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Friday, November 13, 2015

Singles day ~ Alibaba takes it all !!

Are you an Oniomaniac ? – wonder what ??..  From neighbourhoodMaligaiKadai to Super market to E-tailers – much water has flown under the bridge.  Every other month, you have full page advertisements from Flipkart or Amazon or Snapdeal or Myntra or somebody else – crying that roof is going to fall down – and every Company worth its name, reportedly sells crores worth wanted and unwanted things thanks to super marketing and catchy advertisements luring people with huge discounts.  Though cynics still doubt the quality, the serviceability of products so bought, the graph is only upwards !

For Westerners, the site is nowhere near as ubiquitous as Amazon or eBay but in China Alibaba dwarves its American counterparts when it comes to one-day online sales.For those not so familiar, ‘Alibaba Group Holding Limited’  is a Chinese e-commerce company that provides consumer-to-consumer, business-to-consumer and business-to-business sales services via web portals. It also provides electronic payment services, a shopping search engine and data-centric cloud computing services. The group began in 1999 when Jack Ma founded the website Alibaba.com. The company primarily operates in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and at closing time, on the date of its initial public offering (IPO), in Sept.  2014, Alibaba's market value was measured as US$231 billion. However, the stock has traded down and market cap was $145 billion at the end of September 2015.  

At that time, it was touted as the largest in IPO history- though buyers weren't purchasing actual shares in the groupbut rather just shares in a Cayman Islands shell corporation – the reason being forbiddance by China to sell ownership to outsiders.
Alibaba's consumer-to-consumer portal Taobao, similar to eBay.com, features nearly a billion products and is one of the 20 most-visited websites globally.  There has been talks of Alibaba entering Indian market too.

This post is about ‘Singles day’ and the historic sales figures within minutes.  Singles Day, an annual online shopping day in China similar to Cyber Monday in the US, has exploded in popularity since 2009. Held on 11 November each year, it draws its name from the "bare sticks" represented by the the four number ones in the date i.e., 11-11. Last year shoppers spent $9.3bn in one day. This year, Singles Day has eclipsed that amount by $5bn !

In its primeval days, it began as a day for the Single people,  apparently a chance to celebrate for the singletons, or "bare sticks",  but  in 2009 the online retail firm Alibaba adopted the day to promote a massive online shopping sale. It said the date was easy to remember, and conveniently placed in a consumer spending lull between National Day and Chinese New Year holiday ~ the rest is history - Alibaba copyrighted the term "Double 11".By 2013, sales easily outstripped those for the nearest equivalents in the US, the post-Thanksgiving shopping splurges on Cyber Monday and Black Friday.

The retailer, which now holds a trademark on the phrase “Double 11,” also continues to own, at least metaphorically, the holiday itself. This year, within the first eight minutes of opening its proverbial doors, Alibaba had sold more than $1 billion in merchandise. In total on Singles Day, the company raked in $14.32 billion, breaking the record it had set in 2014, when it made a measly (in comparison) $9.3 billion. While many other vendors also offer enticing discounts, Alibaba continues to sweep online retail purchases, partly because of its history with the event as well as its existing dominance in Chinese e-commerce, making up 80 percent of Internet sales there. 
To maintain its leadership and momentum, Alibaba also added a great degree of spectacle to its 2015 sales efforts. One such ploy featured Kevin Spacey in a commercial as his House of Cards character Frank Underwood, sending shoppers a message direct from the Oval Office. He expresses chagrin around his inability to participate in the holiday given the security of presidential firewalls and notes in his signature southern drawl, “If I were allowed to shop on your Singles Day, I wonder how cheap I could get a new burner phone, for example, because one burner is never really enough, is it?”

By some statistics, last year, China had more than 600 million internet users, leaving the US (277 million) and Europe (546 million) in its wake ~ and with a growing population of 1.3 billion people, there's  always room for growth. Not to be constrained Alibaba is nurturing global aspirations.  It says more than 200 overseas merchants from more than 20 countries had confirmed participation in its Singles' Day sales this year, with multinational brands taking part in the "11.11 shopping festival" for the first time.

Even in China, however, Singles' Day has begun to draw some criticism.Retailers can suffer, not only from sharp discounts a drop in sales in the wait ahead of Singles' Day, but also by paying for advertising, commissions to Alibaba, and the extra logistical support needed to deal with payment and delivery bottlenecks.Some on the Chinese social media platform Weibo worried that prices were so low they were being tempted to spend money they didn't have.Another user complained: "I don't know why people are so excited about the 'Double 11'. It's meaningless as they all hike prices before offering a discount."

People are always people ~ can complain about both the sides of the coin !!..   Oniomania – is the  term for the compulsive desire to shop, which manifests itself as a preoccupation with buying and engaging in shopping despite the negative consequences. Shopping addicts are no different from other addicts in that they experience extreme highs followed by severe lows – feelings of depression, anger, stress, disappointment and guilt. The addiction is a dangerous threat to a person's physical and emotional health, personal relationships, financial status and professional life.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
12th Nov. 2o15


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