Load speed critical to China success, as Singles Day smashes records

This year the total gross merchandise value of goods sold on Alibaba’s marketplace Tmall on Singles Day was $17.8 billion, compared with $14.3 billion in 2015, predominantly driven by mobile.

The 2016 sales figure is about four times what worldwide Black Friday sales are expected to be this year. Alibaba’s main Chinese competitor JD.com didn’t post sales numbers, but said that it had received more orders than it did in the past five Singles Days combined and that its gross merchandise volume grew 140 percent compared to 2015.

GlobalWebIndex’s research shows that 87 per cent of internet users there are shopping online, peaking further among 25-34s (the exact demographic that Jack Ma’s Alibaba has targeted with Singles’ Day).

And it’s mobiles that are driving this trend. Not only are digital consumers in China 50 per cent more likely than the global average to be shopping online via their smartphones, they are more likely to be purchasing via a mobile than via any other device.

It’s important for non-domestic players to pay attention to the growth in mobile purchasing, as the latest research shows that domestic owned sites have faster load times than foreign-owned counterparts.

Dynatrace has been tracking and analysing the site performance and strategies of leading Chinese and international retailers. The data was taken from the perspective of Chinese consumers, to evaluate how the best global retailers navigate the country’s unique digital landscape.

Key findings:
• Chinese retailers are outperforming the global competition, with an average time of 3.4 seconds before their websites become usable for Chinese customers (compared to 7.7 seconds for global retailers).
• H&M stood out amongst the global retailers; with an average time of just 2.4 seconds before customers could start interacting with its website from China.
• Lean website design is critical to success in the Chinese ecommerce market; the best performing sites have minimal third-party host integrations, lighter pages with a low object count, and are hosted locally, in China or Hong Kong.

Dave Anderson, VP Marketing EMEA and APAC for Dynatrace explains further, “Across the 20+ luxury, market and specialty e-commerce sites Dynatrace has been evaluating we can see that Chinese retailers are averaging an interactive (DOM) site load time of 3.4 seconds, compared with international players who are averaging 7.7 seconds.

“Digging a little deeper, we can see that the better performing sites are typically designed for speed. They use minimal third party hosts and keep objects in check. Page weight is also an important consideration – the lighter the better. Another fundamental, strategic decision is to host content locally or in HK.”

China is by far the largest ecommerce market in the world, forecast to reach $1.1 trillion by 2020. In a market this large, China Singles Day has become the biggest shopping day of the year globally, with sales of $14.3 billion last year, eclipsing Black Friday in the U.S., which reached only $1.35 billion by comparison.