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Singles Day generates $23.3 billion for Alibaba merchants

Alibaba’s 11.11 Global Shopping Festival broke records again this year, reaching a gross merchandise value (GMV) of RMB 120.7 billion ($23.3 billion) in 24 hours. It surpassed last year’s total of RMB 91.2 billion ($20.3 billion) after 15 hours.

Australian retailers selling on Alibaba’s Tmall and Tmall Global platforms blew past their 2015 GMV after just 9 hours. Chemist Warehouse once again was a standout performer on Singles Day, breaking the RMB 100 million mark before the day was over – a first for an overseas retailer.

Other ANZ brands to see success at the big online sales event were Jeanswest, UGG, Swisse and Blackmores. Australia was the fourth highest-selling country in Alibaba’s 11.11 Global Shopping Festival, up from its fifth-place ranking last year, thanks to the increased number of Australian retailers selling on the platforms.

Alibaba’s new team in Australia has played a key role in that growth and in boosting the profile of ANZ brands among Chinese consumers.

“When we announced the opening of our ANZ office earlier this year, one of our goals was to improve the country’s outstanding performance in Alibaba’s 11.11 sale,” Maggie Zhou, Alibaba’s Australian chief executive, told Internet Retailing at the event last week.

Looking beyond Australia, this year’s shopping festival was Alibaba’s most global one yet, with 235 countries and regions completing cross-border transactions and 37 per cent of total buyers purchasing from international brands or merchants.

It’s a testament to the Chinese e-commerce giant’s global strategy for growth, which involves connecting two billion consumers, mostly in the emerging markets, with tens of millions of merchants, mostly in mature markets, by 2026.

Alibaba has taken steps towards this goal already, with its investment in India’s biggest mobile wallet, Paytm, and its acquisition of South East Asia’s biggest e-commerce platform, Lazada. Under its new “buy globally, sell globally” initiative, Alibaba is also helping merchants on the Tmall platform sell into other markets, not just China.

“The merchant can use one account to sell products in various markets. We have a trial for retailers now to sell into Hong Kong and Taiwan already. And we can extend that to more markets,” Zhou told Internet Retailing in China.

Ultimately, this capability will enable retailers in Australia to connect with consumers in South East Asia and India. Zhou said Alibaba doesn’t have a timeline for when that will occur.

 

The 2016 Singles Day sale also provided a glimpse into the Alibaba’s vision for the future of retail, which sees shopping as entertainment rather than necessity.

A four-hour gala celebration counting down to the midnight start of Singles Day  included appearances by international celebrities like David and Victoria Beckham, Kobe Bryant, Victoria’s Secret models and Scarlett Johansson.

Alibaba’s global ambassador Katy Perry pulled out of the show at the last minute, citing a family emergency, but US rock group One Republic and numerous local Chinese musical acts, entertained the audience at Shenzhen Universiade Centre and viewers watching at home.

Mobile and social games drove 6.8 billion interactions during the show, which was produced by Hollywood veteran David Hill.

Customer engagement was also a core theme of this year’s shopping festival, which included a fashion show streamed live around the world, an augmented reality game driving offline purchases and a virtual reality experience that supported the whole browse to buy shopping journey.

“This year’s 11.11 is a preview of the future of retail, where entertainment, commerce and interactive engagement intersect seamlessly,” Alibaba Group’s CEO Daniel Zhang said. “From the kick-off of warm-up activities to last night’s countdown gala and all the way through the 24-hour global shopping festival itself, we’ve seen unprecedented engagement between consumers and merchants.”

Over 600 million packages will be delivered over the next week, presenting a big logistical challenge for Alibaba’s partners.

The e-commerce giant has copped criticism for its handling of Singles Day deliveries in years past, but Alibaba’s founder and executive chairman Jack Ma was confident in his speech at the close of the event, saying everyone with two legs in China’s logistics industry would be out making deliveries.

The final figures from the 11.11 Global Shopping Festival will be audited by PriceWaterhouseCoopers. The decision is likely intended to reassure shareholders, as the US Securities and Exchange Commission investigates Alibaba’s accounting practices. The e-commerce company said it is cooperating fully with the SEC.

Heather McIlvaine attended the 2016 11.11 Global Shopping Festival in Shenzhen, China, as a guest of Alibaba.

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