Alibaba blasts record with US$14 billion in sales on 'Singles Day'

Company reinforces its position as world's largest online retail portal with more than US$6 billion of sales before 8am on 11 November

Alibaba founder Jack Ma’s plan of introducing China’s own version of the US’s ‘Cyber Monday’ shopping campaign has paid record-breaking dividends with the company recording a whopping US$14.3 billion in sales by midnight on 11 November.

The figure obliterates all previous one-day sales records, significant outstripping Alibaba’s own US$9 billion full-day takings last year. That represents an increase of 60 percent.

‘Singles Day’, as 11 November is now known in China for its single-digit symmetry – 11.11 – was coined and introduced by Ma in 2009 in an effort to make inroads into China’s enormous internet shopping market, estimated at around 650 million consumers.

According to an Alibaba press release, the company had generated US$5 billion within the first 90 minutes of this year’s Singles Day. By comparison, the US’s Cyber Monday reportedly made US$1.4 billion in total sales.

"At each 11.11, Alibaba's infrastructure is put to the test and our technological capabilities are taken to the next level," said Daniel Zhang, Alibaba CEO.

"Last year, we handled a record-breaking 80,000 orders at peak per second at peak. This year, we expect[ed] to handle 120,000 orders and 60,000 payments at peak per second."

Janet Dai, managing director of Edelman Digital China, said the numbers reflect the huge and growing buyer power of Chinese consumers and the significant opportunities that brands cannot miss out on.

"Singles Day caters to the Chinese consumer’s desire to take part in mass social events, and gives them a reason to indulge their desire to shop," she told PRWeek Asia.

"Brands and retailers are willing to invest their marketing efforts because Alibaba has created a promotional platform that provides a win-win situation in which brands can increase traffic online to offline and vice versa." 

However, Laura Qiu, director of client services at The Hoffman Agency in Beijing, said there remain issues for brands on Alibaba’s Singles Day because "it is a game of volume".

"While 11.11 looks like it has invigorated domestic spending in China, its reliance on discounts makes it hard to cultivate brand loyalty among those who are primarily concerned about pricing and promotion," she said.

"With consumers only coming out in droves during big sales, it is not hard to understand why shareholders cast doubts on the future growth potential of giants like Alibaba, whose recent spats on growth potential and fake products have caused a drop in its stock price."

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