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阿里巴巴“双11”神话能否延续?

更新时间:2016-11-13 10:33:54 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Alibaba, Amid Intense Hype, Confronts a Slowdown on Singles Day
阿里巴巴“双11”神话能否延续?

HONG KONG — Singles Day in China has become the world’s biggest shopping day. Yet its most impressive aspect is not the millions of packages shipped or the billions of dollars spent, but the fact that it exists at all.

香港——中国的“双11”已成为世界上最大的购物节。然而它最令人惊叹的地方不是数以百万计的包裹配送,或数十、上百亿美元的销售额,而是这样一个活动能存在本身。

With clever marketing and help from an online spending boom, the Alibaba Group, in less than a decade, turned Nov. 11 into a symbol of the power of the Chinese consumer. Last year, by Alibaba’s tally, $13.5 billion changed hands over its platform that day — a feat it expects to top on Friday.

凭借巧妙的营销手段,在网上消费的一波繁荣的推动下,阿里巴巴集团在不到10年的时间里将11月11日变成了中国消费者力量的象征。据阿里巴巴的统计,去年这一天该平台的销售额达到135亿美元——他们期待这个数字会在星期五被超过。

Yet the very dynamics that helped Alibaba engineer the Hallmark-like holiday out of thin air have turned against it.

然而,帮助阿里巴巴创立这个购物节的环境,现在已经在对它形成阻力。

Growth in new internet users is slowing in China, as is growth in the number of Chinese people and companies opening stores on Alibaba’s sales platforms. More important, growth in the value of the goods sold on the company’s platforms is decelerating.

在中国,网民新增速度正在放缓,个人和公司在阿里巴巴销售平台上开设网店的数量增长也在放缓。更重要的是,在阿里巴巴平台上销售的货物的价值增长在减速。

Even the numbers underlying the event — which investors scrutinize as a gauge of the health of Alibaba and the Chinese consumer — are under a cloud. In the United States, the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating how Alibaba reports its Singles Day operating data.

即使是这场活动背后的数字——投资者将其视为阿里巴巴和中国消费健康状况的一个衡量标准——也笼罩在乌云中。美国证券交易委员会(Securities and Exchange Commission,简称SEC)正在调查阿里巴巴“双11”运营数据报告方式。

Pressed by investor expectations on one hand and a slowdown in growth on the other, investors are watching closely to see what Alibaba’s next act will be.

受投资者预期和增长放缓的影响,投资者正在密切关注阿里巴巴的下一步行动。

In response, the company has been investing billions of dollars outside China and in a number of thus-far unprofitable businesses like cloud computing. One of its biggest pushes is in entertainment, and Singles Day this year appears aimed at using show business to maintain the buzz.

作为回应,该公司已经在中国境外以及云计算等尚未盈利的项目上进行了数以十亿美元计的投资。娱乐行业是该公司推动最积极的领域之一,今年他们就利用了演出业务来保持活动的热度。

The event this year is scheduled to feature a concert by OneRepublic and appearances by Kobe Bryant and the German soccer player Thomas Müller. (The singer Katy Perry pulled out of the event, citing a family issue.) The company has also hosted a fashion show, and it is producing a series of television shows for the holiday and introducing a Pokémon Go type of augmented reality game.

今年的活动计划是开联欢会,有One Republic表演,科比·布莱恩特(Kobe Bryant)和德国足球运动员托马斯·穆勒(Thomas Müller)也会到场。(歌手凯蒂·佩里[Katy Perry]以家事为由取消了演出安排。)该公司还举办了一个时装秀,制作了一系列相应的电视节目,并且推出了一款类似于《精灵宝可梦Go》(Pokémon Go)的增强现实游戏。

In some ways, Alibaba is trying to smooth over issues faced by China more broadly. The demographics that have powered its expansion are less favorable, and it must manage a transition to new sources of growth.

从某些方面而言,阿里巴巴正在努力缓解中国面临的一个更广泛的问题。曾经推动其扩张的人口组成现在对它已经不太有利,它必须设法向新的增长点过渡。

Singles Day has become a symbol of the rise of one of those sources: Chinese consumption.

“双11”象征这一个新的增长点在兴起:国内消费。

“You live by the sword, you die by the sword,” said Duncan Clark, the founder of the investment advisory firm BDA China and an early adviser of Alibaba who has written a book about the company. “Alibaba has to keep these numbers growing. A slowdown obviously wouldn’t be welcomed by the government.”

“你靠剑生活,你就会死于剑下。”投资咨询公司BDA的创始人、阿里巴巴的早期顾问邓肯·克拉克(Duncan Clark)说:“阿里巴巴必须保持这些数字的增长。显然,政府是不能接受速度放慢的。”

Alibaba says sales volume is only one metric by which it judges Singles Day, and it said in a written statement that “it is inevitable that the law of big numbers comes into play.”

阿里巴巴说,销售量只是“双11”的衡量指标之一,它在一份书面声明中说,“大数定律势必起作用。”

Singles Day was originally an obscure, little-practiced holiday for singles in China to celebrate themselves, and it is held on Nov. 11 for the solitary feeling that the date 11/11 invokes. The company’s version of the holiday was created in 2009 by Daniel Zhang, Alibaba’s current chief executive, who at the time oversaw its Tmall service, the company’s platform for major brands like Adidas and Disney. The promotion, which was intended to help the then-fledgling Tmall platform, posted $7.7 million in sales.

“双11”最初是一个很少有人知道的节日,几乎没有什么活动,只是一些单身人士在聊以自慰。之所以选在11月11日,是因为这个日子给人一种孤独的感觉。阿里巴巴现任首席执行官丹张勇(Daniel Zhang)在2009年借助这个概念创立了购物节,他当时主管天猫平台,即阿迪达斯(Adidas)和迪士尼(Disney)等知名品牌的平台。这个促销活动为了给当时新推出的天猫平台造势,结果创下770万美元的销售额。

Those sales were not reaped by Alibaba, however. The company uses a statistic called gross merchandise value that measures the monetary worth of transactions that flow through its services. Alibaba makes money by charging vendors on its platforms to advertise and for a percentage of sales.

然而,这些销售收入并不属于阿里巴巴。该公司使用一种称为“商品总价值”的指标来衡量在其平台上进行的交易的货币价值。而他们会通过向平台上的商户收取广告和销售提成来赚钱。

“Ever heard of a logistics company that reported the value of the goods they shipped?” said Marshall Meyer, a management professor at the University of Pennsylvania, adding that the metric was confusing in Alibaba’s context.

“你听说过一家物流公司报告自己运送货物的价值吗?”宾夕法尼亚大学管理学教授马歇尔·梅尔(Marshall Meyer)说。阿里巴巴报告这个指标令人感到困惑,他说。

Gross merchandise value is also not defined under accounting standards, and critics have grown increasingly skeptical of the numbers. For example, it does not include returns, which for Singles Day can be as high as 30 percent of sales, analysts say. Alibaba says that returns are usually only in the single digits.

会计准则中也没有定义“商品总价值”,批评者对这些数字的疑心越来越大。例如,它没有把退货包括在内,分析师说“双11”的退货率可能高达销售额的30%。阿里巴巴则表示,退货率通常只有一位数。

Vendors also report that there is pressure to offer steep discounts on Singles Day, ginning up even more sales volume. “If you don’t lower your price as asked for Singles Day, then in future you will be less favored,” said Odyssey Chang, a merchant on Alibaba’s sites who sells luxury goods and wine.

商户还说,阿里巴巴给他们施加压力,要在“双11”提供大幅折扣,扩大销售量。在阿里巴巴网站上销售奢侈品和酒水的奥迪赛·程(Odyssey Cheng)表示:“如果你不按要求在‘双11’这天降价,那么你以后的机会就会比较少。”

Alibaba has de-emphasized the metric in recent months and no longer reports it on a quarterly basis. Still, Mr. Zhang, the holiday’s originator, said in an interview that Alibaba decided it would report the number in real time throughout the holiday, as it had in the past.

最近几个月来,阿里巴巴已经不再重视这个指标,不再每季度报告一次。然而,“双11”购物活动的发起人张勇在接受采访时表示,阿里巴巴决定在当日实时播报该数字,就像过去一样。

Alibaba, Mr. Zhang said, “had a very transparent conversation with the S.E.C.” He said that Singles Day was a quirk of the Chinese internet that they were proud of, “something new that didn’t happen in the U.S.”

张勇说,“阿里巴巴与证交会进行了非常透明的对话,”他说,“双11”是中国互联网的一场盛事,他们为创造了“美国没有的新东西”感到自豪。

If it is a novelty, it has its analogues. Perhaps the best comparison might be Apple’s product unveilings each autumn. If Apple’s event has an air of exclusivity and focus on products, Alibaba’s is a far more boisterous, egalitarian affair, but one that turns the company into an emblem of China’s economic rise.

如果说它是个新事物,那么至少是有可以类比的东西的。最好的类比可能是每年秋季的苹果新品发布会。如果说苹果的发布会有一种独家专属的感觉,侧重于产品,那么阿里巴巴就是一个更喧嚣的平等主义的集市,但这个活动让阿里巴巴成为了中国经济上升的象征。

At the center is Alibaba’s founder and executive chairman, Jack Ma. A son of professional performers of a Chinese style of comedy called cross talk, Mr. Ma brings to the company charisma and an eye for attention rather than a gift for technological wizardry.

处在中心位置的是阿里巴巴的创始人兼董事局主席马云。作为一名专业中国曲艺演员的儿子,马云给公司带来了号召力和曝光度,而不是杰出的技术水准。

Earlier in the company’s history, he acted as ringleader of an event called Alifest that brought vendors and employees together and that aimed for maximum buzz. One year, Arnold Schwarzenegger attended. Another year, Jack Ma covered himself in face paint and sang “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” from “The Lion King,” in front of a stadium of Alibaba customers and employees.

在公司创业之初,他作为阿里巴巴网商年度大会(AliFest)的牵头人,把商户和员工聚集到一起,旨在最大限度地提升热度。有一年,阿诺德·施瓦辛格(Arnold Schwarzenegger)出席了这个大会。还有一年,马云在一座体育场里,在阿里巴巴的客户和员工前面,脸上化着装唱起了《狮子王》(The Lion King)中的歌曲《今夜你能否感受到我的爱》。

Alibaba often uses Mr. Ma in ways intended to appeal to its online vendors — a group that it hopes will be inspired by his success to spend on advertising on the company’s platforms. During Alibaba’s 2014 initial public offering in the United States, Mr. Ma gave television interviews but allowed a group of merchants to ring the stock exchange bell.

阿里巴巴经常用马云来吸引网店商户——公司希望马云的成功能激励这些人在阿里巴巴平台上打广告。阿里巴巴2014年在美国首次公开募股期间,马云接受了电视采访,但让一些商户去敲响了交易钟。

“I think me and many in the industry were inspired by Jack Ma and the successful internet businesses of his time,” said Mr. Chang, the Alibaba merchant. Merchants like Mr. Chang supply a huge chunk of Alibaba’s revenue as they spend ad dollars on its websites.

“我认为,我和这个行业的很多人都受到了马云和他这个年代成功互联网企业的启发,”在阿里巴巴平台上做生意的商人程先生说。像他这样的商人会在网站上投广告,为阿里巴巴贡献了非常大的一块收入。

The same sociopolitical dynamics are at work for Singles Day, except they increasingly include the product-buying audience at home.

同样社会政治动力也在“双11”期间起了作用,只不过它把在家中采购的受众渐渐也拉了进来。

“The economy has grown so quickly that more and more people are left with the feeling of not being able to participate fully in the economic miracle,” said Mark Natkin, founder of the technology research firm Marbridge Consultants. “All these people now have this holiday where they can celebrate themselves.”

“经济发展如此迅速,越来越多的人感觉自己无法充分参与这场经济奇迹,”科技调研公司迈博瑞咨询(Marbridge Consulting)创始人马克·纳特金(Mark Natkin)说。“现在这些人有了这个节日,他们可以在其中自己庆祝。”

With growth slowing, Alibaba is increasingly counting on those viewers. Last year, the company’s four-hour gala attracted more than 100 million views on television and live-streaming.

随着增长放缓,阿里巴巴越来越依赖于这些观众。去年,该公司为时四个小时的晚会吸引了超过一亿人通过电视或网络直播观看。

And Mr. Zhang said that Mr. Ma, who has stepped back from the company’s day-to-day operations, will appear on the show. “Jack,” he said, “is very happy to be involved as a participant.”

张勇表示,已经退出公司日常管理的马云也会出席这场晚会。他说,“马云会很乐于参与。”

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