Across the country, stores were packed with consumers on December 12th as hordes of Chinese consumers took advantage of incredible sales spurred by Alibaba's double 12 holiday. Much like Singles Day, which happens just a month before, Double 12 offers attractive discounts offered by Taobao.
What exactly differentiates Singles Day from Taobao then? Firstly, Double 12 is much more about Alibaba’s mobile wallet, Alipay, than it is about Taobao. Double 12 discounts are only available to people at physical stores and who also pay with Alipay. Customers received up to a 50% discount on the 12th of December at over at over 20,000 brick and mortar shops across the country. Secondly, Double 12 is meant to bring more exposure to smaller merchants, which tend to be overshadowed by retail powerhouses on Singles Day. When offered the possibility of increasing foot-traffic, smaller players jumped on the opportunity.
Although giving smaller stores more exposure may seem selfless at first, Alipay is ultimately interested in luring people into their mobile commerce ecosystem and penetrate the online-to-offline (O2O) commerce market. Alipay is processing more and more of its transactions through their mobile platform, seeing its share increase from 22% in 2013 to 54% in 2014 out of all transactions processed year to date and clearly believes O2O to be a lucrative opportunity. O2O commerce has received more attention this year after Baidu, Wanda and Tencent announced to launch their own O2O commerce platform. O2O essentially involves users to search for goods online, which can then be purchased at a nearby store.
The Double 12 'shopping holiday' has been around since 2011 but it is only this year that we saw such a massive uptake. The increased interest could largely be attributed to Alipay / Alibaba's focus on marketing and will only increase as Alibaba continues to push into what is an increasingly valuable O2O market.