Singles Day was once the biggest and most shameless celebration of consumerism on earth: a 24-hour online retail extravaganza, starting with a confetti-filled gala and culminating in heaps of incredible wealth for brands. , celebrities and Alibaba, the Chinese e – the titan of commerce at the center of it all.
On Singles Day, an annual tradition of November 11, Chinese shoppers are still likely to buy a lot of things. But this year’s party seems a bit more muddled.
Shopping vacations, invented by Alibaba over a decade ago, are turning into a muted new era for the Chinese internet industry, one that emphasizes fairness and accountability and publicly rejects the excesses of growth at all costs. The past Singles Days were an opportunity for Alibaba to present its latest news to get people to spend more recklessly. The main themes this year: green logistics, eco-responsible products and “prudent” consumption.
Alibaba’s Tmall app distributes “green coupons” for discounts on energy efficient and low impact products. The company’s logistics unit offers to recycle packaging waste at 60,000 collection stations across China. Alibaba said it will donate one yuan, or about 16 cents, to charity whenever someone interacts during the event with a social media post about the company’s charitable activities.
“We need to harness the power of 11.11 to drive sustainability and promote inclusion among consumers, merchants and partners in our ecosystem,” said Chris Tung, Chief Marketing Officer of Alibaba. declared last month.
One of the mainstays of Singles Day was Alibaba’s announcement of its final explosion revenue, which consistently exceeds the number of blowouts in the previous year by a staggering margin. When asked if Alibaba would continue the tradition this year, Tung objected, saying only that the company’s focus had shifted from pure sales growth to “sustainable growth.”
A spokeswoman for Alibaba also declined to say this week whether the company will report revenue after the event.
(Alibaba has already started quietly redefining the meaning of its flagship Singles Day issue: last year, turnover it was revealed that the total value of orders was not only during the 24 hours November 11, but also in the 10 days preceding it. The metric Alibaba uses, gross merchandise volume, does not have a standard definition, which gives the company the flexibility to choose what outcome it reports.)
It was the era of Big Tech in China under Xi Jinping. As Xi prepares to run for an unprecedented third term as the country’s supreme leader, his government has put in place new regulatory barriers around Alibaba and other internet heavyweights, ending in an exuberant period of unbridled booms for the industry.
This spring, the Chinese antitrust authority fined Alibaba $ 2.8 billion for anti-competitive practices, the heaviest fine in the agency’s history. Financial regulators have ordered Ant, Alibaba’s internet finance sister company, to restructure its business and come under stricter scrutiny.
Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma was once a regular at the Singles Day evening gala, performing card tricks with Scarlett johansson and posing on stage with Daniel craig. This year, Mr. Ma has mostly disappeared from public view, sparking nervous speculation about his safety.
Last month, the South China Morning Post, the Hong Kong newspaper owned by Alibaba, unnamed sources cited who said Mr. Ma was visiting research institutes in the Netherlands. The trip was a sign that authorities had not banned him from leaving China, as they sometimes do to people in the course of investigations or legal proceedings.
That was reason enough to cheer on Alibaba shareholders, after a year in which the company’s stock price fell by about half.
Beijing has not slackened its efforts to make Internet companies behave in a less greedy manner. Regulators have called on companies to stop blocking links between other people’s services. They have ordered e-commerce sites don’t bombard users with marketing messages before Singles Day.
Another new slogan for Chinese capitalists is “common prosperity”, or a more equitable distribution of wealth. Shortly after Mr. Xi approved the theme in August, Alibaba committed $ 15.5 billion to the objectives of “common prosperity”. A few weeks later, the company’s general manager, Daniel Zhang, added “common prosperity” to Alibaba’s “common prosperity”.core business responsibilities. “
One way Alibaba says it is playing its part is by offering more support to small Chinese companies selling on its platforms.
Wei Wei, 35, is the co-founder of Beats Per Minute 120, a brand of socks with colorful patterns. For small sellers like him, Singles Day has never been a guaranteed boon, he said. During the event, he said, Alibaba tends to steer buyers of its apps to large merchants, the ones who can drive the jaw-dropping sales growth that Alibaba loves to show.
Mr Wei said that Alibaba recently reduced some fees for traders and provided more advice to small sellers, himself included. But what would really help, he said, are the eyes of the customers. And as Alibaba faces stiffer competition against platforms like Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, it knows that attracting those eyeballs is getting more expensive.
Nonetheless, Mr. Wei is happy to receive support from Alibaba. Other small traders, those with weaker business prospects, “they are not included,” he said.
Alibaba declined to comment.