Alibaba Group’s 11.11 Global Shopping Festival is the biggest such holiday in the world. Last year, the one-day event brought in $25.3 billion in gross merchandise volume. That was more than two times the size of Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.
It’s not just about buying, however – Those orders need to be delivered. And that’s where Cainiao Network comes in.
In 2017, the smart logistics company, majority owned by Alibaba, delivered 812 million orders. This year, Cainiao is expecting even more. To prepare for the deluge of packages, Cainiao is rolling out a host of initiatives – and, not least, a number of advanced technologies – to meet the challenge.
“Consumers increasingly want faster, better delivery, so that’s what we’re doing,” Cainiao Vice President Ben Wang said. “This year, we’re striving to achieve a new high, leveraging the beauty of scale and technology.”
Here is what’s in store:
IoT, Robots and Big Data
Cainiao recently opened the biggest automated warehouse in China, in the eastern city of Wuxi. It is part of the company’s first Future Park, a logistics complex run by Internet of Things applications, big data, edge computing and artificial intelligence to boost efficiencies in the shipping process.
WATCH: Inside China’s Largest Automated Warehouse
Powered by IoT connectivity, Cainiao uses 700 robots called automated guided vehicles to fulfill orders. The system directs the AGVs to drive, load and unload while planning the best routes to distribute parcels and avoid collision. The robots allow for 50% more orders to be processed within a given time period than a traditional warehouse, Cainiao said.
There is also the Sky Eye Program, a cloud-based, video-monitoring system that will be used by Cainiao’s logistics partners for this year’s 11.11. Leveraging Computer Vision Technology and algorithms, Sky Eye monitors warehouse operations to look for kinks in the logistics process and sends updates to workers so that they can be fixed in real time.
In addition, Cainiao has partnered with 15 major Chinese express-courier companies to crunch logistics data so that manpower and transportation are used more efficiently in the 200,000 delivery stations being used for to support 11.11. The data also helps to maximize the use of resources, avoid bottlenecks and management of locally held inventories.
Whether Cross-Border or Last-Mile
AliExpress, which sells Chinese goods to consumers overseas, and Tmall World, a site aimed at Chinese consumers living abroad, are taking on a bigger role in this year’s 11.11. In expectation of an increase in cross-border shipments, Cainiao has chartered 51 flights to Western Europe, Russia and Southeast Asia, as well as about 1,000 shipping containers set for buyers in Southeast Asia and other destinations by sea.
WATCH: Cainiao’s Point Man 11.11 Talks Logistics
On the inbound side, Cainiao has prepared bonded warehouses across China that cover over 1 million square meters. That’s up 80% from last year, the company said. The bonded warehouses, which house specific products that have been given preferential tax treatment by the Chinese government, will be used to store right goods at warehouses nearest to the consumers most likely to order them, which helps to cut delivery times.
2018 will also be the first time that goods ordered during 11.11 are delivered directly from stores to customers, a sign that New Retail advances continue to play a role in the Festival. Short-distance delivery services will be available in over 280 cities.