Alibaba is very close to its Singles’ Day annual shopping festival. Singles’ Day, which is on November 11, has become the largest shopping day worldwide since it was launched seven years ago. The shopping festival generated about $14 billion in sales last year — more than twice the overall online sales from Cyber Monday, Black Friday, and Thanksgiving combined. Now the Chinese firm plans to make the event much bigger.

Alibaba
Image source: hinglish Notes – Flickr

Looking to expand Singles’ Day spree worldwide

Alibaba is planning to use the big event to launch itself beyond mainland China. The e-commerce giant is releasing a pilot program that will target Singles’ Day shoppers in Taiwan and Hong Kong for the first time this year. It is also planning to target Southeast Asia next year, reports the Financial Times. The Chinese company is also expanding via acquisitions and mergers, like its stake in Southeast Asian e-commerce group Lazada.

However, analysts say internationalization is a difficult task for the online retailer, as it is for peers like Tencent and Baidu. China’s tech trinity called BAT collectively (Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent) has grown fast in the country, but outside, they have shown little to no growth. The same is true for Amazon, which has not shown much headway in China, say analysts.

Scott Likens, who heads PwC’s analytics and emerging technologies business in Hong Kong, said, “There’s a tremendous challenge to take it global,” as “the model that works in China does not work outside China, or at least not as well.”

Alibaba’s Jack Ma has set a target of 2 billion consumers in the next ten years. This means he expects around one in four people worldwide to shop from Alibaba’s e-commerce platforms, including Taobao and Tmall, notes the Financial Times.

Meanwhile, Daniel Zhang, Alibaba’s chief executive, claims, “We will become the future of new retail,” adding “Product design and manufacturing will move in the direction of truly being driven by big data.”

Alibaba changing the way you shop

To make this year’s Singles’ Day a global phenomenon, the online retailer has already started a series of warm-up events, including an eight-hour-long live-streamed fashion show called “See Now Buy Now” in Shanghai. Consumers can order and buy anything they see on the catwalk in real-time.

What is actually exciting about this year’s Singles’ Day is its potential to change the way consumers shop. Virtual reality shopping is not science fiction anymore. For the first time at the festival, the online retailer will show its Buy+ virtual shopping experience. Customers can buy a cardboard VR headset for just 15 cents, slip their smartphone into the headset, and browse the products, including everything from shoes to lingerie to handbags. Also they can have virtual models showcase the accessories and apparel on a catwalk.