The manufactured shopping holiday, which launched in 2009, has grown in scope, breadth and time in recent years, jumping from 24 hours to 24 days of deals.
The 11.11 festival, as it’s also called, is a forerunner to Amazon’s Prime Day, which began in 2015. Though Amazon doesn’t disclose sales numbers, it reported a 60 percent increase over 2016, which experts pegged between $500 million and $600 million in sales. Singles Day is also a direct competitor to JD.com’s 618 festival, which brought in $17.6 billion over 18 days in June, just edged out by Alibaba’s 2016 gross merchandise volume of $17.79 billion—82 percent of which occurred on mobile devices.
This year’s festivities kicked off last night with the company’s second annual See Now, Buy Now Fashion Show, which featured 27 brands like Furla, Polo Ralph Lauren and Levi’s as well as labels from companies like LVMH, SMCP and Estée Lauder in a 4-hour televised and live-streamed event. The show featured what Alibaba calls retail-tainment with Adidas using 3D mapping to project images on its models, Estée Lauder debuting a limited edition lipstick and Tmall unveiling a virtual dressing room. The retailer reported sales during the show increased by 118 percent over last year.
The festival will span both online and off, following the company’s push to better integrate the two under its omnichannel New Retail initiative. In a letter to shareholders last month, Chairman Jack Ma said “New Retail will bring about a restructuring of the global supply chain and change the complexion of globalization from the domain of big companies to small businesses.”
In all, the shopping event will include 60 pop-ups in 52 malls in 12 Chinese cities plus about 100,000 stores in 334 cities will be transformed into smart stores with tech enhancements ranging from facial recognition payment to AR beauty tutorials. Tmall is also gamifying the shopping experience with the Catch the Cat app, which is played in stores, offering participants the chance to win additional perks. Alibaba is offering its version of a loyalty program through its red envelope scheme that rewards shoppers who spend a minimum amount with more coupons and discounts.
“The 11.11 Global Shopping Festival is a large-scale business collaboration bringing together consumers, retailers, logistics companies, financial institutions, online as well as offline stores and shopping centers around the world,” said Daniel Zhang, Alibaba Group CEO.
Alibaba is also making a big push to rope the rest of the world into the shopping frenzy this year. Tmall, which now offers 100 Chinese brands globally with a focus on Southeast Asia initially, will provide free shipping to 10 countries during the event.
More than 60,000 international brands will be available, including Adidas, Mac, Nike, Uniqlo and Zara.
Alibaba will celebrate this year’s 11.11 festival with a celeb-studded gala headlined by musician Pharrell.