9 Tips to Crack Ecommerce From Alibaba's Stellar Singles' Day Event

The Chinese ecommerce company made more than $17 billion in sales this year.

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By Steve Williams

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Working staff of Alibaba Group watch a screen which indicates sales figure of Alibaba Group after the Singles' Day Global Shopping Festival.

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The dust from Alibaba's Singles' Day has settled, and sales records have been smashed, with $17.8 billion of goods sold on Alibaba ecommerce platforms, including Tmall.

Whether they are directly participating in the sale, companies around the world are taking note of the year-upon-year record-breaking event. As they should, since Alibaba and competitors introduce the world, and consumers, to the newest trends and techniques to draw people in while getting them to spend.

Related: Alibaba Just Made $15 Billion in 20 Hours on Singles' Day. Here's Everything You Need to Know.

So how can companies get a piece of this pie? Here are 10 tips based off Alibaba's smashing success:

1. Keep it convenient.

Consumers want fingertip purchases. What's most notable about the Alibaba Singles' Day model is that, not only is it strictly online sales, it's almost all about mobile sales. This year, as of 1 p.m. China time on Nov. 11, mobile represented 84 percent of all sales. That figure declined slightly by the end of the day, but remained impressively high and well above the 69 percent from the year before.

2. Reach your audience.

Advertising in China is different than elsewhere in the world. Companies have long advanced beyond simple bus stop ads. Advertising is interactive and, more importantly, provides a seamless path to purchasing. From app to online store to done deal with a few clicks.

For online ads, Tmall sells media within it's ecosystem, Baidu search offers pay-per-click ads similar to Google Adwords and there's a dearth of display ad space available.

3. Stay close to home.

Alibaba competitor JD.com understood the importance of snagging customers where they are most comfortable, especially WeChat. With more than 700 million active users, the social platform partnered with JD.com to advertise and offer exclusive deals with users. According to Internet Retailer, 52 percent of first-time customers that went to JD.com on Singles' Day clicked through from the social networks WeChat and Mobile QQ.

4. New realms are important too.

More than just the mobile experience, the Singles' Day sale showed the potential of alternate reality models. A sure harbinger of times to come, Alibaba rolled out virtual and augmented reality platforms for a new shopping experience.

This year's Singles' Day introduced many consumers to what it's like to shop in the virtual world, where, again, on-the-spot purchasing options abound. And while Pokémon Go has lost its buzz in recent months, Alibaba still ran with the concept and came up with augmented reality options for consumers. Much like the game, shoppers could collect points and coupons throughout the day.

Related: How Jack Ma Overcame His 7 Biggest Failures

5. Don't forget the pre-game.

Just like tailgating in the United States, sometimes the pre-party is the most exciting part. The countdown gala was a star studded, fireworks blasting, mega-hyped event. Even though Katy Perry bailed, David and Victoria Beckham, Kobe Bryant, Scarlett Johansson and One Direction still showed up.

Even Alibaba's founder Jack Ma was there to perform a magic trick -- The Disappearing Money Trick. (Just kidding -- it was a card trick.)

6. And the pre-sales!

Thanks to the advertising hype, pre-orders made up a big part of the day. While the opening numbers were impressive, last year the company said more than 27 million purchases came via mobile devices in the first hour. That amount takes into account pre-orders made by customers.

7. Employ some help.

If your company plans to break into the market, it has to be able to follow through. Most companies realize they can't handle the volume without a bit of help, which is why they use platforms such as Tmall. It's an open platform with a complex industry chain. Brands build up and run their stores on it by themselves, with the help of a variety of third party services, from designing, delivering, operation and marketing.

8. Plan for the future.

While tricks and trends such as VR will come and go, what's most important is deliverables. Are consumers getting what they expect? Some estimates put Singles' Day returns at 25 percent (Alibaba puts the number much lower). So as far as creating satisfied, repeat customers goes, what do you need to be successful in this new mega market?

Related: 12 Steps to Building a Successful Ecommerce Site in 12 Months

9. A piece of the pie.

To make it work, Alibaba creates partnerships with other ecommerce platforms, creating a web of supply from all over the world. And those platforms are necessarily comprehensive, from pay platforms to third-party delivery services.

Singles' Day exemplifies China's rapid transition from an industrial to consumer-based economy. So if you're serious about ecommerce, spend some time on Tmall and Taobao, visit JD and other competitors, familiarize yourself with WeChat and search with Baidu.

Steve Williams

I write about tech, startups, and tech startups

Steve Williams is the engagement manager, Gfresh.com

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