Alibaba and JD.com, the two largest e-commerce platforms in China, announced today that they have set new records during the annual Singles' Day Shopping Festival.
Like Black Friday, Chinese online merchants offer considerable discounts on Singles' Day (November 11) to boost sales. The shopping festival was initially created by Alibaba to celebrate the unattached, an antithesis to the romantically-involved on Valentine's Day.
Last year, the gross merchandise value (GMV) reached more than 210 billion yuan ($31 billion), double that of Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined, with sales hitting $1 billion in a little over one minute of trading.
Previously, the promotion only lasted 24 hours, but this year, both JD.com and Alibaba have extended their activities. This event started on November 1 and will end at midnight on November 12.
On Wednesday night, Alibaba said that in this more than a week-long event, the GMV hit 467.8 billion yuan, approximately $70 billion. That is more than the 268.4 billion yuan ($40.47 billion) of GMV Alibaba recorded last year in a 24-hour period on Singles' Day.
JD.com, the second-largest e-tailer, announced that as of Wednesday, its GMV reached a new high, standing at 271.5 billion yuan ($40.9 billion).
Pinduoduo, an e-commerce platform targeting price-sensitive users, also participated in the event, but has not announced its GMV yet. The company is regarded as threatening competitors by JD.com and Alibaba. By offering low-priced products and bolder discounts, it has accumulated a large number of users in rural areas and lower-tier cities in China in just five years.
Different from previous years, short video platforms, including TikTok's sister app Douyin, Tencent-backed Kuaishou, have also joined the fierce war, promoting the transaction of e-commerce orders through livestreaming services on its platform.
Affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, China's retail sales plummeted in the first half of the year and showed a gradual rebound trend in the second half of the year. But overall retail sales are still down for the year, shrinking by about 7% in the first nine months from the same period in 2019. In order to stimulate domestic consumption, the shopping event was prolonged.
It remains to be seen if strong spending during national holidays and one-off shopping events like Singles’ Day will translate into a sustained recovery.