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Alibaba aims higher with Singles' Day

News, 14 November 2016

HANGZHOU: As Alibaba looks set to smash sales records for its 11.11 Singles' Day shopping event, the Chinese e-commerce firm's CMO has spoken of its ambition to make the festival as big as Christmas or Chinese New Year.

Alibaba launched its 11.11 Global Shopping Festival at the end of last week with a star-studded televised gala that featured appearances from basketball legend Kobe Bryant, English footballer David Beckham and US pop group OneRepublic.

The company said that sales had reached $12.1bn within the first 12 hours, including $1bn in less than five minutes, and there are reports that total spend could reach $20bn this year, CNBC reported.

But in an interview with The Drum before the official launch, Alibaba CMO Chris Tung discussed the company's plans to take the 11.11 event to another level by concentrating on "upgrade consumption", creating a platform for global brands, and using innovative technology, such as VR and AR.

"We want to change it from being about singles day to family fun, where you can buy from global markets," he said. "We want it to become a family festival like a Chinese New Year or Christmas. It's something that people will benchmark with Christmas hopefully."

The 11.11 event – Alibaba's preferred description for Singles' Day – is no longer limited to the Chinese mainland and this year consumers in Hong Kong, Taiwan and other Asian territories were able to take part.

Tung explained that a key element of its strategy to internationalise the event is to make the best use of technology so that shopping becomes associated with family fun and entertainment.

Giving consumers access to virtual reality, for example, enabled them to visit the virtual stores of Western partner brands, such as US retailer Macy's.

"We're doing something pretty innovative. From a marketing perspective, it is a very engaging integration of entertainment and shopping," Tung said.

"We want to demonstrate that AR and VR is not just code, tech or a buzzword that people keep talking about on techy journals. We want to bring it to life in a fun way that people find unique as an experience for online shopping, [and] there should be no borderline between entertainment and shopping."

Data sourced from CNBC, The Drum; additional content by Warc staff