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Alibaba Triples Singles’ Day Sales

As we settle into the new year, our Sourcing Summit Companion Report looks ahead at ways to optimize processes and performance.

Alibaba Singles’ Day

Perhaps U.S. apparel retailers struggling to shift excess inventory should take a leaf out of Alibaba’s playbook. The Chinese e-commerce giant raked in $5 billion in revenue in the first 90 minutes of the annual Singles’ Day shopping event.

To put that into perspective, the company’s total sales on the same day last year topped out around $5.9 billion.

That means that in 2015, it took Alibaba’s Taobao and Tmall shopping platforms only an hour and a half to move the same amount of merchandise that they did in a 24-hour period a year ago.

And the momentum didn’t stop there—by 2:05 p.m. local time, the company announced that $10 billion (about 63.6 billion yuan) worth of sales had been processed through its Chinese and international retail marketplaces. Furthermore, mobile commerce accounted for 70 percent of those sales.

As the clock neared midnight, Alibaba revealed it had racked up $14.3 billion in sales—more than two-thirds of which ($9.8 billion) was through mobile devices. Meanwhile, market research firm IDC had predicted final figures in the region of $13.7 billion.

More retailers want to reap the rewards of Singles’ Day

Singles’ Day, also known as Double Eleven, takes place each year on November 11. It started in 1993 as an excuse for China’s single citizens to treat themselves and today, thanks largely to Alibaba, it’s morphed into the biggest online shopping event of the year—one that even U.S. retailers want to get in on.

This year, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue, to name a few, teamed up with e-commerce site Dealmoon.com to offer major markdowns for the day. In some cases, the discounts were deeper than what those department stores plan to put forward on Black Friday.

Speaking earlier this week at the opening gala for the shopping event, Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang said, “This year, Alibaba Group has transformed 11/11 into an unprecedented mobile shopping experience. Over the course of the 24-hour shopping marathon, consumers will have a new surprise every hour that has been especially tailored for mobile users. The whole world will witness the power of Chinese consumption this November 11.”

He added, “Last year, we handled a record-breaking 80,000 orders per second at peak. This year, we expect to handle 120,000 orders and 60,000 payments at peak per second. It will be a proud achievement for us.”

Not everyone was pleased with Alibaba’s approach to this year’s event, however. Last week, the company’s second-largest e-tailer, JD.com, told the State Administration of Industry and Commerce (SAIC) that sellers had been threatened with less traffic on the day if they participated in similar promotions taking place on rival sites.

Nonetheless, JD.com demolished its own records, too: By 6:30 p.m. local time, the site had received more orders than it did in the past five Singles’ Days combined.

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