Alibaba smashes sales records in 24-day shopping festival

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Alipay, the online payment service started by Alibaba Group, helped to drive mobile sales with its integration on Alibaba's smartphone app. Alipay completed 256,000 payment transactions a second at peak within the first hour of Singles Day, per a statement. "JD.com saw $19.1 billion in their own Singles Day sales, representing 50% growth from previous year (though they started their event on 11/1 and ran it through 11/11 to ease delivery bottlenecks)", said Carter.

But like Amazon in the U.S., Alibaba has a strategy to integrate online shopping with brick-and-mortar stores, which still make up 85% of total retail sales, according to the company.

The sheer scale of Singles Day is mind boggling. Sales of 157 merchants exceed 100 million yuan; 17 merchants exceed 500 million; 5 merchants exceed 1 billion yuan. The $25.3 billion total is a new record for the shopping holiday. In the beginning, the gross product sale was just short of a billion dollars from a year ago, but soon broke the record in terms of local currency.

For this year's Singles Day, Alibaba offered numerous offers and discounts on products from over eighty-two brand including Nike and Xiaomi. And about 90% of the purchases were done through mobile as the company reveals. Nicole Kidman, Pharrell Williams and Maria Sharapova appeared on stage this year, and past performers have included David and Victoria Beckham, Daniel Craig and Kobe Bryant.

The gala was held in Shanghai, China, where Alibaba handed out 270 million (about $40.7 million) worth of prizes such as free trips to the Antarctic. Singles Day also heavily used streamed video as a marketing and promotional tool and live streaming video is becoming ever more central to its marketing strategies. "It's about consumer engagement and brand-building", Zhang said. The day is exactly what it sounds like - a celebration of ones' relationship status, and the annual date, 11/11, is a (literal) celebration of the number one.

Alibaba has been celebrating the occasion since 2009 by giving wonderful and steep discounts to a wide variety of products sold on its platform, Tmall.

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