The mind-boggling logistics of Singles’ Day

Singles’ Day is an unofficial Chinese holiday celebrating people who are not in relationships, with the unmarried commemorating the occasion by treating themselves to gifts, making Singles’ Day the largest online shopping day in the world, by quite some margin.

With 1.9bn products ordered in 2019 and many more expected this year, 3m people, 4,000 planes and cargo ships are ready to deliver the world’s biggest online sale.

Updated and made popular by online retailer Alibaba, Singles’ Day originated at Nanjing University in 1993 and is celebrated every 11th November (11/11), consisting of four “1”s, chosen as it represents four singles.

Expectations were that Singles Day 2020 would be the biggest yet, with Brits expected to spend £1.54 billion of the forecasted £45 billion online shopping sales.

China’s Amazon, Alibaba, said early Wednesday morning that they had already taken 372.3 billion yuan (£42.3 billion) in just the first 30 minutes of the event, along with an earlier three-day period that they added to boost post-pandemic sales.

With average gift spend increasing year on year, luxury brands are hoping to get a boost, as millions of Chinese who have been unable to travel overseas on shopping trips go online for what experts are dubbing “revenge spending”.

Wednesday featured more than 350,000 local and international brands and even includes cars and houses for sale.

While it looks like a record-breaking year for Alibaba and other online retailers, the pressure of ensuring flawless, on-time deliveries of millions of parcels to over 800 million shoppers globally is huge. 

Artificial intelligence and automated predictions are being put to use to shorten stocking time, improve inventory turnover, and throw out more targeted warehouse divisions, stock preparations, and replenishment proposals.

A new warehouse in Wuxi, a city in the east of China, has been equipped with more than 700 robots, that will be able to use automated driving technology to pick up a parcel and deliver it to another section of the warehouse, where delivery agents can collect it. 

New energy vehicles have been deployed in 100 Chinese cities, which apply AI algorithms to drive smart routing in 40,000 villages and shorten the average length of delivery journeys by 30% in rural areas. 

More than 3,000 chartered flights and container ships have been used to bring goods into China, while three million people globally will be involved in the logistics at warehouses and ports.

It will also be using more than 10,000 mobile lockers to allow customers to pick-up parcels without human contact, while 700 aircraft will deliver parcels outside of China.

In summary, this event is a glimpse into the future with ecommerce becoming the main sales platform for consumer products. 

Metro has over 40 years experience transforming, optimising and managing the most complex global supply chains. Integrating systems and participants, we digitise and automate data collection and updates throughout the supply chain, to create a real-time view that enhances agility, speed and quality to drive productivity and cut operating costs.