It was a busy weekend for Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba which processed US$30.8 billion (AU$42 billion) of gross merchandise volume (GMV) during its annual 24-hour sale, known as double eleven or Singles’ Day.

The final figure for the sale, which measures the value of transactions processed via Alibaba’s marketplaces on November 11, was up 27 per cent compared to 2017. Although the growth was slower than the massive 39 per cent increase between 2016 and 2017.

The Chinese sale dwarfs the figures from US sales days such as Cyber Monday, which Adobe predicts will reach US$7.7 billion this year.

The 11.11 shopping festival began in 2009 with participation from just 27 merchants as an anti Valentine’s Day sale, designed to promote online shopping. That first sale generated US$7.8 million GMV and has continued to grow since then.

This year it took just one minute and 25 seconds to reach US$1 billion GMV and, 90 minutes later, sales had already surpassed the total GMV figures from 2012, 2013 and 2014.

The event is also a test for the Alibaba ecosystem including its cloud computer business, Alipay and logistic arm Cainiao Network, which processed more than 1 billion delivery orders.

Update: Australian performance

11.11 is the marquee sales event for international brands which use Alibaba’s ecommerce platforms as a way to reach Chinese consumers. Traditionally, Australian health, beauty and agriculture products have proved popular with Chinese shoppers.

The trend continued in 2018. Swisse, Devondale, Bio Island, Blackmores and Healthy Care were the top five performing Australian brands this year.

The top Australian products were, in order, health supplements, adult milk powder, infant and toddler nutrition, emulsion and powdered drink mixes.

There was a 35 per cent YoY growth in GMV of products from the Australian market, according to Alibaba.

“Australia now has over 2,000 Australian brands selling via Tmall and Tmall Global and these results further highlight the opportunity China presents to Australian brands, retailers and producers,” said Australia and New Zealand Managing Director of Alibaba Group, Maggie Zhou.

Australia was the fourth highest country selling into China, dropping back from third last year. The top five countries selling to China by GMV were Japan, US, Korea, Australia and Germany.

Among the stats pulled out by Alibaba’s local team: in the first hour, sales of Australian lamb increased 775 per cent from 2017.

Outside the Alibaba ecosystem, the sale is slowly making its way into other retailer’s marketing plans. Australian brand Mon Purse offered customers a discount if they used ‘Singles’ at the check out.

Global reach

The event’s international footprint continues to grow, this year 230 countries and regions with completed transactions.

Over 40 per cent of consumers made purchases from international brands. Global brands Apple, Dyson, Kindle, Estée Lauder, L’Oréal, Nestlé, Gap, Nike and Adidas all made more than RMB100 million in GMV.

After taking a controlling stake in South East Asian online marketplace Lazada, this year Alibaba hosted its first 11.11 Shopping Festival across six countries in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

Last year Which-50 asked executive vice chairman Joe Tsai if he believed there was an opportunity to export Singles’ Day to other international markets.

“The short answer is yes, because exporting this festival around the world means that we will develop the capability to serve consumers not just in China but all over the world,” Tsai answered.

He qualified the response, adding that Alibaba’s heritage meant the company would be focusing on developing economies like India and South East Asia.

“The reason is, if you look at our history and look at our capabilities and experience, we grew up in China in the context of a developing economy. Some of the characteristics such as lack of infrastructure, lack of legacy systems, sometimes it’s actually an advantage for ecommerce,” he said.

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