Inside Alibaba’s insane 11.11 ‘internet gala’, which raked in US$38 billion and featured Taylor Swift, LED lasers, and an enormous money counter

Alibaba’s massive 11.11 countdown party included American star Taylor Swift on a moving stage with LED lights that required 300 people to operate.
Alibaba

Within 24 hours, people in China have spent more money to buy stuff than entire countries make in a year, thanks to Alibaba’s wildly popular 11.11 shopping festival.

The e-commerce company sold RMB268 billion (US$38.4 billion) worth of merchandise through Alipay on its Chinese retail platforms, including Lazada and AliExpress, it announced in a statement on Tuesday (Nov 12).

That’s nearly one-third more than it sold last year, and 5,153 times more than what it sold at its first Singles’ Day event one decade ago (RMB52 million).

Here’s everything that went down at this year’s insane Singles’ Day celebrations:


In July, Alibaba-owned Tmall starts the Chinese giant’s first official press conference for 11.11 in Hangzhou.

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In October, Alibaba holds its Tmall Collection show, which it describes as the “11.11 opening show”.

The extravagant do is a preview of the “massive selection” of items available on Singles’ Day, it adds.

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The show includes some truly over-the-top moments, such as a Game of Thrones theatrical dance by Scottish brand Johnnie Walker to promote its new whiskeys…

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… and a number by Luo Tianyi – a virtual singer popular in China – commissioned by sanitary pad brand Whisper.

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Chinese department store chain Intime Malls – an Alibaba partner – also runs a 11.11 fashion show in Xi’an.

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The show features 150 winter outfits from 15 luxury brands.

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Tmall officially kicks off Alibaba’s “11.11 season” on Oct 21.

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Tmall and Taobao president Jiang Fan says 11.11 aims to “stimulate consumption demand and support lifestyle upgrade”.

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He predicts that the massive discounts from 11.11 will help consumers save RMB50 billion (US$7 billion) this year.

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The night before 11.11, brand reps flock to Alibaba’s global HQ in Hangzhou to watch the countdown gala and view first hour sales figures.

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The campus is lavishly lit with neon lasers and fairy lights strewn across the floor.

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There’s a huge sculpture containing the tagline, “Make 11′ Happen”.

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Employees take pictures in front of the sculpture.

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Elsewhere on the campus, another installation features the mascots of various Alibaba brands.

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Alibaba starts its countdown gala in Shanghai’s Mercedes Benz Arena.

It’s broadcast on 10 cable networks across China, Southeast Asia, Africa and America.

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The “internet gala” features a moving stage, interactive LED floors, and 4K high-definition streaming.

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The entire arrangement requires 300 technical staff to operate.

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Influencers fill the gala’s audience, with many livestreaming the event to followers.

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Others take pictures all night to post on social media.

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The gala’s star-studded lineup includes a duet by Russian soprano Aida Garifullina and Chinese singer Ayanga…

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… a solo performance by singer Jackson Yee of Chinese boyband TFBoys…

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… and a mini-concert by headliner Taylor Swift.

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The Grammy Award winner performs three new songs from her latest album: the namesake Lover, You Need to Calm Down, and ME!.

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At one point, she sits down to play a keyboard smothered in shredded coloured tissue.

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Per the album, butterfly imagery is projected all over the massive screens.

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Swift’s Lover is China’s top full-length international album, hitting 1 million equivalent units – a measure of both sales and streaming – within one week of release.

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The gala also includes a game segment, where celebrities break into teams and play life-sized Tetris and Candy Crush, while viewers use their phones to support their favourite teams and win vouchers.

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Within the first minute of 11.11, US$1 billion in sales is made.

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All across China, influencers are recommending 11.11 products to followers, while a livestream on Taobao sells 55 cars in 1 second.

15 companies, including L’Oreal, go on to earn RMB1 billion from the day’s sales.

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Top livestreamer Viya Huang promotes Kim Kardashian-West’s new perfume brand, KKW, to local consumers.

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On a livestream featuring the Tmall mascot and logo, the American reality star says she’s “proud and amazed that there are so many influencers in China”.

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Offline, customers swarm shops in Alibaba-partnered Intime Malls.

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Among the shops that consumers mob are beauty brand MAC…

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… and New York-based Estée Lauder, which sells skincare, makeup, perfume and hair products.

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A Chinese hypermarket linked to Alibaba slashes its prices by half, and customers clean out entire shelves.

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Many people pack their carts until they’re overflowing.

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 Singles’ Day ends with Alibaba raking in RMB268 billion on its giant GMV (gross merchandise value) counter.

“Today we showed the world what the future of consumption looks like for brands and consumers,” Tmall president Fan Jiang says in a statement.

He adds: “We are meeting the growing demand of Chinese consumers and helping them upgrade their lifestyles, while introducing new users to our digital economy from across China and around the world.”

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