Alibaba smashes sales record for world’s largest online shopping spree

Nicole Kidman and footballer Luís Figo star in Shanghai gala to kick off 24 hour shopping festival

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 November, 2017, 1:23am
UPDATED : Monday, 13 November, 2017, 12:05pm

China further burnished its position as the leader in e-commerce and mobile payments as Alibaba Group took a little over 13 hours to smash its 24-hour annual November 11 consumer festival sales tally, now three times the combined sales of Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the United States.

The total gross merchandise volume (GMV) - or the amount of sales transacted on Alibaba’s e-commerce platforms on November 11 this year – was 168.2 billion yuan (US$25.3 billion), compared to US$18.1 billion last year.

An early glimpse of that buying fury was seen as consumers spent 10 billion yuan in only three minutes on Alibaba’s e-commerce platforms after the shopping spree kicked off at midnight – half the time it took to breach that mark last year. Mobile transactions accounted for 90 per cent of the sales so far for this year’s event, compared with the 85 per cent for the whole day average in 2016.

“168.2 billion yuan sales is not only a record in China, but also a record worldwide,” said Alibaba chief executive Daniel Zhang Yong.

“The number of orders placed on Alibaba platforms reached 777 million as of 23:30pm.

“Single’s Day is Olympic Games for Chinese merchants. Sales of 157 merchants exceed 100 million yuan; 17 merchants exceed 500 million; 5 merchants exceed 1 billion yuan.”

Rising incomes among China’s 300 million middle-class consumers and their demand for better quality have propelled China consumption and helped transform the country’s economy from an export- and investment-led model to one that’s driven by consumption, said Joe Tsai, co-founder and vice-chairman of Alibaba Group. Consumer spending in China accounted for 40 per cent of GDP, compared with almost 70 per cent for the US, and reaching that level would translate to annual spending of US$700 billion to US$800 billion, he said.

“Retail is entertainment,” Tsai told reporters at the Friday evening gala in Shanghai to usher in Singles’ Day, as it is known in China. “Nowadays in China, the first greeting isn’t whether you’ve eaten, but how many items do you have in your shopping cart.”

During a four-hour live broadcast of the Singles’ Day gala event in Shanghai on Friday, Alibaba gave out 270 million yuan worth of rewards, including free trips to the Antarctic.

Advanced technology was used to demonstrate interaction between technology and humans, with Fifa 2001 World Player of the Year Luís Figo trying to score a goal through a robot goalkeeper. Through virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology, live images of actress Fan Bingbing were transmitted to audiences at home, who could interact with the star via VR headsets.

To top it off, Alibaba founder Jack Ma Yun performed on stage with Hollywood star Nicole Kidman to promote tai chi and Chinese culture.

Twelve minutes and 18 seconds was all it took for the first delivery from Singles’ Day to arrive at the doorstep of a resident surnamed Liu in Shanghai, according to Alibaba. Liu bought biscuits and snacks from the Tmall Supermarket and the order was sent to the nearest warehouse, where automated robots took less than four minutes to complete the pickup and package wrapping.

At 12.33am, a lady surnamed Ru in Ningbo, Zhejiang province received her order of South Korean branded cosmetics, the first consumer to receive imported goods placed on Tmall Global – Alibaba’s cross-border e-commerce platform. International brands on the platform have been stocking their products at various free trade zones in China in advance to facilitate the customs clearance and shipments.

As of 18.49pm Saturday, a total of 675 million logistic orders had been placed on Alibaba platforms, equivalent to the whole day’s amount of orders registered during the full day on November 11 last year.

Ensuring that logistics could keep up with the orders was a particular focus for retailers. Alibaba’s logistics arm Cainiao Network spent 1.5 billion yuan to assist its Chinese merchandisers and logistics partners to build more warehouses and improve delivery efficiency ahead of the annual shopping spree.

Online retailer, which started its own online shopping promotion on November 1, racked up 111 billion yuan in cumulative sales as of 3pm on Saturday, with fashion and household appliances among the most popular categories, according to the company.

Richard Liu, founder and CEO of, said at a briefing in Beijing on Saturday that over the last decade online merchants have developed to become the major driving force for retail.

“Consumers are increasingly focusing on quality and the experience when it comes to shopping online,” he said.

Alibaba is also willing to export the Singles’ Day 24-hour shopping concept to the rest of the world as the company has committed to serve 2 billion consumers worldwide by 2036, Tsai said.

Currently, global purchasers are able to join the festival in China through its delivery arm Aliexpress that enables shoppers around the world to purchase goods from Chinese online merchants. Some websites are also trying to provide shopping tips to international consumers on what products are good to buy during the shopping festival in China.

Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.

Additional reporting by Amanda Lee