Alibaba CEO: '11.11 isn’t just about sales', even as it sets new records

Alibaba Group announced that US$25.3 billion (RMB168.2 billion) of gross merchandise volume (GMV) was settled through Alipay on 11 November, 2017 for its 11.11 Global Shopping Festival, an increase of 39% compared to 2016.

The e-commerce giant said 167 merchants each generated over RMB100 million (US$15.1 million) in sales, 17 merchants surpassed RMB500 million (US$75.4 million) and 6 merchants surpassed RMB1 billion (US$150.9 million).

Total mobile GMV settled through Alipay was approximately 90% of total GMV, compared to 82% last year. At its peak, the company’s processors handled 256,000 transactions per second.

To pump merchandise, the Chinese company also hosted a star-studded gala with film star Nicole Kidman and American rapper Pharrell Williams in Shanghai.

"We want the 'China phenomenon' (in retail) to spread to the whole world," said Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang.

Moreover, Zhang said the shopping festival is about much more to the group than GMV and ever-rising numbers.

"I’ve talked with a lot of brand partners, and all of them recognise the importance of good sales. But more importantly, they know 11.11 isn’t just about sales. It’s about consumer engagement and brand-building," Zhang said. "Success on 11.11 comes because every participant contributes the best resources, the best products and the best services to customers on that day."

From the start of its event promotion three weeks ago, Alibaba looked to elevate this year’s 11.11 from a shopping day to a virtual holiday, complete with a motto ­– “Wishing you a Happy 11.11” ­– that closely resembles the sort of greetings Chinese all over the world exchange at the Lunar New Year.

This year’s 11.11 was also about further validating the "new retail" model Alibaba has been rolling out with merchants and brands, helping them introduce technology that seamlessly melds their online and offline operations and consumer experiences.

And brands stepped up digital efforts to increase customer engagement. Some, including Pizza Hut, took part in the "catch the cat" augmented-reality game, which entertained customers and offered them discount coupons for items purchased during 11.11. Others, like Nike, took part in an interactive trivia game that Alibaba launched on its Tmall and Taobao apps.

Via pop-up smart stores and in-store technology, Alibaba and brands drove online traffic to brick-and-mortar stores, in a bid to erase the boundaries between the two. Maybelline featured technology that allowed customers to try on lipstick virtually.