Double 11 2020: A record-breaking day of sales indicates a strong recovery for the retail sector


Nov 18 2020

Last week, all eyes were on this year’s Double 11 festival, with brands and retailers anxious to see how the much-awaited shopping day would fare amongst the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As it turns out, the event defied even the most positive of expectations, achieving record-breaking sales for a wide variety of both Chinese and international brands and providing a much-needed boost for the afflicted retail sector.

Record-breaking growth

Despite initial concerns that the pandemic may have curbed shopper appetite this year, it appears the opposite was true. Alibaba generated RMB $498 billion (approx. USD $75 billion) in gross merchandise value (GMV) across their 11.11 sales (which, this year, began on the 1st November to boost sales post-pandemic) and handled 583,000 orders per second during the peak of their activity. Compared to the same time period last year, this represents a 26% YOY increase.

The retail boost was not just limited to Alibaba, either. One of Alibaba’s main competitors,, recorded sales of RMB $272 billion (approx. USD $41 billion) over the same time period, with sales on November 1 jumping 138% YOY. The retailer tapped into gamification to engage and convert shoppers, launching two interactive games which allowed consumers to collect digital ‘red envelopes’, and plant trees on a virtual ‘JD farm’ in order to redeem prizes.

Increased international appeal

International participation in Double 11 reached an all-time high this year with 31,000 international brands taking part, of which 2,600 were participating for the first time. International products fared well amongst Chinese consumers, with products from the United States proving most popular to Chinese consumers, thanks to top-selling brands including Apple, Nike and Estèe Lauder Companies.

Participation across South East Asian markets also reached an all-time high, with Singapore-based Lazada surpassing last year’s first 2-hours sales figure in just 35 minutes – selling a whopping 180,000 items in the first 11 minutes of the sale. Shoppers across the region also flocked to marketplaces Shopee and Zalora in search of deals, with staycations, Airpods Pro and Prism monitors amongst the most popular products.

A luxury market boost

The luxury sector was one of the biggest winners in this year’s shopping event, with industry commentators suggesting that consumers were more willing to treat themselves and indulge after the challenges of this year. As a result, many shoppers traded-up from their usual brands to instead shop from luxury brands at discounted prices.

The number of luxury brands participating in this year’s shopping festival doubled to 200. British fashion houses Anya Hindmarch and JW Anderson used the event to launch their official flagship stores on, while luxury retailer Balenciaga exceeded their entire day of sales from the mid-year 6.18 shopping event in just 10 minutes. Other luxury brands including Chloè, Prada and Cartier all participated in the festival for the first time.

A Double 11 boycott

Taking an unconventional approach to the 11.11 festival, secondhand peer-to-peer eCommerce retailer Carousell took to the streets across APAC to boycott the shopping event, with representatives announcing via loudspeaker that they would not be holding any 11.11 deals. The retailer later explained via their social media channels that they provide discounted prices on their platform all year-long, with the peer-to-peer platform letting sellers set their own prices for the products they are selling.

The business also took the opportunity to promote a message of sustainability, explaining that they often see ‘regret’ purchases showing up on their platforms, and encouraged users to take a considered approach to shopping this year’s sales – or to skip them completely and instead shop secondhand to benefit both their wallets and the environment. By latching on to the popularity of Double 11 to promote their always-low prices, the retailer hoped to achieve top-of-mind awareness as a recommerce platform.

Signs of a recovery market

The record-breaking results seen on 11.11 in China indicate pent-up demand amongst a consumer group that is now ready and willing to spend. With the market reporting positive economic growth for the second quarter in a row last month, all signs point to a rebound in consumption for the market which was initially the hardest-hit by the pandemic.

The results also indicate what is likely to be a permanent shift to the ‘digital shelf’ becoming the primary option for shoppers in the wake of COVID-19. With consumers across the globe having to try online shopping – many for the first time – as physical stores were closed, coupled with ‘free and fast’ shipping becoming the norm, its clear that 2020 has been the tipping point for the retail market to transform into a digital-first sector.

At Tag, we work with retail brands to create shopper marketing campaigns that stand out. With our global team of online and physical retail experts, we work with a consumer-led, data-driven approach to maximize the value of every marketing dollar. We work with brands and agencies to build impactful seasonal campaigns and specialize in the design and sourcing of gifts with purchase to support campaign messaging.

Schedule a call today to discuss how Tag can support your retail marketing needs.

Related reads:

Can Double 11 meet high expectations for growth amid a struggling retail environment?

Stopping power: Three retail technologies to connect with the post-COVID consumer

eCommerce in APAC: 2020 regional report

Sources: Alibaba, CNN, SCMP, WWD, The Drum, Jing Daily, Marketing Interactive

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