Alibaba breaks records, sells $17.7 billion on Singles Day

As the clock struck midnight, Alibaba announced its final total for 2016’s Singles Day sales frenzy: US$17.7 billion.

Once again, mobile sales far outstripped sales via desktop. Alibaba said that sales via mobile devices accounted for 82 percent – US$14.6 billion – of its total haul. That’s up significantly from just under 69 percent last year.

Alibaba has beaten its own sales totals each year since the sales began, and this year was no different. It passed last year’s US$14.3 billion high-water mark early in the evening, a sign that this year’s growth wasn’t going to be quite as explosive as previous years’ (in 2015, Alibaba hit the previous year’s mark at midday). In the end that proved true, as Alibaba fell just short of the US$20 billion target some had been expecting it to surpass. Still, nearly US$18 billion is nothing to sneeze at.

Singles Day is the world’s largest shopping holiday, and this year’s Alibaba number alone is likely to exceed Black Friday and Cyber Monday numbers in the west later this month. But it’s worth pointing out that Alibaba’s Singles Day figure – which is the day’s total GMV, or gross merchandise volume – isn’t the same as revenue. GMV represents the total value of goods sold, and investors have raised questions about the way Alibaba counts it.

Even so, there’s no denying that Alibaba’s sale is by far the most massive in global ecommerce, and this year marks another year of strong growth for the holiday. Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang says that only 10 percent of China’s total retail spending is happening online, which means that Singles Day will likely keep growing for years to come.

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