached $5.8 billion, up from $3.1 billion the previous year.

By contrast, American consumers spent a total of $2.9 billion last year on Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined, according to Rebecca Lui, director of marketing and communications with Alipay.

Alibaba is expected to reach $8 billion in sales on Singles' Day sales this year, according to a CNBC report.

In the US, Alibaba's conventional competitor Amazon is fighting back. The Seattle-based e-tailer launched promotions for Singles' Day last year on its Chinese-language site, and is doing the same this year, promoting brands such as Cressi scuba gear, Withings health gadgets and items from fashion brand Vivienne Westwood.

Although it remains a secret how much revenue Singles' Day generated for last year, since the company doesn't break out sales records by region, one thing is for sure - more fierce competition is in store for Alibaba in the e-commerce marketplace.

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