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Can Alibaba’s Singles’ Day Live Up To The Hype?

Alibaba’s Singles’ Day has a lot of hype to live up to after shattering the single-day online sales record last year.

Known as the largest shopping day in the world, Singles’ Day blows Black Friday and Cyber Monday out of the water. Of course, China has a much larger pool of consumers to attract to its global shopping festival, but that doesn’t mean its numbers aren’t worth noting.

So, let’s recap.

Last year’s Singles’ Day sales figures rang in at $9.3 billion in just a 24-hour period. That figure applies to the GMV that was settled via Alipay, the online and mobile payment service from Alibaba’s financial arm, Ant Financial.

Alibaba said its sales for Singles’ Day last year surpassed $2 billion in the first hour — including more than $1 million in Alipay transactions in the first 18 minutes — and 45.7 percent of first-hour sales were via mobile. The Chinese eCommerce giant expects to clear $8.2 billion for the holiday, which would be a 43 percent rise from $5.75 billion on Singles’ Day in 2013, when sales surpassed the combined online sales of Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the U.S.

To put Alibaba’s figures into context, the total amount that retailers took in during Black Friday was $50.9 billion. And that was over a four-day holiday weekend. The number of shoppers during the holiday weekend was estimated to be 133.7 million.

This year, Alibaba will kick off the holiday by ringing the NYSE bell on Wednesday, Nov. 11. The bell will be rung remotely from Beijing.

“Alibaba is honored to ring the Opening Bell from Beijing in celebration of our 11.11 Global Shopping Festival,” Alibaba Group Executive Chairman Jack Ma said. “This day is not just the largest shopping day in the world, but a demonstration of the scale and impact of our global ecosystem. This festival is a thermometer for the Chinese economy, allowing the world to see the consumption potential of China and the future opportunities for SMEs around the world.”

The widely recognized Chinese retail holiday, aimed at encouraging singles to shop for something special for themselves, may seem like China’s own commercial Hallmark holiday, but the sales it generates — both online and in store — are nothing to brush off.

In six years’ time, Alibaba has grown from just 27 participating merchants to more than 50,000 brands and merchants participating. And it even has a growing international presence with 10,000 international brands participating from 25 countries.

Keeping in tone with Alibaba’s globalization plans, Ma has expressed the desire to turn the holiday created by his company in China into a global shopping holiday. That’s why the name has been more commonly referred to as the 11.11 Global Shopping Festival.

With last year’s momentum behind it, Alibaba is hoping to shake things up by working with more international brands, foreign governments, trade associations, global retailers and brick-and-mortar stores inside China. And it’s got the stats from 2014 to back up another potentially big year for the eCommerce giant.

This includes:

  • ~27,000 merchants from around the world participated, including 42,000 global brands.
  • 278 million orders were made in a 24-hour period.
  • 42.6 percent of total GMV was transacted on mobile devices, which was up from 21 percent of total GMV during the 11.11 sale in 2013.
  • Consumers from 217 countries and regions were able to purchase more than 1 million products available on Alibaba marketplaces.

The company is also enhancing its omnichannel and mobile commerce offerings with participation from more than 1,000 retail brands that operate 180,000 brick-and-mortar stores in 330 cities across China.

Encouraging cross-border commerce has been a major push for Alibaba, particularly for this shopping holiday.

In a study conducted by Nielsen and released to Reuters, 56 percent of 1,000 Internet users in China said that they planned on spending more on Singles’ Day than they had in 2014. Nearly 33 percent indicated they would purchase roughly the same amount, and only 6 percent said that they planned on pulling back on Singles’ Day spending.

“It’s not a huge surprise that consumers are planning to spend more during this year’s [Singles’ Day],” Yan Xuan, president of Nielsen Greater China, told Reuters. “Income levels and Internet penetration continue to rise throughout China, so this is a natural progression.”

Greater spending totals in 2015 could push Singles’ Day into unprecedented territory for retail holiday traffic. MarketWatch reported that Alibaba, China’s largest eCommerce marketplace, processed more than $2 billion in sales in the first hour and 11 seconds of Singles’ Day 2014 alone. By the time the day drew to a close, the site had surpassed $9 billion, 43 percent of which was due to mobile purchases.

Since the first “official” Singles’ Day in 2009, Alibaba’s sales alone have skyrocketed by more than 5,740 percent, and it appears that trend will continue.

To check out what else is HOT in the world of payments, click here.

For more on cross-border commerce, check out the PYMNTS.com X-Border Payments Optimization Index

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