The Singles Day sale promoted by China's online shopping giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. set a record Wednesday for revenue. And buyers using mobile devices accounted for a substantial share of the purchases.
Dubbed "Double 11" in reference to Wednesday being Nov. 11 or 11-11, the big Singles Day sale resulted in “gross merchandise value” soaring to 57.1 billion yuan (about $9.3 billion), according to provisional data from Alibaba. That's far more than U.S. sales from Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined. The Double 11 sales also beat an expected 50 billion yuan estimate for the event.
Mobile shopping proved crucial to the success: With two hours to go, at 10 p.m. Beijing time, sales had touched nearly 52 billion yuan ($8.5 billion) of which 43 percent was accounted for by purchases made on mobile devices. Shipping of some 250 million packages was initiated to fulfill the purchases. “The strategy for Alibaba Group in the next few years will revolve around making the platform mobile-driven and global,” Alibaba Chairman Jack Ma said via a post on the company’s news website, Alizila.com.
The very first hour of the Nov. 11 sale saw $2 billion worth of “gross merchandise value” purchased, according to Alibaba. By 2 p.m. Beijing time, Alibaba’s provisional data on its website showed sales had hit 37.1 yuan, with 10 hours still to go. By then, the company had shipped some 170 million packages. Last year’s 24-hour haul of 36.2 billion yuan ($5.8 billion) was crossed at 1.31 p.m., Alibaba said.
Xiaomi, the upstart Chinese smartphone maker that’s grown quickly over the last two years, had emerged as one of the top grossers. On Tmall.com, the business-to-consumer shopping site, which is part of Alibaba, Xiaomi’s online store hit 1 billion yuan ($163 million) in sales by noon, becoming the first Tmall.com store to ever to break the 1 billion yuan mark in the history of 11.11, Alibaba said.
Multinational brands such as Uniqlo and Adidas are also seeing their online sales boom, Tmall.com President Steve Wang said during a press conference at Alibaba’s headquarters in Hangzhou, China, according to a press release by the company. “Brands like (Spanish clothing retailer) Massimo Dutti, who are participating for the first time this year, are posting good numbers,” Wang said.
Singles Day dates back to the 1990s, when young people celebrated it as a sort of Valentine's Day for people without romantic partners in Nanjing University. But in the Internet era, that has been usurped by retailers as a shopping event.
Alibaba’s tradition of promoting Nov. 11 as a "Double 11" shopping festival started in 2009 with 27 merchants on Tmall.com. This year, more than 27,000 brands and merchants participated, including Costco, Muji, Desigual, ASOS and North Face, Alibaba said.