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PEAK 2021 Record sales at Singles Day 2021

Alibaba's Xiaomanlv driverless robots deliver 11.11 purchases to university campuses in China. Image courtesy of Alizila/Alibaba Group

Alibaba Group group says its 11.11 Singles Day shopping festival saw goods worth a record $84.5bn (£63.1bn) sold via its platform. The event was Alibaba’s largest yet, with 290,000 merchants taking part, including more than 200 brands that sold via the Tmall Luxury Pavilion for the first time. The event focused on sustainability, but supply chain pressures meant goods were stockpiled ahead of the event, while driverless robots were used to help deliver them.

Alibaba Group president Michael Evans says: “The ecommerce environment continues to be very vibrant. China remains an incredibly important market for brands to find growth today but also for growth in the future.”

He adds; “I’ve always believed that if you want to know what the future of global retail will look like, just look at China today, leading the world in creating new retail concepts.”

He singled out livestreaming, which Alibaba started to use five years ago. This year Taobao Live featured 700 influencers, recommending and demonstrating products.

Sustainability strategy

Alibaba Group focused on more sustainable sales for this year’s festival, through a dedicated eco-friendly category that included products from water-saving toilets to Tesla charging stations, and through a tree planting programme run by the Alipay payment business. Other sustainable features included green logistics – with shoppers able to recycle packaging when collecting an item from Alibaba’s Cainiao Network logistics business, and e-shipping labels instead of paper sheets. “In the early stages of 11.11, we focused on growth — the same way that parents would focus on a child’s height and strength,” says Alibaba’s chief marketing officer Chris Tung. “But as a child becomes a teenager, the parents shift their focus to nurturing the child’s sense of responsibility: the role he or she plays in society. That is what we’re doing now. 11.11 is about how to best leverage Alibaba’s latest technology to support brands and merchants in driving sustainable and inclusive growth in more efficient ways.”

In addition, Alibaba’s largest data centre, in Zhangbei County in north west China, reduced its carbon emissions by an estimated nearly 26,000 tonnes during 11.11. It also used its own artificial intelligence inference chip, Hanging 800, to boost computing efficiency. 

Supply chain and logistics 

In order to meet demand for the festival – in the light of supply chain issues following the Covid-19 pandemic – Cainiao Logistics stocked up ahead of 11.11. It stored more than 300m products from 87 countries and regions in warehouses in China. It deployed smart warehouses, distribution centres and smart lockers, while developing a process that combined multiple parcels going to a single address. Alibaba also used 350 Xiaomanlv driverless delivery robots to deliver more than a million orders to universities and local neighbourhoods. 

Cainaio is expected to have delivered more orders during the course of 11.11 2021 than the 2.32bn it delivered last year. The business also helped merchants selling on its Tmall, Taobao and Lazada websites to take cargo space in more than 1,350 flights, 150 trucks and 210 sea freight trips with 1,170 containers. Around two-thirds of the 290,000 sellers that took part in this year’s festival were small and medium sized businesses. 

Diversity and equity strategies

Alibaba launched a Taobao app with a new ‘senior’ mode that uses larger fonts, icons, easier navigation an voice commends to help older people find the products they want to buy. This was used by a daily average of 1.1m users during the event. The business also launched a dedicated landing page for barrier-free products, while Tmall launched a One Shoe programme for people to buy one shoe for half the price of a pair, in order to help people with physical disabilities. About 1.1m people are also expected to benefit from Alibaba’s Goods for Good programme, where merchants could dedicate a portion of sales of a charity of their choice – with the money transferred automatically whenever a product in the category was sold. 

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