Another Singles Day has come and gone, yielding results which defy most Westerners’ comprehension of scale. Alibaba’s Countdown Gala saw 51 million viewers tune in to watch Taylor Swift perform ‘You Need to Calm Down’. A frenzy ensued, with the first US$1 billion GMV clearing on Alipay in little over one minute. At 4:31pm, we saw sales surpass 2018’s ¥213.5 billion record, before finishing up at ¥268.4 Billion.
It is easy to get lost in the numbers and exciting developments in China’s live-streaming scene. However, what we frequently overlook are Alibaba’s less-arousing back-end systems which actually orchestrate the smooth processing and dispatch of 1.29 billion orders in a single day. The idea that any one business could possess the bandwidth to process 544,000 orders per-second is truly a feat of technological engineering.
One of the lesser-known facts about Singles Day is that it is Alibaba’s annual stress-test. By design, the festival is intended to push Alibaba’s systems as far as they can possibly go. This helps identify issues and problem areas requiring attention or improvement. For example, in the early years, the shopping frenzy resulted in several critical failures with Alibaba’s third-party logistics-support systems. This led to Alibaba developing their own in-house logistics and fulfilment business, Cainiao.
Scroll down for this year’s highlights.