Alibaba today announced a stream of marketing activity ahead of its annual ‘Singles Day’ sale, which has transformed into a commerce phenomenon in China.
Alibaba is now calling it the 2016 11.11 Global Shopping Festival because its ambitions are greater than the one-day domestic Chinese sale it once was. Even in its domestic ambitions, Singles Day sales reached $14.3bn (£9.4bn) last year, in just one day.
This year the ecommerce titan has set itself a more global and interactive target and will be using technology to forge the gap between online and offline commerce, as well as between its global and local business.
Daniel Zhang, chief executive officer of Alibaba Group, said: “11.11 has evolved far beyond a 24-hours sales event. From today through November 11, consumers will discover, explore, play, watch, comment, share, recommend and shop across our entire ecosystem with our merchants both online and offline.
"Leveraging our robust infrastructure, global merchants have been empowered with unprecedented capability to seamlessly engage and serve customers through new technology and new environments.”
Starting today (20 October) until 11 November, a three-week ‘festival’ will take place, promoting the event. According to Alibaba, content will play a major role this year. On 23 October, Tmall will host an eight-hour fashion show in Shanghai. The show will be streamed live via the Tmall and Taobao mobile apps, during which viewers can pre-order items in real-time as they appear on the catwalk.
The company will also be testing out its Buy+ VR service, in which customers will be transported into the retail environment of select global partner brands including Macy’s, Costco, P&G, Chemist Warehouse, Freedom foods, Tokyo Otaku Mode and Matsumoto Kiyoshi. VR commerce is a huge investment area for Alibaba.
A finale Gala will be held on 10 November and will usher in the start of the sale, featuring a headline performance by Katy Perry, who has also been signed up as the global ambassador to the festival.
A core part of the build up will be to test out some of Alibaba’s innovations around online to offline (O2O) commerce. A marquee element will be a Pokemon Go-style AR game, in which people follow the Cat mascot across the Alibaba online and offline retail ecosystem to earn special promotions and prizes. Participating merchants include Suning, Intime shopping malls, Beijing Joy City shopping mall, Shenzhen Coastal City shopping mall, as well as global brands such as Shanghai Disneyland, KFC and Starbucks.
The retailer is also using the festival to promote its global ambitions under its ‘Buy Globally: Sell Globally’ proposition and will, for the first time, be expanding international products out to non-mainland Chinese consumers via Tmall. It’ll only be testing this in Hong Kong and Taiwan in the first instance.