Alibaba generated more than $1 billion in sales in the first eight minutes of this year’s Singles’ Day shopping event, beating last year’s record of 17 minutes to hit the billion-dollar mark, the company reported early on Wednesday.

The Chinese e-commerce giant clocked its second billion by the time the first 17 minutes and 29 seconds of the retail extravaganza had passed, and by the first hour, it had clocked up $3.9 billion in gross merchandise volume (GMV). GMV is the total amount settled through mobile wallet Alipay across domestic and international platforms. After the first 90 minutes of Singles’ Day, that number had swelled to $5 billion.

Last year, Alibaba booked a record $9.3 billion in total sales, more than four times the $2.4 billion sold on Cyber Monday, the biggest online sales day for the U.S., which falls on the first Monday after Thanksgiving.

Known as the world’s biggest 24-hour online shopping event, Singles’ Day falls on November 11th every year and officially kicks off at the stroke of midnight. This year, the event- sometimes referred to as Double 11 -could record its best performance yet, with 56 percent of mainland Internet users expected to increase spending from last year, according to a recent Nielsen survey.

This year, mobile sales were a key driver for Alibaba.

Mobile accounted for 73.9 percent, or $2.9 billion, of total GMV in the first hour on Wednesday, compared to 45.7 percent during last year’s sale, while the total number of mobile buyers exceeded more than 27 million.

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The impressive numbers are undoubtedly a boon for Alibaba, which has previously struggled with mobile strategy amid rising competition from other Internet giants such as Tencent.

“This year, Alibaba Group has transformed 11.11 into an unprecedented mobile shopping experience. Over the course of the 24-hour shopping marathon, consumers will have a new surprise every hour that has been especially tailored for mobile users. The whole world will witness the power of Chinese consumption this November 11,” said Daniel Zhang, Alibaba’s chief executive officer.

Photo via the guardian

Photo via the guardian

Singles’ Day was created in the 1990s as a way to celebrate single life, but Alibaba became the first major company to monetize the holiday, launching a special online sale in 2009 that effectively transformed the day into a shopping phenomenon. It’s one that reflects the growing wealth of China’s middle class.

Singles’ Day was created in the 1990s as a way to celebrate single life, but Alibaba became the first major company to monetize the holiday, launching a special online sale in 2009 that effectively transformed the day into a shopping phenomenon. It’s one that reflects the growing wealth of China’s middle class.

“At each 11.11, Alibaba’s infrastructure is put to the test and our technological capabilities are taken to the next level,” said Zhang. “Last year, we handled a record-breaking 80,000 orders at peak per second at peak. This year, we expect to handle 120,000 orders and 60,000 payments at peak per second. It will be a proud achievement for us.”

It’s not just Alibaba that is expected to reap the benefit of Singles Day; e-commerce competitors such as JD.com have also launched their own 11.11 sales events in recent years.

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Haoyu Shen, CEO of JD.com’s business-to-consumer group JD Mall, told CNBC on Wednesday that categories including consumer electronics, apparel and baby products were some of the most popular this year.

While he was unable to provide early sales numbers, he said the company was seeing a very strong performance compared to last year.

 

This feature originally appeared in CNBC.

 

 

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