Online Sales Records Toppled on PRC's Biggest Shopping Day

China's largest shopping event topped RMB 35 billion ($5.7 billion) this year, up a whopping 83 percent from the previous year, as offline promotional activities attracted more users and a surge in participating merchants created a frenzied 11.11 shopping festival.

As the sale drew to a close at midnight on Nov. 11, some 171.4 million orders had been placed on Tmall.com and Taobao Marketplace, Alibaba Group's e-commerce platforms, during the previous 24-hour period. Approximately 21 percent of those orders were placed over mobile devices, up from a mere five percent last year, as users across China took advantage of the free mobile data provided by Alibaba Group. Mobile GMV soared during the 11.11 sale to RMB 5.35 billion more than five times the amount of mobile transactions achieved last year. 

Despite the huge scale of this year's event, Jack Ma, Alibaba Group’s executive chairman, said that the point of 11.11 wasn't to post big numbers for Tmall but to help businesses build bridges to consumers and act as a way to give back to society and customers through cheaper products.

"We hope to turn 11.11 into a day where merchants can thank consumers," Ma told reporters. "So that once a year, merchants will be able to take their bests products and sell them for the lowest prices in order to thank consumers for their support and transform that relationship for the better."

This year’s 11.11 sale involved over 20,000 merchants, including big brands like Gap and Uniqlo, offering deep discounts on an array of goods. The number of unique visitors to the website also doubled to 402 million.

The top Tmall store by gross merchandise value transacted over Alipay was Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi, which also accounted for the top four bestselling products of the day. Two Chinese financial companies, Guo Hua Life and E Fund Management Co Ltd came in second and third in terms of GMV transacted over Alipay.

The total GMV figure for the day is nearly triple last year’s Cyber Monday sales of $1.98 billion, according to Adobe Digital Index, and made this year’s 11.11 the biggest one-day shopping event in the world.

During the sale, the top three provinces by gross merchandise value were the eastern provinces of Zhejiang and Jiangsu and the southern province of Guangdong province. 

Overseas orders also soared with users from Hong Kong, the U.S. and Taiwan participating heavily. The total gross merchandise value for orders from overseas markets was RMB 219.6 million.

Alibaba Group’s 11.11 day shopping festival started in 2009 as a way to spur consumer spending during an annual lull between two big Chinese holidays, the National Holiday in October and Lunar New Year.

"We will continue to do 11.11 but not for the sake of big numbers, whether it is 50 billion, 80 billion or even 100 billion," Ma said. "What we hope for is the healthy development of this festival and not just to blindly pursue a numerical goal."

Some merchants have express mixed feelings about the 11.11 promotion, because the one-day surge in orders puts a heavy burden on their online sales and package delivery capabilities, while discounting cuts profit markets.

"For the whole year, we control the prices very strictly," said Kevin Shih, chief executive of Jollywiz, the official distributer of the Naruko skincare brand. "Some of our ‘hero’ products are never on sale. It’s just on 11.11 we do this to give back to our customers, just this one day."

"We view 11.11 from the lens of its ability to draw new customers and in that sense it has great value. Every year after 11.11, our customer base increases to a whole different level," Shih said.

11.11 Timeline

- The clock strikes midnight and this year’s 11.11 shopping extravaganza begins. 

- In 55 seconds, the amount of gross merchandise value (GMV) transacted over e-payment provider Alipay hits RMB 100 million.

- In 4 minutes, the value of transactions placed via mobile devices over Alipay reaches RMB 100 million.

- In 6 minutes, GMV of orders placed from PCs via Alipay rises to RMB 1 billion and by 38 minutes it is at RMB 5 billion.

- In the first hour mobile Alipay GMV reaches RMB 1 billion, surpassing its 24-hour total of 960 million last year. Alipay GMV from PCs hits RMB 6.7 billion while the number of orders processed through Alipay soars to 25 million.

- In 5 hours 49 minutes, Alipay GMV rises to RMB 10 billion.

- At 7:35 a.m., mobile Alipay GMV increases to RMB 2 billion, a new mobile shopping record in China.

- By 8:42 a.m. Alipay GMV from PCs surpasses the 24-hour total for Cyber Monday 2012 at RMB 12.1 billion ($2 billion). Cyber Monday total for 2012 was $1.98 billion, according to Adobe Digital Index.

-10:05 a.m., 50 million users had shopped via mobile devices since the sale began, an amount equal to the combined populations of Australia and Canada.

- At noon, PC-generated Alipay GMV grows to RMB 17.5 billion ($2.85 billion) while mobile Alipay GMV rises to RMB 2.97 billion ($484 million). Total mobile orders reaches 64.6 million, representing 23 percent of total orders.

- 1:04 p.m., in 13 hours, the total Alipay GMV passes the 24-hour total for last year’s 11.11 sale of RMB 19.1 ($3.1 billion).

- At 4 p.m., Alipay mobile GMV rises to RMB 3.6 billion ($587 million).

- At 9.20 p.m. Alipay GMV from PCs rises to RMB 30 billion.

- At midnight November 11, total Alipay GMV surpasses RMB 35 billion.

(Source: Tmall)