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Alibaba Group promises to redefine retail as it sets the clock ticking for Singles Day shopping festival

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Alibaba Group has started the clock on the Global Shopping Festival it will hold on November 11, which is known as Singles Day in the Chinese market where it dominates online shopping.

The retailer, which trades through marketplace sites including and TMall, has unveiled its plans for a festival that’s set to include a countdown gala, an eight-hour live streamed fashion show, virtual reality shopping, interactive games and more.

These are all innovations aimed at enabling almost 100,000 merchants to build their brands, as well as engage with and sell to the hundreds of millions of Chinese consumers it predicts will shop on its marketplaces during the festival.

Last year’s event (the launch is pictured), saw goods worth £9.3bn sold via the group’s websites.

The press launch alone was attended by brands from Macy’s and Costco through to Swisse and eMart. There, Daniel Zhang, chief executive officer of Alibaba Group, said, “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.”

Zhang continued, “11.11 has evolved far beyond a 24-hours sales event. From today through November 11, consumers will discover, explore, play, watch, comment, share, recommend and shop across our entire ecosystem with our merchants both online and offline. Leveraging our robust infrastructure, global merchants have been empowered with unprecedented capability to seamlessly engage and serve customers through new technology and new environments.”

Highlights of the Global Shopping Festival will include a Tmall eight-hour fashion show in Shanghai in which 50 international brands and 160 models will take part. It will be streamed live via Tmall and Taobao mobile apps that viewers can use to pre-order items as they appear on the catwalk.

Shoppers will be able to use virtual reality to buy, as Alibaba pilots Buy+, billed as the world’s first complete virtual reality (VR) shopping experience. Those who use it will be virtually transported to select retail stores internationally, where they can experience the entire shopping process from product selection to payment, all via VR.

In the run-up to the event, more than 600 international brands are streaming live broadcasts on Tmall to tell consumers about their brand and the deals and products they’ll be offering on 11.11.

Katy Perry will headline the 11.11 Global Shopping Festival Gala on November 10.

The event will link online and offline: Alibaba believes the future of commerce is not online only but will integrate the online and offline experience. A location-based augmented reality mobile, to be released two weeks ahead of the festival, will enable consumers to follow the Tmall Cat across the online and offline retail ecosystem: offline partners include shopping malls in Beijing and Shenzen, Shanghai Disneyland, KFC and Starbucks. Alibaba is also working with more than a million offline shops to present consumers with a joined-up experience.

The retailer also promises each consumer a personalised shopping experience, thanks to the use of big data that will drive tailored product recommendations, search results, and user-generated content.

The retailer is also focusing on going global, and aims within 10 years to serve two billion consumers, while supporting 10m small businesses, brands and retailers. The 2016 11.11 Global Shopping Festival includes a ‘buy globally, sell globally’ initiative that focuses on making Alibaba a gateway for international brands and merchants to sell to consumers in China. Meanwhile, it is also piloting approaches to supporting global retailers and brands as they sell beyond China. It is taking its infrastructure, including logistics and payments to Hong Kong and Taiwan – the first steps in its expansion strategy.

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