SHANGHAI: Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has smashed even its own lofty expectations with a record US$25.3bn in sales – a 39% increase on last year - in just 24 hours for its annual Singles Day online shopping event.

Singles Day, a shopping event set up by Alibaba to create its own ‘holiday’ in a traditionally low volume sales period, has become the biggest shopping day in the world and an important platform for brands in China to drive customer acquisition through the rest of the year. (For more, read WARC’s report: Beyond Singles Day: Driving e-commerce with data and CRM in China.)

This year, Alibaba – which is now the world’s largest e-commerce site – saw more than US$5bn in sales in the first 15 minutes of Singles Day, with same-day shipping orders leaving warehouses nationwide within minutes of the event’s kickoff. 2016’s previous sales record for Single’s Day, over US$17bn, was obliterated by 1pm.

Launched with a star-studded gala, more than 82 brands topped US$15m in sales on Singles Day this year with Nike, Xiaomi and Uniqlo among brands leading the charge, according to a Bloomberg report.

Singles Day is also a microcosm of Chinese consumer behaviours, with mobile devices the major driver of sales – according to Yahoo Finance, real-time data showed mobile purchases made up almost all sales in the first minute. Mobile transactions accounted for 90% of sales over the entire sales period.

E-commerce sites around the world have also capitalized on growing interest in Singles Day outside of China, with retailers across Asia offering deals and discounts. Lazada, South East Asia’s leading e-commerce portal – which has significant investment from Alibaba – also announced record sales for Singles Day of US$123m, up 171% on 2016.

The extraordinary and continued growth of the event has reset the marketing year, according to one industry executive.

“Instead of January to December as the default ‘marketing year’, now it’s 12 November to next 11 November to put everything we do to a test,” Alvin Lim, creative chairman at GPB Shanghai, told Campaign Asia-Pacific.

“I would say, set 11.11 as your KPI as an agency,” he advised.

Sourced from Bloomberg, Straits Times, Campaign Asia-Pacific; additional content by WARC staff