Last night at the Shanghai airport's Immigration centre, the official politely asked us - a small bunch of journalists from India- the purpose of our visit. When we replied that we are here at the invitation of Alibaba to cover 11/11, she smiled and said she shops a lot online and was already on it.
In China, November 11 is the day when the country's biggest e-tailer, The Alibaba Group, throws its flagship event - 11.11 Global Shopping Festival. This year, with much fanfare, the sale - which is claimed to be more than 18 times the size of Amazon Prime Day and 2.5 times bigger than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined - kicked off yesterday midnight.
Less than 12 hours later, the e-commerce tycoon has announced that it generated nearly $12 billion in GMV settled through its digital wallet Alipay in the first two hours of the festival itself.
It claims that $1 billion of total GMV was settled through Alipay in the first two minutes, making 91 percent of mobile GMV. (In 2016, mobile shopping (settled through Alipay) was worth $14.6 billion — approximately 82 percent of total GMV. Alipay processed more than one billion payment transactions in total.)
The GMV for 11.11 festival is the total value of orders settled through Alipay on Alibaba's China retail marketplaces and AliExpress, within a 24-hour period of November 11. It is reported on a real-time basis and includes shipping charges.
Just so that you understand the scale - in India, during the festival sales season in September this year, e-commerce sales altogether (which includes Flipkart, Amazon, Shopclues, and others) earned just sales of $1.5 billion, a slight rise from $1.05 billion in 2016, according to research firm RedSeer Consulting.
Since it started in 2009 with 27 merchants, 11.11 festival has grown to include more than a lakh merchants last year, with consumers spending $17.8 billion in 24 hours.
The noise around 11.11 festival is huge. In the hours leading up to the event, Alibaba hosted its third annual gala to celebrate the official launch of the festival featuring performances by Pharrell Williams, Nicole Kidman, and Maria Sharapova among others. It was live telecast on Youku (China's version of Youtube), Tmall, and Taobao mobile apps, Youtube, as well as across China through Beijing TV, Shenzhen TV, and Zhejiang TV.
Through a new Tmall initiative inaugurated in June this year, 100 Chinese brands can sell globally, with a focus on the Southeast Asian markets. Free shipping has been introduced to 10 countries during this year’s festival to extend the global reach.
Watch this space for more news from the event.