Alibaba competes with Amazon in Europe for Singles Day

Employees pack crates with merchandise for orders at a Cainiao warehouse, the logistics subsidiary of Alibaba Group Holding, ahead of the company’s annual Singles’ Day shopping extravaganza in Wuxi, Jiangsu province, China, on Nov. 9, 2020.

Qilai Shen | Bloomberg | Getty Images

BEIJING — Alibaba is investing further in Europe for Singles Day this year, as the Chinese tech giant competes with Amazon for the European Union’s exploding e-commerce market.

Alibaba remained among the top three online sellers of consumer goods in eastern Europe last year, according to Euromonitor International. Amazon wasn’t on the top 10 list for the region, which includes countries like Poland and the Czech Republic.

Amazon is by far the top seller in western Europe, which includes France and Spain, according to Euromonitor. But the U.S. e-commerce giant’s market share in the region did not grow during the pandemic, remaining at about 19.3% in 2020.

In contrast, Alibaba’s market share increased to 2.9% in 2020, up from 2% the prior year, the data showed.

Alibaba held first place in eastern Europe e-commerce in 2019, according to Euromonitor International. But Polish online shopping site Allegro took first place in 2020 during the pandemic, while Russian rival Wildberries took second, according to the data. That pushed Alibaba down to third place last year.

The competition for Europe comes as online shopping in the region got another lift this year. Stay-home policies and other social distancing measures have remained in place for many months amid a prolonged fight to control multiple waves of Covid-19 outbreaks.

“It’s time for the next stage of e-commerce growth in Europe,” NielsenIQ said in a report in June.

For “fast-moving consumer goods” — a category that includes food, beverages, personal care and home care — the report said e-commerce sales growth doubled in Italy and Spain in the first quarter of this year, compared with the same period in 2020. Updated figures weren’t available as of the publication of this article.

Alibaba prepares for Singles Day — in Europe

Alibaba is keen to ride that wave of growth. Different business units have announced expansion into Europe in the weeks leading up to the Singles Day shopping festival.

The shopping event, spearheaded by Alibaba in China, is similar to Black Friday in the U.S. or Amazon’s Prime Day. Singles Day is also known as “Double 11” since it falls on the 11th day of the 11th month of the year — Nov. 11.

In recent years, Alibaba has promoted the shopping festival overseas through its own e-commerce website for selling to consumers outside of China, called AliExpress. The platform mostly connects Chinese sellers with overseas buyers, allowing foreign businesses and consumers to buy directly from factories in China.

Double 11 is going to be a great way for a lot of these companies as they start to grow. It’s a great way for you to go acquire customers.

Jonathan Cheng

partner, Bain & Company

Spain, Russia and Brazil are among the core countries