Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba’s Singles Day is known for being the largest online shopping extravaganza in the world.
But this year has been a more muted business as Beijing represses businesses and economic growth slows.
Sales for the 11-day event have increased at the slowest pace since it launched in 2009, up 8.5% from last year.
However, customer spending still hit a new high of 540.3 billion yuan ($ 84.5 billion; £ 63.2 billion).
This year marks the first time that Alibaba’s Singles Day sales, which the company calls “11.11 Global Shopping Festival,” have failed to achieve double-digit year-over-year growth.
“It’s probably not great when you consider that the market is expected to grow by nearly 12%,” Rui Ma of the Tech Buzz China website told the BBC.
“They’ve already tapped this party to its extreme. This is already a big number, so it’s hard to show growth,” he added.
It comes against the backdrop of the Chinese government’s swift moves in recent months to impose tough new rules on the country’s internet giants.
After years of limited oversight from Beijing, officials have enforced the regulations to ensure that the tech industry is fair and competitive and contributes more to society.
Alibaba found itself in the spotlight during the crackdown as it paid a record $ 2.8 billion fine after an investigation found it had abused its market position for years. The company also said it would change the way it ran its business.
A different kind of event
Shen Lu of the Protocol technology website told the BBC that this year’s Singles Day aimed to improve the company’s image: “Alibaba is trying to present itself as a technology company with social responsibility.”
“They are demonstrating that they comply with the regulations and are adapting to the general political atmosphere,” he said.
This approach brought a more socially conscious emphasis to the event than in previous years with eco-friendly products and campaigns to raise funds for good causes.
For example, viewers of a three-hour live stream were encouraged to “like” and help raise money for an elephant reserve in China’s rural southwest.
Ms. Shen also suggested that there are signs that shoppers are looking for new ways to shop online: “It’s been 12 years since Alibaba invented the Singles Day shopping event.”
“It was such a hype years ago, but it’s no longer exciting for buyers in China,” he said.
One such new approach is live streaming shopping, which consulting firm McKinsey has predicted will be the future of online sales in China.
Last month, two of China’s most popular online celebrity sellers reportedly grossed $ 3 billion in just 12 hours.
Slowing of growth
Consumers may also be wary of unnecessary purchases as China’s economic recovery shows signs of slowing.
According to official data, the world’s second largest economy grew by 4.9% in the quarter from July to September compared to the previous year.
This was the slowest pace of expansion in a year and worse than analysts expected.
It comes as energy shortages, new Covid-19 outbreaks and concerns over the country’s housing market weigh on the economy.
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