November 11 is Remembrance Day, the anniversary of Gough Whitlam’s dismissal and the day Ned Kelly was hanged. Thanks to the purchasing power of Chinese consumers another event held on November 11 is making its mark on Australia: Alibaba’s Singles’ Day.

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The 11.11 shopping festival began in 2009 with participation from just 27 merchants as an event for Tmall.com merchants and consumers to raise awareness of the value in online shopping.  Seven years later 11.11, or Singles’ Day as it is known, has become a global event. In 2015 Tmall processed US$14.34 billion in gross merchandise volume (GMV) — which is almost the value of Australia’s total online retail sales.

Last year Australia was one of the top countries selling into China alongside the United States, Japan, South Korea and Germany. This year the mega shopping event is tipped to be bigger than ever in terms of both sales and spectacle.

Before the 24-hour sales event kicks off, Alibaba hosts a countdown party. Last year the gala was held in Beijing’s Water Cube and was watched by around 100 million viewers.

This year Alibaba has called in Oscars producer David Hill to direct the countdown gala which will be held in Shenzhen. Katy Perry will be the headline performer and global ambassador of the event, other guests include basketball player Kobe Bryant and band OneRepublic.

The gala will be broadcasted live by the official media partner, Zhejiang Satellite TV. Alibaba’s media assets like Youku Tudou, Tmall TV Box and UC Web will also live stream the gala. According to the official spiel, “viewers will be able to take part in competitions by shaking their smartphones equipped with Taobao or Tmall apps during the event, with big prizes to be won or even the chance to win the celebrities’ clothes right off their backs.”

Alibaba has also launched its own version of Pokemon Go. Players chase an augmented reality version of Tmall’s cat mascot, which will “lead users through an adventure across the Alibaba retail ecosystem in the digital and offline world to earn special perks and prizes such as free subscriptions to Youku Tudou.”

On the virtual reality front, Alibaba will pilot Buy+, a VR shopping experience that allows shoppers to browse and buy products from international stores.

Actual bricks and mortar locations will play a part in the online shopping festival. Intime department stores will provide consumers with the opportunity to touch and try products from online-only brands on Tmall. Electrical retailer Suning, which Alibaba has invested in, will host competitions and games in its stores. Shoppers can scan QR codes to purchase online products which are not available at physical stores. They can also buy online products on storefronts and get them from nearby physical stores with delivery time as little as two hours.

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Globalisation is one of Alibaba’s key strategic priorities, with the ten-year goal of serving two billion consumers and supporting 10 million small businesses, brands and retailers globally. This year Alibaba is launching its “Buy Globally, Sell Globally” initiative.

On the “Buy Globally” side is the roster of international brands selling to Chinese consumers, and on the “Sell Globally” side is a new pilot program to help global merchants sell beyond China. The company is in its early phases of expanding its infrastructure, including logistics and payments, in order to allow consumers overseas to purchase international products through Tmall. Hong Kong and Taiwan are the first markets outside mainland China where this will be available.

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