Alibaba Group on Thursday announced that its 11.11 Global Shopping Festival, also known as Singles Day, on Thursday officially launched pre-sale activities, kicking off more than three weeks of interactive marketing promotions and innovative "New Retail" experiences, such as shopping tours and virtual fitting rooms.
More than 140,000 brands will participate in this year’s event, offering promotions for more than 15 million product listings, according to a press release. More than 60,000 international brands will be available to the more than half a billion Chinese consumers visiting Alibaba’s platforms.
Last year, Alibaba’s red letter event saw a record $18 billion in gross merchandise volume across its Chinese and international marketplaces, a 32% increase over 2015. Mobile GMV settled through Alipay last year accounted for 82% of that total, compared to 69% in 2015.
It's not even Halloween, but Alibaba is already previewing its November shopping holiday, a strategy that last year helped shatter its already dominant sales event. The pent-up enthusiasm last year led the company to log $1.4 billion in Singles Day sales in less than seven minutes, reaching $5 billion within the first hour. To do that, the conglomerate’s marketplaces began working with brands months before and released a complex system of vouchers, coupons and deals, according to Betty Zhu, a senior manager at PwC’s Shanghai office.
Exactly what that means is unclear. With so many consumer goods now part of the blockbuster event, many people are simply postponing their regular shopping for a day when they can find things like their favorite shampoo steeply discounted and buy it in bulk, Zhu told Retail Dive last year.
Alibaba in August turned in quarterly results that reflect healthy sales in a still-growing Chinese economy with a healthy middle class. Its robust numbers are also the fruits of its efforts to connect to Chinese consumers socially and culturally by reducing friction in transactions.
Earlier this year, Jack Ma, executive chairman of the Alibaba Group outlined the company's "Five-new" strategy, aimed at developing New Retail, New Finance, New Manufacturing, New Technology and New Energy. The company is focusing on developing a consumer-focused ecosystem that includes entertainment and a cloud services unit that provides revenue and a resource for its sellers. While that sounds a lot like Amazon, the Chinese company is creating an e-commerce infrastructure that is more social and interactive beyond search. CEO Daniel Zhang told investors earlier this year that the company has essentially grown into an economy unto itself, fueled by Chinese consumers’ comfort with interacting with retailers on mobile. Alibaba’s Taobao marketplace sees some 85% of its transactions from mobile.
Not all is rosy, however, especially for upscale international brands. The company continues to be dogged by law enforcement action as well as brand and customer complaints about counterfeit sales at its Taobao and Tmall marketplaces. In August, the company told 180 brand representatives at its Brand Rights Holders Day that it’s beefing up its Intellectual Property Protection platform, using data to speed takedown requests. And some brands appear ready to give those efforts a chance. Also in August, Gucci owner Kering said it dropped its lawsuit against the Chinese e-commerce giant to work together on fighting sales of fakes.