Alibaba’s Singles Day shopping event has raked in 372.3 billion yuan (US$56.5 billion) in sales, the e-commerce giant said 30 minutes after its annual shopping frenzy kicked off.
Thanks to a prolonged sales period this year, consumers have already grabbed discounts on daily necessities, gifts and home decoration items since the beginning of the month.
Jennifer Ye, PwC’s Chinese mainland consumer markets leader, expects the shopping festival to become a barometer of China's economic recovery.
Top digital sites have already had good results in the run-up period that started in early November.
Total sales of Alibaba’s two top livestreamers reached over 9.1 billion yuan (US$1.38 billion) in just two days of pre-sales.
JD's sales, which started on November 1, also bore fruitful results.
Sales of daily groceries and premium home appliances and fresh food increased seven times and 10 times in the first few minutes.
"I've kept a close eye on JD's coupons for children’s illustration books and I managed to make full use of the 400 yuan discount to buy gifts for my cousins," said Miriam Yuan, a college teaching assistant in Shanghai.
Daniel Zhang, Alibaba Group chairman and CEO, said two separate shopping windows would allow merchants to benefit from more exposure and selling opportunities.
China's total retail sales returned to growth in the third quarter and online retail sales posted a 9.7 percent gain.
The two categories with the highest likely spending increases on Singles Day are consumer electronics products and health and wellness products, according to a study by Bain & Co.
As e-tailers move to lower tier cities to acquire new customers and growth opportunities, they may face challenges as the cost of serving and attracting users keeps rising.
Jonathan Cheng, a Bain partner and China retail practice leader, suggests a customized product assortment with a more cost-efficient supply chain to make the most of their investment in the biggest sales event.
COVID-19 is having little impact on the shopping frenzy, according to consultancy firm Oliver Wyman.
According to its survey of 1,000 domestic respondents, 48 percent plan to increase their spending. Among this group, more than half said it is driven by more discounts and better choices, while 39 percent said they simply have more money to spend after COVID-19 outbreak.
“While we look forward to another record sales year, 14 percent of consumers feel that COVID-19 has brought too much uncertainty to take advantage of crazy deals," said Jacques Penhirin, a partner at Oliver Wyman.
He expects imported brands to lose momentum, despite their strong attraction in the beauty sector.
As many as 55 percent of respondents intend to buy from rising social e-commerce platforms such as Pinduoduo, Red and WeChat Mini stores.
This year, Singles Day goes beyond online shopping for physical products.
Offline stores and even wet markets see this as a crucial moment to appeal to online shoppers who not only order food takeaway from online sites, but also fresh food and groceries.
Gaolaojiu, a Sichuan style hotpot chain restaurant, is offering coupons on Alibaba's lifestyle services unit Koubei to expand its influence beyond its regular customers.
Zhou Gang, the caterer’s Shanghai regional manager, said Singles Day is widely recognized as a promotion season for not only physical goods but for caterers and offline services, and those who are not familiar with the hotpot chain can also leverage the discounts.