Alibaba Singles’ Day shopping frenzy exceeds US$16.8b to break record
Spending on Alibaba platforms, which include Tmall, Taobao and AliExpress, soared past last year’s record of US$14.3 billion by 5.40pm, and has hit US$17.8 billion, chalking up a 24 per cent growth
Alibaba Group Holding, the e-commerce giant behind the 24-hour Singles’ Day shopping blitz – the world’s biggest retail event surpassing Black Friday – smashed last year’s sales record of 91.2 billion yuan, soaring past the total at 3:19pm on Friday.
Spending on Alibaba platforms, including Tmall, Taobao and AliExpress, topped 120.7 billion yuan (US$17.8 billion), a 32 per cent rise on last year’s sales.
More than 82 per cent of the sales were conducted through mobile devices, with purchases using smartphones 99 billion yuan, according to Alibaba’s live data.
Launched in 2009, the day-long event held annually on November 11 is considered a benchmark for the country’s continuing swing towards online shopping, and is seen by economists as a bellwether of consumer demand.
This year’s selling spree kicked off at midnight in Shenzhen with a gala event featuring a host of celebrities, including English football legend David Beckham, basketball star Kobe Bryant, actress Scarlett Johansson and rock band One Republic, to drum up international attention.
There was an immediate wave of pre-orders that shoppers had placed ahead that propelled the first billion dollars of transactions in less than five minutes, said Alibaba, which also owns the South China Morning Post.
Spending took place across the spectrum of retail goods, from soya sauce to shampoo.
Singles’ Day has become an emerging billion-dollar battle ground for Alibaba and its chief rival JD.com in their hunt for new growth areas.
The spending this year had also been expected to be higher partly because of the quality of goods being offered to attract the rising middle classes, who are thirsty for everything from sparkling water from Fiji to biscuits from Britain.
The anticipated fight for sales, particularly in the grocery segment, escalated three weeks ago in the lead-up to Singles’ Day, when Wal-Mart Stores said it set up a store in Beijing in a tie-up with JD to deliver imported goods to shoppers “within hours”.
On the same day in Hong Kong, Alibaba brought into spotlight its alliance with Costco Wholesale, the largest warehouse retailer in the United States, as well as other grocery brands, such as Procter & Gamble, that were expected to be at the forefront of promotions, including offering steep discounts and products not yet available in China.
The pacts with western consumer multinationals is just part of a multibillion-dollar campaign rolled out by Alibaba, which has vowed to outspend its rivals to gain an upper hand in the online grocery war.