Alibaba Group on Friday launched its 10th Singles Day shopping event, saying in a blog post that this year’s "event will be the largest-ever in scale and reach."
The Chinese e-commerce giant’s Tmall marketplace Oct. 20 began offering 500,000 items for pre-order, and customers can already access promotional coupons via Mobile Taobao and Mobile Tmall, according to the post on the company’s Alizila blog.
Some 180,000 brands will participate in 11.11. New this year, 200,000 independent stores that sell apparel, consumer goods, beauty products, automobile and home décor industries will help boost traffic to offline and Tmall shopping destinations, the company said.
Last year on Singles Day, Alibaba rang up a record $25.3 billion in sales, blasting past the previous year’s record of $17.8 billion (itself a 32% increase over 2015).
The company has come a long way in a decade: The first Singles Day in 2009 brought in $7.8 million in gross merchandise value, according to the blog post. "We began with a small dream: To launch an online event. We didn’t expect it to magnify to today’s scale." Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang wrote in the post.
The word "day" has increasingly become a misnomer, as the e-commerce giant generates buzz and doles out coupons long before the calendar reaches Nov. 11. The company has also increasingly blurred lines not just between on- and offline sales, but also between retail and entertainment, part of its "New Retail" effort to be wherever its customers are, no matter what they're doing.
The company's Tmall marketplace Oct. 20 broadcast a "See Now, Buy Now" fashion show live on 10 platforms, where millions of customers had the chance to buy items "on the spot" and vote for their favorite looks.
Delivery is a focus, too, as is brick and mortar, including pop-up shops, many of which use AI and other technology to interact with customers and show off goods. Social media and texting apps also help with promotion.
Singles Day has become a sprawling event, and Alibaba is taking notes to know how to run the next one. "In the past decade, we have gone through many changes and collected some great memories," Zhang said. "But in the grand scheme of things, this is just the beginning. In the next five to 10 years, surely the internet will change, and thus we will have to innovate new ways to serve our customers."