Alibaba Singles' Day 2016: US$5 bln sales in 1st hour; know all about biggest online shopping event

Alibaba says 84 percent of sales in the first two hours were ordered through mobile devices.

Alibaba Singles' Day sales reach US$5b in first hour
Alibaba Group Holding Ltd Executive Vice Chairman Joe Tsai, retired NBA player Kobe Bryant, former captain of England's soccer team David Beckham, Founder and Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group Jack Ma, and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd Chief Marketing Officer Chris Tung, pose for pictures during a rehearsal for Alibaba's 11.11 Singles' Day shopping festival gala, in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, China, November 9, 2016. Reuters

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding said its 'Singles' Day' sale saw more than US$5 billion sales within the first hour of the shopathon on Friday, a third more than in the first hour of last year's spree.

The 24-hour event, which is held every year on Nov 11, offers an insight into China's swing to online shopping, especially via smartphones. The event, launched in 2009, is also a benchmark for Alibaba's annual performance. It was designed to encourage consumers without a partner to treat themselves.

This year Alibaba aims to capture global attention with Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson, sports celebrity David Beckham, basketball legend Kobe Bryant and pop-rock band One Republic.

The Singles' Day organized by this e-commerce giant shifts more goods than the combined goods of Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the United States.

Sales on Alibaba platforms, which include Tmall and Taobao, are tipped to exceed US$20 billion this year, up from $14 billion last year.

"Back in 2013, 35 billion yuan (US$5.15 billion) was our one-day GMV (gross merchandise volume)," Daniel Zhang, chief executive officer said in a live microblog posting on Alibaba's event.

"Now we can achieve it in one hour," he added.

Alibaba said on its official microblog that the sales officially started at midnight and it released all the pre-placed orders in those first few hours which were placed by shoppers ahead of the event. This resulted in first billion dollars of transactions in just 5 minutes.

Alibaba is not the only retailer to mark Nov. 11 with a massive sales drive. Inc, China's second largest e-commerce player and Alibaba rival, and several other companies also offer discount deals on the day.

The popularity of Singles Day reflects how Chinese consumers are racing to shop online especially through their smartphones. On Friday, Alibaba said 84 percent of sales in the first two hours were via mobile devices.

However, reports say false advertising and messaged statistics have created confusion for customers on Singles' Day rising concern in the cut-throat competition.

The business regulator of China warned mainland online shopping platforms this week against suspect sales tactics.