It only took until lunchtime on China’s main shopping holiday for consumers there to click their way to a new record for ecommerce sales in a single day.
Yesterday in China was Singles’ day, a day that ecommerce companies have turned into the world’s biggest for online shopping by offering a stream of promotions and discounts.
By 1:04pm, sales on Alibaba, the nation’s largest ecommerce group, reached Rmb19.1bn ($3.1bn), equivalent to all it sold on last year’s Singles’ day and about double what was sold last year on the US “Cyber Monday” following Thanksgiving.
At midnight, this figure had almost doubled to Rmb35bn ($5.7bn) – the surest sign yet that China’s affinity with online shopping shows no sign of abating, with the country on track to overtake the US as the largest market for ecommerce.
“Crazy”, wrote the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the ruling Communist party, on its Weibo microblog account.
The day has drawn the approval of China’s leaders as the nation seeks to rebalance its economy from one driven by investment to consumption. Premier Li Keqiang recently praised Alibaba’s founder, Jack Ma, for creating a day for consumption, according to state media.
“11.11 isn’t about numbers, it’s about fostering a healthier consumer environment,” Mr Ma said yesterday, according to the company’s Twitter feed.
The rapid growth of ecommerce in China contrasts with slowing online sales growth across much of western Europe and the US. Last year, revenue from online sales in China was between $190bn-$210bn, a close second to the US market, worth $220bn-$230bn, according to research by McKinsey, and China’s market is growing much faster.
Part of the reason China’s ecommerce market is growing so quickly, analysts say, is that internet access still has room to grow. Only 31 per cent of households now have broadband, and 21 per cent have mobile broadband, says Paul McKenzie of brokerage CLSA. With the recent growth in affordable smartphones, that percentage is poised to grow.
Consumers in China’s vast number of small cities also have a limited array of goods on sale in shops in their hometowns, particularly when it comes to foreign brands.
Additional reporting by Zhao Tianqi in Beijing and Duncan Robinson in London