Alibaba 11.11 Mega Sale: Mo’ Global, Mo’ Better

Major international brands are set to join Alibaba Group’s upcoming 11.11 Global Shopping Festival as the Chinese e-commerce titan continues its efforts to turn the world’s largest 24-hour online sale into a global phenomenon.

At an 11.11 kickoff ceremony held today in Hong Kong, Alibaba Group CEO Daniel Zhang said the multibillion-dollar shopping extravaganza this year will be “the most global 11.11 shopping festival ever.” The event “has become the global retail benchmark over the past seven years,” Zhang said in a statement, “and we have raised the bar again this year to redefine the retail experience for consumers together with our merchants from around the world.”

Watch highlights from the 2016 11.11 launch ceremony at the site of Hong Kong’s old Kai Tak Airport.

Participating brands this year include well-known apparel labels such as Zara, Nike and Uniqlo; electronics giants like Bose and Samsung; cosmetics brands such as Estee Lauder and L’Oreal; and consumer products heavyweights P&G and Unilever. Brands joining 11.11 for the first time this year include Maserati, Apple, and Guerlain.

The 11.11 shopping festival, which takes place on Nov. 11, generated GMV totaling $14.3 billion in 2015, far surpassing Western online sales like Cyber Monday. Alibaba’s mega-sale is a building block in the company’s long-term globalization strategy: It provides a high-volume, high-profile promotional event that encourages international merchants to use Alibaba as a gateway to sell directly to China’s burgeoning consumer class and promote their brands in the world’s largest consumer market. Alibaba’s online-shopping marketplaces have more than 434 million annual active buyers.

Zhang stressed that 11.11 has evolved into a consumer experience that is larger than a 24-hour online sale on Alibaba’s China retail marketplaces Tmall.com and Taobao Marketplace. In the weeks prior to the event, Alibaba and multinational merchants will conduct innovative digital promotions, brand-building campaigns and omni-channel marketing that will engage consumers throughout Alibaba’s ecosystem of e-commerce and media platforms.

Nor is Alibaba focusing exclusively on helping international brands sell to the mainland during the festival. The company has been expanding its marketplaces and e-commerce infrastructure, including logistics and payments systems, beyond China. This year, the company is introducing a pilot program to help merchants extend their global e-commerce reach by selling products to consumers in Hong Kong and Taiwan through the company’s Tmall.hk shopping site.

Tmall.hk offers a cross-border shopping solution that provides global brands with a simplified channel for selling online to Chinese-speaking consumers. Orders will be delivered to customers through a global logistics network run by Cainiao, Alibaba’s logistics arm. In Hong Kong, the average delivery time is around 3-7 working days.

More than 100 brands have joined the “Sell Globally” pilot program for the 11.11 festival, among them Costco and Skechers from the U.S., Chemist Warehouse from Australia and La Perla from Italy.

Alibaba said it has plans to roll out the program in other markets such as Southeast Asia, where Alibaba has a majority stake in regional e-commerce website Lazada, and to other markets where there is a sizable Chinese community.

The program “enables merchants to run efficient, transparent and barrier-free businesses and to sell and deliver products worldwide,” Zhang said. “We start from Hong Kong and Taiwan, and for the next step we will expand to Southeast Asia and then globally.”