China's e-commerce giant Alibaba smashed its sales record once again during its annual Singles' Day festival on Nov 11, with netizens splurging an incredible 120.7 billion yuan ($17.8 billion) on the company's portals during this year's 24-hour shopping frenzy.
And it was not only young people in China's cities snapping up deals last Friday-even elderly residents in Shandong province’s most far-flung villages were getting in on the act.
Alibaba released a huge amount of real-time data during Singles’ Day documenting the world’s biggest shopping spree as it progressed, including a list of the highest spending villages in China.
And as of noon on Nov 11, two of the top 10 biggest rural spenders on Taobao, China's Amazon-like online shopping platform, were both located in Tai’an, Shandong: Tuntou village and Cuijiaguanzhuang village.
Why are Tai'an's rural residents such keen shoppers on Taobao?
Apart from the rapid economic development the region has experienced in recent years, the roots of Tai'an residents' rising interest in e-commerce seem to lie in the Taobao service centers that Alibaba has constructed in villages across the region.
Taobao set up the service centers to help rural residents sell their local produce and handicrafts nationwide through the online platform, and to help those without computer skills make online orders.
The Taobao center in Tuntou in particular has become very popular with local residents. On the morning of Nov 11, the center's manager Li Peng arrived to find a crowd of eager locals waiting outside ready to take advantage of the sales.
The Taobao service center at Tuntou village, in Tai'an, East China's Shandong province, has been run by a middle-aged couple since 2015. [Photo/ tarb.cc]
Within 30 minutes of opening, Li had already helped residents make 20 orders from the center. By 11 am, Tuntou village had spent 700,000 yuan on Taobao, and Peng had helped locals order two cars for around 200,000 yuan each, as well as several high-tech appliances.
According to one Tuntou resident, the center makes it convenient for the village's elderly people to buy things on Taobao during the Singles' Day sales, since many of them do not live with their children and do not know how to use a computer.
Li Peng, the 32-year-old manager of Tuntou village's Taobao service center, makes orders for local residents through the Taobao app. [Photo/ tarb.cc]
Wang Yingliang, the village's top official, commented that people in the village have also become more aware of Taobao in recent years thanks to the free e-commerce training they have been given, a program designed to help them agricultural products, handicrafts and other commodities on the online platform.
Li Peng, manager of Tuntou village's Taobao service center, receives villagers’ e-bank transactions before making orders for them. [Photo/ tarb.cc]
The village's younger residents also tend to seize the opportunity to make larger purchases during the sales, decorating their houses for a much lower cost, Wang added.