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Alibaba’s 11.11 Global Shopping Festival, also known as Double 11 or Singles’ Day, takes place on November 11 every year and it has now become the world’s biggest 24-hour online sale. This report series covers the various shopping festivals and developments in New Retail that have already happened or will take place till this event.

  • Alibaba’s most recent shopping event was Home Appliances Mega Sale held September 1–3, which was a promotional event for home appliances. Many brands including Midea, Haier, Samsung, Hisense, Panasonic, TCL and Siemens participated in this sale.
  • Alibaba has upgraded its customer service chatbot–Alime Shop Assistant, launched in March 2017–to help merchants on its marketplaces efficiently handle customer enquiries, especially during major sales campaigns, such as Double 11.
  • Alibaba has launched a new 24-hour medicine delivery and online medical consultation service on its Taobao marketplace platform, as part of its online-to-offline New Retail strategy. The company plans to offer customers convenient access to medical support.

Countdown to 11.11

When it comes to online shopping festivals in China, the first one that comes to mind is Double 11. The success of this event has led to many more similar shopping festivals held throughout the year, such as 3.8 Women’s Day Shopping Festival which coincides with International Women’s Day on March 8, 618 Shopping Festival held June 1–18, and 88 Members Festival on August 8.

These events are listed in the following table.

Recent Festivals

Home Appliances Mega Sale

This week, Home Appliances Mega Sale ran September 1–3 on Alibaba’s Tmall site. The event promoted home appliances, such as TVs, air conditioners, washing machines and fridges. Many brands participated, including Midea, Haier, Panasonic, Samsung, Hisense, TCL and Siemens.

In this sale, many products were sold at discounts as steep as 60%. A Sharp TV, for example, sold for ¥5,899 (US$863), 65% off the original price of ¥16,999 (US$2,486). A Marco water heater sold for ¥1,997 (US$292), at more than 67% off on the original price of ¥5,999 (US$877) and, as of September 3, over 741 units had been sold.

What’s New in New Retail?

Alime Shop Assistant—Alibaba’s Customer Service Chatbot

Alibaba has upgraded its Alime Shop Assistant to help merchants on its marketplaces handle customer enquiries more efficiently.

The chatbot leverages natural-language processing and deep-learning technologies to help merchants answer consumers’ queries. The bot has the ability to learn as it communicates, and it becomes more intelligent with each interaction with customers. Merchants can also train Alime Shop Assistant by adding more information about their shop and products to the bot’s knowledge base.

The bot has proved itself to be helpful: during 11.11 Global Shopping Festival in 2017, it had 100 million conversations with customers, leading to sales that made up 15% of the event’s gross merchandise volume.

The new upgrades include:

  • Predictive analytics: The bot is capable of forecasting what customers might ask next and this leads to better and faster customer service. Alibaba said the upgraded bot can help merchants cut up to half of their previous call-center costs.
  • Nudge marketing: The bot can send small nudges to facilitate shopping decisions, such as reminders about discount vouchers on offer to consumers.

Alibaba Launches Medicine Service on its Online Platform

Alibaba has also launched a new 24-hour medicine delivery and online medical consultation service on its Taobao marketplace platform, as part of its online-to-offline New Retail strategy. Through this service, the company plans to offer customers convenient access to medical support.

The new addition incorporates several New Retail features, including:

  • Mobile first strategy: Using the Taobao app to search for “jiyongyao” (meaning need medicine urgently) takes users to a page where they can buy over-the-counter medicine and access medical advice.
  • Fast delivery: Medical orders placed via Taobao during the day reaches customers within 30 minutes during daytime and within an hour if ordered at night. This service was launched on August 28 this year in Hangzhou, where Alibaba is headquartered.

Investments and Acquisitions in New Retail

Chinese majors—Alibaba, Tencent and JD.com—have invested in properties to expand their New Retail capacity. These investments range from logistics firms and online marketplaces, to brick-and-mortar stores. Listed in the following table are recent investments of and acquisitions by these companies, including investment date, investee, type of industry, and funding details, wherever available.

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