China's Alibaba seeks to globalize Chinese shopping holiday

Alibaba is promoting the sales event through AliExpress, an English language site for international buyers

China's Alibaba Group is taking another step to draw international users to its e-commerce sites by offering deep discounts on products during an upcoming sales promotion on Nov. 11.

The company is taking the annual sales event global this year, in the hope of attracting buyers from 200 countries, Alibaba said in an online posting on Monday.

Held every Nov. 11, the sales festival arrives on Singles Day in China, a local holiday that's also become a time when the country's e-commerce sites offer low prices on goods. The sales have been so high that last year Alibaba's own e-commerce sites processed over US$5.7 billion in goods during the holiday, making it a new record.

This year, Alibaba wants to take the sales event beyond mainland China, partly through its AliExpress site, an English-language platform designed for foreign buyers.

On Nov. 11, participating AliExpress merchants will offer 50 percent discounts on a million product listings. Free international shipping will also be offered on certain items for buyers based in Brazil, Spain and Russia among others markets.

Alibaba announced the sales promotion weeks after the company listed on the New York Stock Exchange, becoming one of the biggest IPOs ever. Armed with more cash, the company has its eyes on becoming a global player on the tech scene.

Analysts, however, expect Alibaba will first expand its existing e-commerce sites before trying to directly challenges rivals such as Amazon.com. AliExpress, founded in 2010, specializes in offering products from Chinese merchants, and the site continues to grow especially in markets including Russia, Brazil and the U.S.

On Nov. 11, Alibaba also plans market the sales promotion to shoppers in Hong Kong, Malaysia and Taiwan, by offering discounts on 400 items through its Taobao Marketplace site.

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Michael Kan

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