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Alibaba’s Singles Day event breaks records with $74 billion in sales

The 12th annual Alibaba Singles Day event was the longest — 11 days —and highest-grossing edition of the e-commerce sales bonanza yet.

Alibaba Group reported a final gross merchandise volume (GMV) of $74.1 billion. This figure almost doubled the previously record-setting $38.4 billion in GMV Alibaba generated during the 2019 Singles Day event. (All financial metrics in article are in U.S. dollars.)

However, 2020 marked the first time Alibaba expanded Singles Day from a 24-hour event with some preview sales into a two-phase event with two separate shopping windows. The first window, held Nov. 1-3, drew hundreds of millions of customers to Alibaba’s various online marketplaces as soon as it began on Sunday, Nov. 1. 

Although the second window Singles Day officially opened for a 24-hour period on Wednesday, Nov. 11 (most of China is in a time zone 13 hours ahead of U.S. Eastern Time), Alibaba offered a variety of special discounts in between the two windows and presented Singles Day 2020 as an 11-day event.

More than 16 million promotional items were available during the second shopping window of the Singles Day shopping festival. More than 250,000 brands and 800 million consumers were expected to participate, making Singles Day the world’s largest online shopping event. Two hundred luxury brands participated, twice as many as 2019.
As of 00:30 on November 11 China Standard Time, the total gross merchandise volume (GMV) of the 11-day campaign had surpassed RMB372.3 billion. The number of orders created at peak was 583,000 orders per second. 

Following are some interesting sales metrics recorded by Alibaba during Wednesday, Nov. 11 (all times are in China Standard Time zone):

•    As of 8:05 p.m., total GMV had exceeded $69.5 billion.

•    As of 12:35 a.m., 342 brands had achieved almost $15 million in GMV, including 13 brands that surpassed $150 million USD in GMV. Top brands included Adidas, Apple, Estée Lauder, L’Oréal, Lancôme, and Nike.

•    As of 1:00 a.m., 70 brands selling computers, communications and consumer electronics products, including brands such as Apple and Dyson, achieved sales of more than $14.9 billion in GMV.

•    As of 12:00 pm, 28 livestreaming channels on Alibaba’s Taobao Live video-streaming sales platform each surpassed $14.9 billion in GMV.

•    As of 12:00 pm, Alibaba’s Tmall Global cross-border commerce platform saw a 47% increase in sales of imported products.

Volume outpaced U.S. online sales combined for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and also topped Amazon’s Prime Day (estimated by eMarketer at $9.9 billion globally for 2020). 

“Over the past 12 years, innovation has been at the heart of 11.11 and along the way it became a global consumer festival. 11.11 is defined by our consumers, merchants and our partners across the ecosystem, and also a beneficiary of all the support from society,” said Jiang Fan, president of Alibaba's Taobao and Tmall subsidiaries. “We will continue to focus on developing our digital infrastructure in the service of empowering merchants of all sizes to find a path to success in the digital economy.”

“Singles Day will be a good indicator of the health of the Chinese market in general, which seems to be on a tear at the moment,” said Andy Halliwell, senior director, retail at digital consultancy Publicis Sapient. “As Alibaba expands internationally, Singles Day will look to rival Western offerings such as Amazon ‘Prime Day’ and even ‘Black Friday.’ In the U.K. & Europe, we’re already seeing more retailers than ever run Singles Day promotions, latching onto any promotional activity that could potentially help improve sales in the run-up to Christmas during what is a critical time for the challenging retail industry.”

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