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Alibaba CMO Chris Tung on creating the world’s biggest shopping day

The Drum 11 Nov 2020 12:01
Alibaba CMO Chris Tung on creating the world’s biggest shopping day

Alibaba’s 11.11 (Double 11) shopping sale is now the world’s biggest shopping event, eclipsing the likes of Black Friday. But how did a day originally designed to celebrate single people become such a global phenomenon?

The Drum interviewed Alibaba chief marketing officer (CMO) Chris Tung at The Drum Digital Summit, ahead of the 2020 11.11 shopping day, to understand how marketing drove the success of the day and why innovation and digital are how Alibaba plans to keep the shopping day relevant.

Alibaba has retired the ’Singles Day’ name, rechristening the 11 November shopping bonanza the 11.11 festival (Double 11). The new name has since spawned many other shopping days across the final quarter of the year, such as 10.10 and 9.9, each promoted by different e-commerce players around the world.

“Now we’re celebrating the 12th anniversary of this global shopping festival,” explains Tung, “the real purpose of this festival is simple – to connect consumers with merchants, as a platform we are bridging between sellers and buyers. The festival is an opportunity for their sellers to show that they have got the best of the brands, the best offers, in a very creative way. For consumers, it has become a really a holiday or festival experience for them to be engaged with the brands they love.”

The day has become so important to brands that they use it as a launchpad for new products and services, rather than just a reason to discount and get rid of dead stock.

On what’s in store this year, Tung says two things have been a major change: the pandemic driving a need for brands to digitally transform and therefore rely on tech platforms like Alibaba and, secondly, Alibaba had added a second date to its celebrations on 1 Nov, to give brands more exposure in a difficult year.

“One thing that we learned through the experience of creating the festival is there's a new meaning for e-commerce. We think that it has been redefined by entertainment. The key to why it is a success is: how do we make the whole festival more entertaining, and the whole experience more memorable, something that people really look forward to at this time of the year?

Ultimately, there’s a major incentive for the organisation, as tech company, to drive innovation at the festival each year – the shopping day becomes a huge launchpad to show off developments and new products created in the past year.

Chris Tung spoke with The Drum at The Drum’s Digital Summit, a week-long online event helping marketers to get inspired, find solutions and harness the power of marketing. You can watch the interview in full here.

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