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Alibaba Group Kickstarts 11.11 Global Shopping Festival

The biggest online shopping day of the year is coming back, but with a twist.

Alibaba Group unveiled plans Thursday for the launch of its 11.11 Global Shopping Festival, more than three weeks of marketing promotions, entertainment programs and new product offerings from around the world to engage Chinese consumers in the run-up to Singles’ Day on Nov. 11.

“11.11 has evolved far beyond a 24-hours sales event,” said Alibaba Group’s chief executive officer, Daniel Zhang. “From today through Nov. 11, consumers will discover, explore, play, watch, comment, share, recommend and shop across our entire ecosystem with our merchants both online and offline.”

The celebration will include mobile live-streaming, virtual reality shopping, interactive games, an eight-hour live-streamed fashion show and a countdown gala, all innovative solutions that enable 100,000 merchants to build their brands and sell to the millions of Chinese consumers that will shop on Alibaba’s marketplace during the festival.

Zhang added, “11.11 Shopping Festival has become the global retail benchmark over the past seven years and we have raised the bar again this year to redefine the retail experience for consumers together with our merchants from around the world.”

Four focus areas will be incorporated during the festival, which will support the scale of the event and Alibaba’s global growth strategy. They include entertainment and interactive engagement, online to offline (O2O) initiatives, personalization through big data and buy globally, sell globally.

Entertainment and interactive engagement will get Chinese consumers involved in the festival and also help merchants explore creative ways to sell their products. Activities will include Tmall’s eight-hour fashion show in Shanghai on Oct. 23, 600 international brands’ online broadcasts from Oct. 21-Nov. 11, Alibaba’s pilot of virtual reality shopping experience Buy+ and the 11.11 Global Shopping Festival Gala on Nov. 10.

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Integrating data with offline experiences will be the primary objective of the festival’s O2O initiative. To prepare for this task, Alibaba will release a location-based augmented reality (AR) mobile game two weeks prior to the event. The AR mobile game will involve consumers following the Tmall Cat mascot on a virtual adventure, where they can earn special promotions and prizes at real-life brick-and-mortar locations.

Consumers will also have their own personalized shopping experience for the festival. By expanding personalization with big data, consumers will receive their own product recommendations, search results and newsfeeds throughout the event.

Buying globally and selling globally is a long-term goal for Alibaba Group. The company hopes to serve two billion customers and support 10 million small brands, businesses and retailers by 2026. Alibaba is currently the gateway for international brands and merchants to sell their products to Chinese consumers. It’s also debuting a new pilot program to help international merchants sell beyond China to consumers overseas.