Alibaba takes cross-channel approach to 11.11 Global Shopping Festival

Alibaba Group has today revealed its plans to stimulate cross-channel retailing during this year's 11.11 Global Shopping Festival, which is set to see more than 1,000 retail brands in 330 cities across China participate in a major retail marketing push.

In Beijing alone, more than 8,000 stores will join the 11.11 (11 November) festival, which has been running since 2009 and offers shoppers a range of cut-price deals and an opportunity to benefit from a wide variety of retail services. Alibaba said today that consumers will have access to products, prices, services, delivery options and membership benefits online, as well as at the participating brands' physical stores.

Originally the brainchild of Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang six years ago, the 2015 version of the shopping festival was officially launched earlier this month. Its key aim is, clearly, to generate revenues for the group but it also exists as a way of engaging international brands with China and highlighting to them the growing potential of doing business in the country. The grocer, Sainsbury's, is one of the most recent examples of a British retailer starting to work with Alibaba to sell its products in China via the marketplace's Tmall platform.

Speaking last week, Zhang said: "Over the past six years, 11.11 has evolved from a marketing event for online shopping into a global phenomenon that involves consumers in China and around the world.

"This year’s 11.11 will focus on four key themes: omnichannel, mobile, logistics and globalisation. 11.11 showcases the scalability and power of Alibaba's entire ecosystem. Only Alibaba can deliver a comprehensive eCommerce experience at the scale seen on 11.11, the 24-hour period when the world gets a glimpse into our unmatched infrastructure."

Alibaba said that 11 November 2014 was the biggest global shopping day in history in terms of gross merchandise volume, with over US$9.3 billion reportedly settled through China's mobile and online payments platform Alipay. Shoppers were said to have placed 278 million orders in the 24-hour period.

What are this year's new digitally-led festival features?

This year's 11.11 Global Shopping Festival is expected to bring in six million products from more than 40,000 merchants and 30,000 brands, including 5,000 overseas brands from 25 countries and regions such as the US, Europe, Japan and South Korea.

It also comes at a time when the UK government is looking to strengthen its ties with China, as the country's president Xi Jinping makes his first visit to Britain this week. It is ten years since the last official visit from China's head of state and the tour is seen a way of developing bilateral relations, including Xi addressing the House of Commons and the House of Lords, and meeting the royal family during his stay in the UK.

Coinciding with the visit will be an event run by governmental department UKTI, which will be facilitated by the head of the E-Exporting Programme, Edward Donald. The programme, which is designed to help UK retailers and brands grow their presence in foreign countries via online channels, has earmarked China as a significant area of opportunity for British retailers and the wider business world.

Thursday's event, which will take place at the Hilton London Bridge, will give delegates a chance to hear from a range of China-based online marketplaces and to understand the challenges and commerce potential of the country via presentations from UK retailers that have already started to do trade there, such as Superdry and House of Fraser.