More socially responsible, Singles Day merchants still hit sales records

Ding Yining
Environmental protection strategies a big focus of shopping season, with top digital sites publicizing their carbon emission reduction achievements.
Ding Yining
More socially responsible, Singles Day merchants still hit sales records
Ti Gong

Alibaba's campus in Hangzhou was lit up on Thursday as the annual Singles Day promotion lasted late into the night.

China's top digital sites are stressing their social responsibility and environment protection efforts in the annual shopping season, which mobilized tens of millions of shoppers and staff around the country.

Sales figures and the performance of specific consumer sectors are regarded as a major barometer of buyer sentiment and domestic trends.

Alibaba said more than 500,000 products with official Green Product Certification from more than 2,000 merchants were featured in a dedicated eco-friendly channel on Tmall.

The e-commerce giant said combined sales from its retail marketplaces, business-to-business platforms and consumer services sites from November 1 to November 11 hit a record-breaking 540.3 billion yuan (US$84.54 billion) in gross merchandise volume.

It added that this year's festival was a meaningful milestone as part of its commitment toward building a sustainable future.

About two-thirds of 290,000 merchants participating in this year's Double 11 Global Shopping Festival were small and medium-sized enterprises, the highest proportion ever.

The second batch of pre-sale events began on November 1, and more than 380 Tmall brands recorded sales of 100 million yuan as of 1am on Thursday.

Its logistics affiliate Cainiao said more than 1.2 million shoppers have been mobilized to recycle their delivery packages at Cainiao Post pick-up points, helping to cut about 18,000 tons of carbon emission from November 1 to 11.

More socially responsible, Singles Day merchants still hit sales records

JD said its grand promotion which started from 8pm on October 31 recorded transaction volumes totaling 349.1 billion yuan.

A total of 31 brands recorded cumulative sales of over 1 billion yuan.

"While the external audience may be more concerned about the sales figures, we are paying more attention to the stronger and upward force of the industry," said Xin Lijun, CEO of JD Retail.

In the first four hours, the transaction volumes of over 20 brands, including Helena Rubinstein and L'OCCITANE, more than doubled on a year-on-year basis. Transaction volumes of nutrition products for pets increased 12 times in the first 10 minutes.

The number of users from lower-tier markets accounted for 77 percent of all shoppers for JD this year.

JD also claimed it helped to reduce carbon emissions by 26,000 tons through its use of new energy vehicles, solar power systems, recyclable packages and more.

Recyclable packages were used 11.35 million times for JD parcels during the promotion period.

JD and its logistics and delivery solution affiliate Dada fully leveraged warehouse-pickup-delivery service for order fulfillment during the peak shopping season.

Through Dada's one-hour delivery scheme, sales of home appliances jumped more than 10 times and Walmart's sales volume through on-demand schemes also surged more than five times.

More socially responsible, Singles Day merchants still hit sales records
Ti Gong

With digital sites concerned about the serious consequence and penalties of "forcing" merchants to sell on their platforms, shoppers were the winners by being able to access a wide range of choices on small and emerging sites.

"The overall improvement in the business environment following strict anti-monopoly laws would also benefit platform operators as they shift toward providing more quality services," said Director Cao Lei of the private consultancy

More socially responsible, Singles Day merchants still hit sales records

Shopper sentiment remained upbeat as people surfed different sites to find the most suitable deals and service.

However they were also growing increasingly weary of being asked to spend excessive amounts of time on game tricks to win coupons instead of offering straightforward discounts.

Industry experts suggested that retailers prioritize metrics like customer lifetime value and not just focus on short-term sales numbers.

According to a survey of 3,000 Chinese consumers by Bain in October, 95 percent of respondents said they intended to take part in the event again in 2021.

As many as 52 percent also said they were planning to spend more than last year, when the average spending per customer was 2,104 yuan, while only 8 percent said they were planning to decrease their spending.

"Singles Day discounting hasn't fostered loyalty to a single platform and Chinese shoppers are spoiled for choices so they prefer to shop around," said Jonathan Cheng, a Bain & Company partner and leader of the China Retail practice.

Measurements like net promoter scores, customer retention, operating profit, and customer lifetime value should be better leveraged as retailers should think beyond just Singles Day to invest in winning sales across a broader spread of events through the year, he said.

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