So again, Alibaba has smashed its records on Singles Day promotions. This year’s final number (GMV) is CNY213.5 billion (US$30.66 billion), 27% higher than last year.

I was in Hangzhou (where Alibaba’s headquarters are) meeting a few partners when the numbers were announced. The city is just business as usual, but you could see the promotional banners everywhere and delivery vehicles zapping through the streets.


Of course, it set up a media frenzy, same as this time of the past few years.

Some picked up the fact that the growth is smaller compared to 39% last year. This is missing the point, the growth in absolute numbers are very similar, and because of a higher based, the percentage growth looks smaller. In addition, it is widely known that ecommerce growth is slowing down in China, as it matures.

Some argued that Alibaba is probably inflating the real transaction volume in order to show consistent growth.

Well, whether they do it or not, the number further attests the fact that it is far ahead of everyone else, and the gap is widening.

Some also mentioned that buyers and sellers are realising that saving and making money have become respectively harder, as Alibaba is reaping most of the benefits.

Well, from Alibaba’s point of view, it probably does not matter as much. Again as they are big enough, and continuously becoming bigger, though the ecosystem is squeezed, so what?

Far far ahead

I think there are two things worth watching from the continuous record breaking of Alibaba’s Singles’ Day sale.

First is this relentless pursuit of growth and vigilant (and ruthless) attack on any potential threats, big (such as Pinduoduo) or tiny (such as Ezbuy).

This makes Alibaba a less likely, but formidable company.

Second is Cainiao, its logistics arm. We heard from insiders that majority of the items sold on the day had already been despatched to distribution centres before the day actually began.

I walked past this building, which houses Cainiao headquarter, on my way to lunch today

This is achieved by big data – people have already been viewing promotions, loading their ‘shopping carts’ and practising fast fingers for promotional items. All these data allowed Cainiao to allocate the goods effectively.

On the day itself, the fulfilment services are only making adjustments, instead of moving goods across the country.

Another widening gap versus Alibaba’s peers and competitors.

Thanks for reading The Low Down (TLD), the blog by the team at Momentum Works. Got a different perspective or have a burning opinion to share? Let us know at [email protected].


Previous articleWill LightInTheBox save Ezbuy and itself?
Next articleValuation is in the eye of the beholder
Jianggan Li is the Founder & CEO of Momentum Works. Prior to founding Momentum Works, he co-founded Easy Taxi in Asia, and served as Managing Director of Foodpanda. The two years running Rocket Internet companies has given him a lifetime experience on supersonic implementation, and good camaraderie with entrepreneurs across the developing world. He holds a MBA from INSEAD (GMAT 770) and a degree in Computer Engineering from Nanyang Technological University. Unfortunately he never wrote a single line of code professionally - but in his first job he was in media, travelling extensively across Asia & Europe, speaking with Ministers & (occasionally) Prime Ministers. Apart from English and his native Mandarin, he is also fluent in French and conversational in Cantonese & Spanish. He tried to learn Latin (for three years) and Sanskrit (for six months) as well. In his (scarce) free time, he reads, travels, hikes and dives. Pyongyang, Tehran & Chisinau are among the interesting cities he has been to.