The world’s largest online sale is expected to be even bigger this year, and the company behind it wants to make it more environmentally friendly. 

Preparations are underway for Alibaba’s 11.11 sale, also known as Singles’ Day. First held in 2009, 11.11 has now grown into weeks of discounts and promotions which culminate in a 24-hour sale on the 11th of November. In 2018 the sale, predominantly aimed at Chinese consumers, generated US$30 billion in gross merchandise volume (GMV). 

Alibaba expects 500 million shoppers will participate in this year’s festival 11.11 shopping festival– about 100 million more than last year. 

Over 200,000 brands are participating, including more than 22,000 international brands from 78 countries and regions and more than one million new products are on offer. 

“Given its scale, minimising environmental impact is essential and our technology will ensure it is a green 11.11 Global Shopping Festival,” said  Fan Jiang (pictured above), president of Taobao and Tmall. 

The sustainability efforts announced by the company overnight focus on recycling and reducing the energy required to run Alibaba’s cloud infrastructure during the sale. 

Alibaba’s logistics business Cainiao processed more than 1 billion deliveries last year. This year 40,000 Cainiao stations and an additional 35,000 stations operated by its express courier partners will be set up as recycling centres for consumers to drop off cardboard boxes after the sale. 

 November 20th will be a day focused on the recycling with courier companies picking up used cardboard boxes and wrapping. Consumers will be incentivised to recycle to earn rewards points. 

The company said Alibaba Cloud – which provides the computing power that supports online traffic and transactions – expects to save 200,000 kilowatt hours of energy on November 11th at its data centers, which will be powered by renewable energy and energy-conserving technology such as liquid-cooled servers. 

On the technology front, Alibaba has rolled out new digital storefronts for its Tmall merchants. The upgrade, rolled out several months ago, offers brands the ability to customise their flagship store to offer an immersive experience to consumers. It personalises content and product promotions for different types of customers based on their profiles. 

As in previous years, Alibaba will host a gala in Shanghai to count down to the shopping on the evening of November 10th. In the past the show, which is broadcast and live streamed, has featured performances by Pharrell Williams, Nicole Kidman and Maria Sharapova. 

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