Alibaba Group kicked off its annual 11.11 Global Shopping Festival on Tuesday, promising even greater choice for shoppers this year and deeper levels of consumer engagement as New Retail takes center stage for the world’s largest one-day online sale.
The annual event, which last year generated over RMB120 billion (U.S.$17.8 billion) in gross merchandise volume, will this year include 140,000 brands and 15 million products for the over half-billion mobile users of Alibaba platforms, including Tmall and Taobao Marketplace.
Watch: See what’s to come at this year’s 11.11 Global Shopping Festival
And 11.11 truly is global. More than 60,000 of the participating brands are international names, such as Adidas, L’Oréal, Mondelez, P&G, Siemens and Wyeth. At the same time, the Hangzhou, China-based company said it would use the event to promote 100 Chinese brands, including Gree, Haier and Shanghai Jahwa, to the over 100 million Chinese consumers in overseas markets such as Singapore and Malaysia through its Tmall World shopping site.
“11.11 is not just a holiday for our Chinese users, but a holiday celebrated across the globe,” Alibaba Group CEO Daniel Zhang said during the kickoff press conference in Shanghai. “Maybe our foreign friends don’t celebrate Chinese New Year, but I believe they definitely celebrate 11.11.”
While Alibaba has matured over its 18 years into a technology giant whose businesses span an ecosystem that includes everything from online payments and artificial intelligence to cloud computing and logistics, its roots are in e-commerce. The 11.11 Global Shopping Festival—this year in its ninth iteration—is a reminder of its continuing dominance in that sector.
Business of the Future
But the festival is about far more than just shopping. Alibaba has traditionally used 11.11 to experiment with and roll out new forms of retail and customer engagement that lean heavily on interactivity, technology and consumer analytics—and 2017 will be no different.
This new trend in commerce, what Alibaba terms “New Retail,” has been championed by CEO Daniel Zhang and involves the digitization of everything from shopping to inventory management to even product design. New Retail “shows us the way that business can be conducted in the future,” Zhang said.
At the 11.11 launch press conference, Alibaba announced the following initiatives:
- A collaboration with brands to set up 60 New Retail-powered Pop-up Stores across 12 cities in China. Consumers can visit a pop-up store of a cosmetics brand, for example, to experience an augmented-reality (AR) lipstick trial.
- The conversion of nearly 100,000 stores throughout China into “smart stores” to bring a range of New Retail experiences such as facial-recognition payments and scan-and-deliver O2O shopping to consumers.
- An AR game called Catch the Cat to drive online traffic to offline locations. Consumers will use their mobile device to catch the virtual Tmall Cat mascot to win special perks, discounts and coupons for use at online and offline stores.
- “Red envelopes” worth RMB250 million ($37.7 million) to be shared among Chinese consumers through various interactive games.
Click here for a comprehensive factsheet for 11.11.
Retail as Entertainment
As part of the launch of the 11.11 season, Tmall was slated to air its “Tmall Collection 2017: See Now, Buy Now” fashion show Tuesday evening. Billed as “retail as entertainment,” brands from Victoria’s Secret and MAC cosmetics to Polo Ralph Lauren and Guerlain will show off their latest lines and offer viewers the chance to buy the things they see on the runway in real time.
WATCH: What happens at the See Now, Buy Now Fashion show?
A number of brands, including Tag Heuer and G-Star, will launch new products exclusively for the four-hour show, which will air on seven different platforms including Beijing TV, Youku, Weibo, Today’s Headline and the Taobao and Tmall mobile apps.
Alibaba also announced that it would once again hold its 11.11 Countdown Gala Celebration on the night of Nov. 10 in the run-up to the festival’s midnight start. Hollywood producer David Hill has signed on to direct for the second year in a row, and a number of top-tier singers and movie stars expected to appear will be announced in the coming 10 days
The 11.11 Global Shopping Festival is where “entertainment and retail become one,” Chief Marketing Officer Chris Tung said in the statement.
“Regardless of their physical location, consumers will be able to participate in more experiences than ever before this year, all showing the reality of New Retail,” he said.