After breaking Black Friday and other sales records last year, Alibaba has doubled down on Singles Day this year by starting the annual sale a full ten days early on November 1 and introducing virtual anchors to answer customer questions on 24/7 livestreams.
The Chinese ecommerce giant holds its 11.11 Global Shopping Festival, or Singles Day as it is widely known, every year on November 11 and last year the event brought in $38bn in sales.
Just 30 minutes into to this year's Singles Day, total gross merchandise volume (GMV) had already exceeded $56bn with number of orders coming in per second reaching a peak of 583,000. It's worth noting that this year's figures will be a bit skewed though since Alibaba turned what was previously a one-day sale into a 10 day online shopping bonanza.
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To put Singles Day into context with other big shopping holidays in the US, last year's online retail sales on Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday combined only amounted to $24.6bn in sales.
Singles Day expansion
Alibaba held its first ever Singles Day back in 2009 with just 27 merchants participating in order to raise awareness about the value of online shopping. However, in the years since, the number of merchants has expanded while the sale itself continues to break records each year.
On Singles Day 2020, 14m products from 250,000 brands from 89 countries were available on Alibaba's ecommerce site Tmall. More brands also joined the event this year with 5,000 brands participating for the first time and of these new brands, 2,600 were from outside of the Chinese market.
At this year's event, 13 brands managed to generate sales surpassing $150m in GMV while 342 brands including Apple, Huawei, Xiaomi and others each surpassed $15m in GMV. Computer parts and other electronic goods were also in high demand this year and 16 brands selling these types of products were able to see sales hit $15m within just the first hour of Singles Day on November 1.
A number of merchants this year also employed Alibaba's virtual anchor technology to hold 24/7 livestreams on Taobao Live showcasing their products. These AI-powered avatars were developed by the firm's DAMO research and innovation institute and are capable of interacting with consumers and answering their questions about products. To do so, they use natural language processing (NLP) and speech recognition to better understand consumer questions.
As reported by Business Insider, Alibaba reported shortly after midnight on November 11 that this year's Singles Day surpassed $74bn in sales beating last year's record by almost double.
Singles Day has grown significantly in popularity over the past few years though it's unclear as to whether or not Alibaba will make it a one-day event again next year or continue kicking off its largest sale of the year on November 1 going forward.
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