Last Saturday, the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba wracked up $25.3 billion in sales during its Singles Day extravaganza, beating last year’s numbers by 40%. The online shopping frenzy was a bigger financial success than Black Friday, America’s day of blatant consumerism. But the company is no doubt especially celebrating its performance in Southeast Asia, where it’s been making a strong push in recent years.
Lazada, the Southeast Asian e-commerce platform in which Alibaba holds an 83% stake, saw record-breaking numbers for its Singles Day sales, according to cofounder and Chief Marketplace Officer Aimone Ripa di Meana. In addition to being Singles Day, the 11/11 promotion kicked off a monthlong “Online Revolution” at Lazada, throughout which customers will have access to a wide variety of deals from high-profile vendors such as Xiaomi and L’Oreal. Considering that Lazada drew $123 million in sales on 11/11, it’s safe to assume the next four weeks are going to be lucrative as well.
The revolution culminates on Dec. 12, or 12/12, which is Indonesia’s national online shopping holiday (which Lazada originated).
“Obviously these numbers are very exciting, but what really matters is the engagement and activation of our customers,” Meana said. “The genesis of this is really to create a moment where the whole ecosystem can rally, where we can let buyers and sellers interact in a new way.”
Inspired by Alibaba
Lazada took a page from its largest shareholder’s book by staging entertainment events and even a live TV broadcast to whip up enthusiasm ahead of the big day. Alibaba hosted its own star-studded promotions, with appearances from luminaries such as Nicole Kidman and Pharrell. Lazada’s pre-event entertainment events in Thailand included musicians, models and TV personalities, all of whom came out to encourage consumers to take advantage of flash sales and pre-orders and start shopping as soon as the clock struck midnight.
“We were really trying to make shopping not just convenient, which was [the emphasis of] e-commerce during the last 10 years in Europe, but more importantly, fun and exciting,” Meana said. “I think that’s the great lesson of Alibaba. When you look at China and how they’ve made e-commerce … fun and exciting, they’re targeting Millennials, targeting those on the app, and it’s targeting a whole new generation of people.”
On the first day of the Online Revolution, Lazada customers purchased 6.5 million items, with mobile phones, diapers and women’s clothing from the Taobao Collection among the top sellers. The order numbers represented 191% year-over-year growth for the company, but the company has its eyes on the rest of the month and well beyond.
“Alibaba’s Singles Day was a real inspiration when we kicked off 12/12 and the Online Revolution, and I think the work we’ve done with Alibaba over the last two years has been exceptional,” Meana said. He said that on the consumer side, Alibaba has helped Lazada create a more enjoyable customer experience through improved personalization and engagement. The company is exploring different strategies in this area, including pairing Lazada’s data science team with Unilever to study customers’ shopping behaviors and improve Unilever’s targeting strategies. Lazada also tailored the Taobao Collection products available in each of the countries where it operates according to local shopping preferences.
On the seller side, Meana said Alibaba assisted in improving Lazada’s supply chain logistics and expanding its vendor ecosystem. Looking ahead, he said the partnership is helping Lazada empower vendors to sell abroad and develop cross-border strategies, rather than being constrained to local online or brick-and-mortar sales.
Pursuing dominance in Southeast Asia
Lazada, and Alibaba, are unabashedly pursuing dominance in Southeast Asia’s e-commerce space, and they’re pulling out all the stops to achieve it. As Lazada CEO Maximillian Bittner said in a press release regarding the success of the Online Revolution, “We aim to provide Southeast Asia’s rapidly growing middle-class the access to a wide range of products with deals and discounts that were previously available only abroad or in the capital cities. … I firmly believe that our differentiated value proposition of providing unique and accessible assortment continues to set us apart in the eyes of the region’s consumers.”
With online sales on the rise throughout the region, no doubt the big e-commerce players will put on quite a show in their quest to achieve, and maintain, their strong market presence.