Singles' Day 2019: A Tech Success Story
Sanjib Dutta

In 2019, Alibaba’s Singles' Day (11.11) Gross Merchandise Volume or Gross Merchandise Value (GMV) - an online retailing term used as an indicator of total sales dollar value of merchandise - stood at $38.4B, far exceeding the combined US online retail sales during the four shopping holidays in 2019 – Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday ($24.6B) (Source: Adobe Analytics and Alibaba Group).

Source: Techcrunch, Adobe Analytics, Alibaba
The highlight of Singles' Day 2019 was the display of a plethora of emerging technologies that provided a superior shopping experience and zero downtime for customers. One such technology in use was X-Dragon architecture. X-Dragon seamlessly integrated different computing platforms and virtual machines in a single architecture thereby improving cost efficiency by 20 percent.

Alibaba’s new generation cloud-native database - POLARDB helped process more than 80 million sales requests per second. Another interesting technology that helped customers get quick response to their enquiries was the chatbot Alime Shop Assistant. Supported by ML technologies, Alime handled more 90 percent of customer inquiries raised on Alibaba’s Taobao and Tmall e-commerce platforms.

Machine translation technology enabled sales on AliExpress, Alibaba’s cross-border e-commerce platform. Machine translation technology helped translate merchant’s store and product pages into 21 languages for customers across Americas, Europe, Asia and Middle East. Also, big data algorithms quickly and correctly arranged the complete delivery process.

Alibaba’s indigenously developed – Alibaba Cloud Apsara System, a mega cloud computing operating system, handled more than 500,000 orders per second during the peak hours. Such was the speed of the server on the cloud that a customer jokingly said, “the money was spent too quickly for me to react.” Alibaba also offered customers various interactive games and ‘See Now, Buy Now’ fashion show which enabled customers to buy clothes that the models wore, instantly. All these were made possible from customers’ mobile devices. Customers could also place orders while watching product videos enabled by live streaming.

Close to 8% of sales on Singles' Day was enabled by video streaming. Another interesting technology that drove sales was voice command. More than one million orders were executed through voice commands. The technology was powered by Tmall Genie, a smart speaker developed by Alibaba AI Labs.

Alibaba’s Singles' Day is possibly the only mega shopping event around that world that enables various new customer-centric technologies to be tested, thereby providing customers an enhanced shopping experience year after year. Singles' Day 2020 will hopefully provide a far more interesting space to test new technologies that positively impact shopping behavior.

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