For the past few weeks, Chinese e-commerce titans have been racking their brains as the year’s largest shopping spree, Singles’ Day is fast approaching on November 11. This isn’t just a competition of who has the best marketing stunts or the biggest subsidies for vendors; the life and death of the online retailers also depend on those who deliver the parcels safe and on-time.

This year’s Singles Day promotion week, which runs from November 11-16, is projected to reach a new record of over one billion packages (in Chinese), a 35% increase from last year and about the number of packages that got sent during the entire year of 2006, according to the Chinese State Post Bureau. That means every Chinese person will receive at least one package on average during Singles Day this year. The peak day will see a turnover of 340 million parcels, triple the regular amount, estimates the Bureau.

To deal with the influx of orders, China’s e-commerce twins—Alibaba and JD.com—are gearing up their logistics ammunition. Alibaba, known for its “asset-light” platform approach, has a logistics unit Cainiao that partners with a consortium of third-party delivery services to fulfil orders. JD, on the other hand, prides itself on direct sales and in-house logistics system, which makes it less profitable than Alibaba—at the moment, according to the company—but they say this ensures the “quality” of products and delivery.

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Rita Liao

Telling the uncommon China stories through tech. I can be reached at ritacyliao [at] gmail [dot] com.