Alibaba to run double 11.11 online shopping events starting November 1

Arguably the world's largest shopping event, Alibaba's 11.11 Global Shopping Festival will this year be spread across two days.

Alibaba Group will be hosting its 12th annual 11:11 Global Shopping Festival next month, but according to chief marketing officer Chris Tung, this year's event will be twice as big.

"We have a very particularly special year this year," Tung told media on Thursday.

He said Alibaba has seen a dramatic and fundamental change in customer shopping behaviour due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as a great amount of work done on the merchant side to accelerate their digital transformation.

While the world is still facing the challenges brought on by the pandemic, Tung said China is lucky that it has seen a fast, rapid recovery.

"Alibaba is more committed than ever to empowering our merchants for their digital transformation and to capture the growth of particularly the China market through 11.11," he said. "This really gives 11.11 a different layer of meaning this year in light of the pandemic."

See also: The technology enabling Alibaba to sell $30.8 billion in Double 11 goods

Tung said every year, Alibaba "plays the numbers".

"11.11 you have four 1s in a row, you cannot be more single than that. There's an old joke about how we get started as a singles day … and because of the love for 1 and 11, we really think that the past 11 11.11s already completes a cycle, so this year we'd like to kick it off with some different thinking, more innovation, a little bit about redefining 11.11 as the first year of the new cycle," he said.

China is the largest consumer market and this year Alibaba is expecting more than 800 million consumers to join its 2020 11.11 Global Shopping Festival.

"This presents a huge opportunity for all the merchants," he said. "We want 11.11 to really serve as the growth engine and digitalisation driver for our brand merchants."

This year, 14 million products from 250,000 brands from 89 countries and markets will be up for sale on Tmall. 5,000 brands will join 11.11 for the first time and 2,600 of those are brands from international markets.

"Chinese customers also face difficulty to go abroad to travel to shop and they are the largest group of [shoppers]," he said.

"We'll charter approximately 700 flights during 11.11 to make sure we reach supply and demand, to make sure this a truly global shopping festival."

Alibaba's logistics arm, Cainiao, processed 1.88 billion packages last 11.11. In a bid to keep on top of this year's sales, it has filled more than 30 warehouses with products. More than 30,000 global brands have already transported products into China using charter flights and the warehouses can have products clear customs in one second, a video shown to media stated.

In "doubling" its 2020 event, Alibaba is also opening up two shopping windows.

"For the last 11 years, the big day is November 11th -- 24 hours [of] non-stop shopping," Tung said. "But because [we're going to] have to service 800 million consumers for 250,000 brands, 24 hours is probably not enough so this year we're going to innovate by creating two shopping windows."

The first window will kick off on 1 November 2020. There's still three 1s, Tung said.

The first wave will last for three days and will be launched with an "innovative new tv program" on October 31.

"Then the second wave is still the big day, November 11th," he said. "Two shopping windows to make sure consumers have enough time to shop … and also to support all the merchants in this challenging time, they're going to have enough exposure to present their brands."

Alibaba will also be live streaming its "grand opening ceremony".

"This is going to be probably the most digitally advanced tv show ever in the history of tv production because you're going to have close to 20 live streaming studios on top of our grand tv performance station and there's interaction between all," Tung said.

The gala will still take place on the evening of November 10.

As live streaming is the most popular form of advertising in China, 60% of the Taobao Life live streams will be conducted by merchants themselves. 300 celebrities will also join for their dedicated live streaming session.

Tung said Alibaba is targeting Gen Z this year, given they've become the largest shopping group on Tmall. He also said the company is putting cars and houses on 11.11 for sale.

"You can find anything, anything that you want on Tmall," he said.

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