Alibaba’s Big Singles’ Day: $1 Billion in Sales in 8 Minutes

Just halfway into this year's Singles' Day shopping event, Alibaba has eclipsed its record sales result from 2014.

By 1 p.m. in China on Wednesday, the e-commerce giant said it had clocked more than $9.3 billion in gross merchandise volume (GMV), the total sales results for 2014's event and well above the $2.4 billion sold on Cyber Monday, the biggest online sales day in the U.S.

GMV is the total amount settled through mobile wallet Alipay across Alibaba's domestic and international platforms.

Ever since the holiday officially began at the stroke of midnight on Wednesday, Alibaba has giving sales updates. In the first eight minutes of this year's sale, the company generated more than $1 billion in sales, beating last year's record of 17 minutes to hit the billion-dollar mark.

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By the time the first 17 minutes and 29 seconds of the retail extravaganza had passed, Alibaba clinched its second billion and by the first hour, it had secured $3.9 billion. After the first 90 minutes, that number had swelled to $5 billion.

Known as the world's biggest 24-hour online shopping event, Singles' Day falls on November 11th every year. 2015 could see the event record its best performance yet, with 56 percent of mainland Internet users expected to increase spending from last year, according to a recent Nielsen survey.

Singles' Day was created in the 1990s as a way to celebrate single life — the 11.11 date represents solitary figures — but Alibaba became the first major company to monetize the holiday, launching a special online sale in 2009 that effectively transformed the day into a shopping phenomenon. It's one that reflects the growing wealth of China's middle class.

"At each 11.11, Alibaba's infrastructure is put to the test and our technological capabilities are taken to the next level," said Daniel Zhang, Alibaba's chief executive officer. "Last year, we handled a record-breaking 80,000 orders at peak per second at peak. This year, we expect to handle 120,000 orders and 60,000 payments at peak per second. It will be a proud achievement for us."