Taylor Swift's three-song concert launched the 11th annual Singles' Day and it took 68 seconds for sales to hit US$1 billion and just 30 minutes to reach US$10 billion in sales.

By Ian Horswill

Posted on November 12, 2019

Alibaba’s annual Singles’ Day, the largest online shopping day in the world, achieved a new record high of US$38.4 billion in sales. Singles’ Day, the brainchild of Alibaba CEO and chairman Daniel Zhang 11 years ago, smashed last year’s record of $30.7 billion in sales.

Alibaba Singles Day

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Electronics gadgets and fashion items were among the most sold goods in the 11th edition of the Singles’ Day annual event, company executives said in an interview.

In the hours leading up to the shopping extravaganza, Alibaba’s video streaming platform Youku hosted the fifth annual countdown gala, which included interactive performances from Taylor Swift and Asian pop icon GEM, at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai. The gala was broadcast live across nearly 30 platforms and TV channels. Swift sang three songs from her most recent album, Lover, to 71,000 screaming fans.

Swift finished at midnight and Singles’ Day began immediately afterwards. It took 68 seconds for sales to hit US$1 billion and 30 minutes for sales to reach US$10 billion.

Singles’ Day is bigger in terms of sales than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined. The five-day Black Friday sales were under US$25 billion last year. Cyber Monday brought in less than US$8 billion.

More than 200,000 brands, many from the US, participated to access more than 500 million Chinese consumers. That compares to the 27 brands featured during the first 11.11 festival back in 2009. Apple broke record sales in the first few hours of the event. Estée Lauder, Bose, Gap, Levi’s, Nike, The North Face and Under Armour broke beyond US$143 million in pre-order sales alone.

Mondelez — the parent company of Oreo — debuted a fun-size Oreos packet with assorted nuts and raisins, in collaboration with Alibaba’s Tmall Innovation Center.

“I think the reason why more and more consumers are joining Double 11 is it’s a great platform for consumers to find quality products from the brands they love,” Alibaba’s CMO Chris Tung told Yahoo Finance.

“I think [the] key is to keep offering the quality, innovative products to consumers, and there is still huge room to grow here,” Tung said.

“And, I think, many leading brands from the US are doing particularly well this year,” he said.

Tung added that there was an “untapped opportunity in the less developed areas in China where people have [a] huge demand for quality products from all over the world.”

“This is really a great platform to drive continuous growth for the brands we are working with.”

To connect Singles’ Day to people outside China, Alibaba has a number of dedicated websites. AliExpress sold goods from Chinese brands to international residents; Tmall sold goods from global brands to China; and Taobao sold Chinese brands’ goods to people in China. Lazada, a subsidiary of Alibaba Group that caters to Southeast Asian markets, saw the number of buyers and merchants double this year.

“This year, both buyers and merchants have more than doubled and we’ve already seen a series of record-breaking moments. We’re looking forward to sharing even more good news,” said Yin Jing, co-president of Lazada.

Alibaba said that dozens of brands, including Apple, L’Oreal and Dyson, had received more than US$14 million, in pre-orders.

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If it don’t fits, I still sits.

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Alibaba, which has its headquarters in Hangzhou, focused for the first time this year on live-streaming via its platform, a phenomenon that has gained significant traction in China.

In a live-streamed video, Kim Kardashian announced last week that her fragrance brand KKW will be sold on Tmall on Singles’ Day.

Alibaba Chief Technology Officer Jeff Zhang described 11.11 as an “airplane flying at turbo speed,” adding that making this supposed airplane more efficient has been the company’s biggest focus, Tech Crunch reported.

Last week, Alibaba Group announced it was investing an additional US$3.3 billion in logistics unit Cainiao, which it co-founded with a number of other companies six years ago.

The biggest challenge for Alibaba remains the expansion of JD.com and Pinduoduo, both of which have better hold over the smaller cities and towns and more organised logistics networks. The three of them are locked in an intense battle, with each one bandying out billions of dollars in discounts to lure — and sustain — customers every year.

Like Alibaba, JD.com and Pinduoduo also host similar campaigns each year. JD.com’s sales, which began 1 November 1, had exceeded US$23.6 billion as of early today. This model has also been replicated by Amazon and Walmart-owned Flipkart in India, Qoo10 in Singapore and 11th Street in South Korea.

Alibaba will begin selling shares worth US$15 billion in Hong Kong later this month.