China sales: Alibaba takes £2bn in minutes on Singles' Day

Not enough

Not enough

Singles' Day, then, appears to be celebrating a marriage after all-one of cyberspace and reality. The day began innocently enough in 1993 at Nanjing University as a day to revel in singledom, according to Forbes; Alibaba's online shopping festival for the event began in 2009 as a self-affirming excuse to buy a lot online with the knowledge you're sticking it in the face of the retailers who cater to couples on Valentine's Day, but now it's become the showground for Alibaba's blossoming rivalry with Amazon.

Eighteen hours later, at 6:00 pm (1000 GMT) on Saturday, Alibaba said the gross value of sales processed by its online payment system Alipay was nearing $21 billion - roughly equivalent to the annual economic output of Honduras or Afghanistan.

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With more than half of China's 1.3 billion people being smartphone users, it is no surprise that more than 90% of orders were made by mobile, majority on taobao.com, Alibaba's main e-commerce platform. Last year, online sales sold over $3 billion.

Mobile transactions account for 93 per cent of transactions so far this year, a further lift from the whole-day average of 85 per cent in 2016. The final Alibaba 11.11 Singles Shopping Event could close in on $25 billion, depending on the momentum in the last hours of the sale. Zhang Jingjing, a 30-year-old clerk for an engineering company, prepared for Singles Day by building a shopping list on Alibaba's retail platform Tmall and watching for when prices dip.

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Alibaba turned 100,000 physical shops around China into "smart stores" for this year's event.

China is already the world's largest e-commerce market and the share of online shopping that makes up all consumer spending grows every year. "I have often emptied my "shopping cart" on Singles Day", Zheng said.

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A decade ago, November 11th was a tongue-in-cheek cultural "celebration" of single people in China. "We will see tens of billions of dollars injected overseas (by Alibaba)", said Li Chengdong, a Beijing-based independent e-commerce analyst.

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