Alibaba Singles' Day Racked Up $17.8 Billion In 24 Hours

By the time the clock struck 12 in China signaling the end of the Singles' Day, Alibaba (BABA) has raked in 120.7 billion renminbi ($17.8 billion) of gross merchandise volume (GMV), a 32% increase compared to the $14.4 billion GMV in total in 2015.

The e-commerce behemoth has smashed several of its own records this year, bringing in RMB 10 billion ($1.4 billion) in less than seven minutes in the self-invented shopping spree and breaking $5 billion before the first hour was up.

"For them to do a little over a billion dollars in the first five minutes, I think it really speaks to the investment they put in ahead of the actual 24 hour period to ramp up sales," said Christian Magoon, CEO of Amplify Investments, which tracks a global index of 42 companies that generate at least 70% of their revenue from online retail transactions and virtual sales.

While Alibaba refuses to disclose figures of their marketing spending on Singles' Day, there is no doubt that by inviting world-famous celebrities Kobe Bryant, David Beckham and Scarlett Johansson to join its Singles' Day countdown gala, the company has spent millions of dollars to make online shopping a fun experience for eager consumers, according to Magoon.

What's particularly notable about this year's sales figure is that the $14.6 billion mobile GMV accounted for 82% of the total GMV, singling out mobile e-commerce as the main driver for China's online retail growth.

"Only 10% of China's total retail is online," said Alibaba Group CEO Daniel Zhang in a video posted on the company's Singles' Day live blog. "Every form of retail in China is trying to find a digital transformation."

A whole class of international brands, such as Apple (AAPL) , Nike (NKE) , New BalancePlayboy and Skechers, also raised Alibaba's Singles' Day game by selling some of their most-popular products on its e-commerce platforms. 37% of total buyers purchased from international brands or merchants. 

Completed cross-border transactions spanned 235 countries and regions, with Japan, the United States, South Korea, Australia and Germany being the top-selling countries to China.

Singles' Day, also called Double 11, a term copyrighted by Alibaba to fend off competitions, means high stakes for many. From sellers to buyers to couriers, a network of Alibaba branches and affiliations depend on each other for success. For example, the company's logistics arm, Cainiao Network, processed more than 657 million delivery orders placed on Alibaba's China and international retail marketplaces during this year's Singles' Day alone.

Alibaba's famed executive chairman Jack Ma told a crowd of several hundred reporters that the "Alibaba economy" was the sixth-largest in China last year and is likely to be the 20th-largest in the world this year.

Although Alibaba has wowed some analysts with its fanfare and extravaganza of the mega shopping event, others hold a more cautious stance on the long-term valuation.

"The growth in volumes for Singles' Day this year was not as impressive as previous years, but that is mostly an indication of the large scale it had previously achieved. The Chinese consumer has shown some deceleration over the last couple of years based on the numbers reported by Alibaba, but is still growing far faster than their Western counterparts," said Gil Luria, managing director at Wedbush Securities.

As Alibaba registers "another blockbuster in the books," another cause for concern is an investigation into its accounting practices, launched by the Security and Exchange Commission in May.

"I would also suspect Alibaba has become a little more strict on volume reporting, especially considering this may be one of the topics being investigated by the SEC," Luria said.

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