Alibaba's Success; 3 TakeAways to Help Your Marketing

Article by Ernan Roman
Featured on CMO.com
Marketing Lessons from Singles DayHow did online retailer Alibaba leverage Singles Day into an event that will trump Cyber Monday in sales volume?
Singles Day, which originated at China’s Nanjing University in 1993 as an occasion for singles to party with fellow single friends, grew from a collegiate Internet sensation into a full-blown phenomenon when Alibaba transformed the Nov. 11 occasion into a day of sales.
Analysts expected this year’s Singles Day sales to surge to a new record. Six million products from approximately 40,000 merchants and 30,000 brands went on sale (as opposed to 1 million in 2014, according to Comscore). Chinese consumers were predicted to spend 1,761 yuan ($277) per person, which is a rise of 22% year over year (YoY).
Well, preliminary, unaudited numbers indicate that Alibaba broke records with sales of $14.3 billion, a 60% increase YoY.
As you plan for 2016, consider how Alibaba brilliantly listened to the needs of its target demographic and hit three key triggers to drive sales:
1. Singles Day is both a social/online event and a demographically targeted event: According to “The Millennial Consumer” study, events such as Single’s Day touch on many key points for this important segment: Millennials don’t associate with traditional media sources or advertising. To reach this group, brands need to use social media, events, and peer-to-peer connections; 33% said blogs are their top media source, fewer than 3% rank traditional media sources as purchase influencers, and only 1% said an advertisement would make them trust a brand.
Alibaba’s use of social media to unite this group around a common event was key because 62% of Millennials said they are more likely to become a loyal customer if a brand socially engages with them.
Takeaway Tip: Listening to the voice of your ideal customer is more essential than ever. If your content and user experience are not relevant, relatable, and readily accessible to your audience, the impact will be diminished because you are not connecting with your audience.
2. Singles Day is a technology empowered event--specifically from mobile: According to the Millennial study, 87% of Millennials use between two and three tech devices at least once a day. This is critical when you consider that 43% of Alibaba’s transactions on Singles Day last year occurred on mobile.
According to Pew Research, “Nearly two-thirds of Americans are now smartphone owners, and for many these devices are a key entry point to the online world.” Additionally, one in five Americans stated that they “do not have broadband access at home, and also have relatively few options for getting online other than their cell phone.”
Takeaway Tip: Developing specifically mobile strategies is no longer an option. It is essential.
3. Singles Day consumers favored U.S. brands, and that’s what they were provided: Chinese consumers like U.S. brands, and Alibaba said U.S. products were the top sellers on Singles Day. In all, 130 U.S. brands and retailers were a part of the Singles Day party in 2015.
What’s more, this year U.S. consumers got in on the buying at Singles Day discounts on several U.S. sites, such as Newegg Inc. and Nasty Gal Inc.
Takeaway Tip: A sale for the sake of short-term revenue will not set you up for ongoing success. The event has to have meaning to the audience and comprise merchandise that conveys value, sparks excitement, and communicates time-driven urgency.
What you can learn from the success of Singles Day comes down to this: You must think holistically about your marketing and be a creative risk taker. Identify your priority segments and design the experience, merchandise, and meia mix to be special, differentiating, and an event consumers want to be a part of again and again.
In other words, create meaningful customer experiences that are more than just transactions.
Ernan Roman Direct Marketing