2 Facts About 11.11 That Are More Exciting Than the Sales Figures

By now, we know Alibaba's 11.11 Global Shopping Festival broke all sales records this year. To some extent, we knew that before it happened. While it's astounding to think about how 11.11.17 doubled Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2016 sales combined, there are two lesser-discussed parts of 11.11 that are reflective of Alibaba's broader strategy and the company's - and China's - growing influence on global brands.

  1. Digitization of the in-store experience - including online/offline integration even for rural stores that otherwise lack technology - with features including magic mirrors, AR, vending machines, robots, facial recognition, and smartphone scanning
  2. Enthusiastic participation from US brands ranging from Lululemon, Gap, Nike, and MAC Cosmetics to Mondelez, Procter & Gamble, and Wyeth -- and even including startups such as Stadium Goods, who see involvement as a way to promote engagement and insights beyond any sales

One manifestation of the combination of the above is that Alibaba's Tmall marketplace opened 60 physical pop-up stores in 52 malls across 12 cities in China, powered by Alibaba’s retail technologies. There are more than 100 brands participating in this test alone, including L’Oréal, Unilever, Procter & Gamble and Lego, according to Alibaba. (per Digiday)

Last year, I traveled to China to see 11.11 up close as part of a small international business contingent invited by Alibaba. While I was unable to return this year, it was on that trip I began to understand Alibaba's massive vision for "New Retail" and its global reach. That vision became even clearer this year. As Michael Zakkour, who was part of last year's contingent and returned this year, wrote, "the real purpose of this year’s 11/11 event is for it to be a launching pad for chairman Jack Ma's dream of reinventing and digitizing retail—first in China, and then around the world."