That biggest and most glitzy paean to consumerism, Alibaba’s Singles’ Day or 11.11 festival, has once again smashed all spending records in China and beyond. Orders on the company’s e-commerce platforms were already north of $70 billion by Wednesday evening, Alibaba said.

Up to 16 million discounted products were snapped up and, as the records fell, Alibaba put the success of this year’s four-day event down to the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

“Because of COVID-19, many Chinese cannot go overseas,” Alibaba’s Vice President Liu Bo told reporters. “This actually stimulates online consumption,” he added.

Alibaba started sales early this year in order to provide business with a post-pandemic boost by giving consumers more time to peruse lesser-known brands; the earlier phase ran November 1 to 3, starting with a five-hour TV livestream, including 70 celebrities.

The early shopping window certainly worked – within 30 minutes of phase two being launched at midnight on November 11, Alibaba announced the total value of the campaign had exceeded $56.4 billion, smashing last year’s 24-hour total of $40.5 billion.

At its peak, Marketing Interactive reported, Alibaba was taking 583,000 orders every second, another new record.

The figures were seen by observers as testament to the rebound of consumer confidence in China in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Organisers of the event spared no expense in making it a glitzy one – this year US singer Katy Perry appeared via livestream at the gala launch event.

Beyond the simple discounts on offer, shoppers are able to play online games to win special deals or make multiple purchases from several shops, and place orders in the early hours to get the best prices.

By 8.05pm China time on November 11, Reuters reported, Alibaba claimed GMV had reached $70.6 billion. In all, some two million different items were on offer, which is double last year’s offering.

China’s e-commerce market is the largest in the world. Business Insider estimates that retail e-commerce will reach $2.090 trillion this year, or 41.2% of all retail sales.

Sourced from Reuters, Marketing Interactive, Business Insider; additional content by WARC staff