Alibaba's 24-hour Singles' Day sales to run for 24 days now

An advertisement in Hong Kong (left) for Huawei and Alibaba's "double 11" Global Shopping Festival. Alibaba is bringing in celebrities such as singer Katy Perry (above) to add glamour to this year's event.
An advertisement in Hong Kong (above) for Huawei and Alibaba's "double 11" Global Shopping Festival. Alibaba is bringing in celebrities such as singer Katy Perry to add glamour to this year's event.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG
An advertisement in Hong Kong (left) for Huawei and Alibaba's "double 11" Global Shopping Festival. Alibaba is bringing in celebrities such as singer Katy Perry (above) to add glamour to this year's event.
An advertisement in Hong Kong for Huawei and Alibaba's "double 11" Global Shopping Festival. Alibaba is bringing in celebrities such as singer Katy Perry (above) to add glamour to this year's event.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG

BEIJING • China's e-commerce giant Alibaba Group has announced that its blockbuster Singles' Day shopping festival will be held over 24 days - instead of just one day.

The online sales extravaganza, which has eclipsed the combined sales of Cyber Monday and Black Friday, is typically held over 24 hours, starting from the stroke of midnight on Nov 11.

Last year, it had an estimated turnover of more than 91.2 billion yuan (S$18.8 billion), breaking several world records for one-day sales. Alibaba expects to surpass this record next month.

"It is far more than a shopping spree, it is the start of a new retailing era," Alibaba Group chief executive Zhang Yong told The Paper.

The firm headed by billionaire businessman Jack Ma plans to expand Singles' Day sales globally this year, opening up Hong Kong and Taiwan as the first markets outside China where consumers will be able to buy international products via its online marketplace Tmall.

The plan is part of the firm's efforts to reduce reliance on China, where it generates the bulk of its revenue, and where flagging economic growth threatens to slow Alibaba's earnings, reported Fortune on its website.

"From last year's buying from the world, to this year's selling to the world, our first try in Hong Kong and Taiwan is very important," Mr Zhang told reporters last week.

He said that online spenders in South-east Asia will soon be able to experience the so-called "chop-off hands" shopping phenomenon. The phrase is a reference to those who cannot stop shopping because of the irresistable offers.

Alibaba expanded into South- east Asia earlier this year with its US$1 billion (S$1.4 billion) acquisition of Singapore e-commerce firm Lazada Group. The latter also operates sites in Indonesia and Malaysia.

The Chinese firm has upgraded its Alipay payment system to support Global Payment, allowing consumers to pay in 18 currencies including the US dollar, the British pound, the euro and the yen.

Singles' Day, a twist on Valentine's Day, started in the 1990s as an obscure holiday but bcame a Chinese consumer phenomenon since Alibaba turned it into a one-day online sales extravaganza in 2009.

The event is an example of how e-commerce companies can manufacture consumer demand through promotions, similar to Prime Day on Amazon.com. Alibaba takes that concept a step further, with a massive Super Bowl-like celebration that starts in the final hours of Nov 10 and counts down until midnight.

This year, a whole line-up of celebrities will be taking the stage, including Katy Perry, who serves as Alibaba's "global ambassador". Alibaba's chief marketing officer Chris Tung said: "By inviting international stars, we are bringing a globalised lifestyle to Chinese customers, that is exactly what Chinese people are pursuing with expanding wealth."

Alibaba will also be bringing Hollywood glamour to its gala, appointing Mr David Hill to direct the Shenzhen festival. Mr Hill's credits include serving as executive producer of such hit television shows as The X Factor and American Idol, and he was a co-producer of the 88th Academy Awards in February.

Alibaba is also rolling out new activities such as virtual fashion shows and augmented-reality games to entice shoppers. Its president Michael Evans told Bloomberg TV: "The numbers will be big and they'll be bigger than last year."

But he also said it was not just about numbers: "If the social experience isn't a great event for all the people who participate, then we haven't really achieved what we want."

BLOOMBERG, CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2016, with the headline 'Alibaba's 24-hour Singles' Day sales to run for 24 days now'. Print Edition | Subscribe