By Xinhua writer Zhang Zhongkai
BEIJING, Nov. 2 (Xinhua) -- "Last year I bought things on impulse, and this year, I will only go for quality products," proclaimed a poster for e-commerce giant jd.com on Beijing's Xuanwumenwai street.
A few steps away, an advert for rival Alibaba's Tmall was a little less restrained in nature and openly encouraged shoppers to spend with abandon.
These two posters, installed at bus stops on the busy shopping avenue, are not isolated cases. Myriad e-commerce platforms are plastering up adverts across the city touting their values and discounts as China's annual shopping bonanza Singles Day, which is on Nov. 11, edges ever closer
At just seven years old this event has broken sales records every single year.
Singles Day transactions on Tmall totaled 91.2 billion yuan (13.5 billion U.S. dollars) last year, and this year the firm has some high-tech tricks up its sleeve to drive sales, including the use of live-streaming, virtual reality, augmented reality (AR) and using big data, which will improve recommendations for customers.
JD, the second largest domestic market player, is calling on its customers to be a bit more rational this year, and focus on quality and service. This year, JD has Walmart's support thanks to a strategic partnership inked in June. Walmart's global resources and brands are expected to give JD the upper hand in terms of quality, overseas produce.
Another major player, suning.com, has built an "offline wonderland" in southern China. Featuring 111 traditional Chinese scenes, 111 special snacks, and 11 challenging games, two celebrities will be "lords" of the city, and 111 online celebrities will live-stream the event day and night from Nov. 8 to Nov. 11.
Alliances seem to be on the cards this year. Alibaba and Suning inked a 1-billion-yuan deal to set up an e-commerce firm in Chongqing last month, while JD partnered with Tencent to produce a new marketing project just days later.
With various online shopping fiestas throughout the year, buyers are becoming more aware that discounts and prices are not the be-all and end-all of consumerist events such as this, according to research by Analysys, the big data analysis products and service provider, which was based on data provided by JD.
A price war is inevitable, said Zhao Zhenying, analyst with the National Engineering Laboratory for E-commerce Technologies, who predicted that the total transaction volume might even edge down from last year, given the current heavy penalties for misleading promotions and fake products.
Chinese shoppers are savvy online shoppers, and are all too aware of the need to navigate the world of fake ratings and reviews. The country's top economic planner gathered the country's major e-commerce players last month to sign an agreement that would limit "click bait" or "click factories" with harsh punishments promised for violators. It also warned firms that they could not increase prices before offering discounts, a common plot and one used in years past.
This year, delivery services are expected to handle over one billion parcels in one week, with 2.68 million people tasked with making sure those parcels arrive where they should, according to predictions by the China Express Association and Alibaba's logistics arm, Cainiao.
The giants of the sector seem well prepared. JD now uses automated robots to sort packages at their warehouses, as well as driverless distribution vehicles and drones to improve logistics efficiency, while Alibaba's AR technology and cloud computing will improve their ability to correctly pick and sort orders.
The "good old days" of gaining customers by offering discounts appear to be fading away, as customers focus on the product quality and company service amid the sea of choices. They always have the option to simply walk away, Zhao said.