The Chinese New Year is traditionally a time of family, food and festivals. This year, the holiday falls on Feb. 8. Many families will come together for an elaborate dinner and to clean the house to bring in good luck. E-commerce giant Alibaba wants to add its biggest online shopping event to the festivities.
An online shopping festival
The Ali Chinese New Year Shopping Festival is an attempt to bring urban and rural consumers together in an online shopping event. According to Multichannel Merchant, the event was first publicly announced Nov. 11, 2015, by Alibaba Group CEO Daniel Zhang. Preliminary sales will begin Jan. 14, with the actual festival starting Jan. 17 and ending five days after. The festival aims to promote the exchange of food, clothes and produce between urban areas and rural communities.
According to Tech News Today, rural sellers will likely benefit the most from the shopping festival. Hard-to-reach consumers will have access to products not available in their local markets. Regional farmers, in turn, will be able to sell their produce to a much wider market of urban shoppers. Rural Taobao, Alibaba's countryside marketplace, will take several steps to promote the event in those communities, including promoting products from within to those who live in the cities. Taobao will also help organize 10,000 dinners on New Year's Eve for children, the elderly and the disabled, Multichannel Merchant said. What's more, the company will help bring international delicacies to the Chinese, including Australian beefsteak, Canadian lobster and wine from Chateau Lafite Rothschild in France. According to Tech News Today, Rural Taobao is able to reach over 10,000 service centers within China.
Alibaba already knows promoting Chinese holidays is a profitable strategy. On Nov. 11, 2015, the company broke the record for Singles' Day sales – a record Alibaba itself set in 2014. Singles' Day is specific to China and is marketed toward people without partners. According to the BBC, Singles' Day sales for the website increased 60 percent over 2014 numbers to reach 91.2 billion yuan – approximately $14 billion USD or $19 billion CAD. Cyber Monday sales, in comparison, only reached $1.35 billion USD.
"Over the past six years, [Singles' Day] has evolved from a marketing event for online shopping into a global phenomenon that involves consumers in China and around the world," Zhang said during the Singles' Day launch.
The sales event, called the 11.11 Global Shopping Festival, was a chance for Alibaba to increase its efforts in globalization. Alibaba reported over 40 international sellers and 39 countries participated. Michael Evans, president of Alibaba, said at the launch the company plans to expand its physical presence worldwide. Alibaba has long been able to accept online payments from around the world and has region-specific versions of its websites in numerous countries.
Promoting international holidays
The profit potential of the Chinese New Year and Singles' Day should inspire worldwide e-commerce retailers to promote international holidays. For instance, Entrepreneur recommended China's Valentine's Day, which falls on Aug. 20, as a time to promote romantic gifts to online shoppers in the region. Meanwhile, Brazilians celebrate the same holiday on June 12. Companies can use similar promotional campaigns within the various countries throughout the year, assuming market research supports this decision.
If e-commerce stores want to compete globally, they must identify aspects of foreign countries on that differ from their initial market. It is just as important for companies to acknowledge regional celebrations as it is for them to provide local languages and payment solutions on their websites. Doing so encourages sales in international communities.
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