11.11 in China, will it be truly global one day?

11.11 is coming, so far the biggest shopping carnival in the world and the greatest commercial invention by China.

For media, it is all about rewriting these astronomical sales record of Alibaba. We have them here, from 2012 to 2016.


The country’s population is 1.4 billion, making it the world’s largest retail market while e-commerce accounts for about 20% of the total size. It should be easy to break a new record this year. We no longer care about these awe-inspiring numbers.



For brands, they must endure many sleepless nights just to prepare 11.11. If those luxury brands turned up their nose at Alibaba in the past, now they perhaps need to bow to the inevitable. The “SEE NOW BUY NOW” fashion show, a kick off to the 11.11, is an event they probably cannot afford to miss. Such partnership guarantees to send torrents of traffic, then very likely conversions,  to their business. (see video demo)



Alibaba also believes New Retail should be equivalent to Entertainment. A few years ago if anyone ridiculed Alibaba’s investments in social media, online video streaming, film production, (after all what the hell did an e-commerce marketplace have something to do with these sectors which were way out of its scope), now we realized they were the master strokes to build an interlocked ecosystem to fulfill such vision.



For brick&mortar retailers, it is also a time to be brainwashed and join the boot camp of “Alibaba Smart Store”. Traditional retailers are often lagging behind in digital transformation and omnichannel experience, so Alibaba came to rescue, covering from discovery, engagement, inventory, payment to delivery, combined with its latest technologies (check out the video below). In that way, Alibaba can build its offline empire without taking on much burden. Alibaba is defining the rules of “NEW RETAIL”. All you have to do is following its playbook.



To make sure consumers reach their shopping climax on 11.11, Alibaba started to heighten their mood weeks in advance, by offering AR game, mechanically non-stop tapping your mobile phone to win “Red Envelopes” (an old Chinese tradition to receive cash as a gift during the festival season now revamped in the internet age). Alibaba is planned to give away “Red Envelopes” worth RMB250 million(USD37.3 million) this year. It all aims to motivate the consumers to end up buying more until a point they might want to chop off their own hands to prevent themselves from any action of purchase. That is why 11.11 is also named “Hand Chopping Festival”.



No doubt, China is leading the wave of retail innovation ahead of any western country, whether it is about creativity or technology. If you ever want to see the best practices and latest digital trends in retail in the world, just come to China. For instance,

  • Amazon and Whole Foods probably should learn some lessons from Alibaba’s offline grocery store “Hema”.
  • While Amazon Go experiment is still not pulling it off, a slew of unmanned stores has been competing in the China market, which either uses RFID tags, camera or facial recognition to enable the similar concept.
  • Facebook is reportedly trying to emulate China’s Red Envelope feature that would allow users to send money to one another.


The interesting question remains will Alibaba make 11.11 truly a global phenomenon one day? It certainly has the ambition to do so. It dubbed the event as “GLOBAL Shopping Festival”; it has already covered overseas markets such as Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and Malaysia. Nevertheless, it more or less wields its magnetic charm on Chinese community at the moment. Will Alibaba be able to convert everyone in every corner of the world into “chopping off their hands” on 11.11 in the future?


Author: Cecilia Wu