SHANGHAI - Still three weeks away from China's 24-hour festival of consumerism known as Singles' Day, or Double 11, e-commerce behemoth Alibaba on Thursday launched pre-sale activities on its Tmall site.More than 140,000 brands, 60,000 of them international ones, are slated to participate in this year’s Singles' Day festival, with more than 15 million products part of the associated promotions.In line with Alibaba's much touted "New Retail" strategy, online to offline retailing, or O2O, will form a larger part of Singles' Day than ever before, with 1 million stores set to utilize O2O options.According to Alibaba, more than 1,000 brands across various categories will convert over 100,000 physical locations into “smart stores” featuring shopping tours, virtual fitting rooms, virtual payments, deliveries and more.An augmented reality game (comparable to Pokemon Go) called “Catch the Cat” will encourage consumers to earn special promotion coupons and prizes when they find and scan Tmall's mascot (a cat) using Taobao's mobile app. The Tmall cat will be featured in thousands of retail stores including Starbucks and KFCs and other key shopping locations across China.As well as bringing international brands to Chinese consumers, Alibaba is also planning special promotions on 100 Chinese brands to overseas consumers - largely Chinese citizens living in other parts of Asia and the world, a population Alibaba estimates at 100 million.In order to cope with logistical demands, Alibaba's Cainiao Network will have three million logistical personnel on hand to cope with the influx of orders expected over the Singles' Day period.Last year's Singles' Day activities saw Alibaba sell nearly $18 billion worth of products and services, a 32 percent increase on 2015. Though the year-on-year growth in gross merchandise value for Singles' Day is slowing, Alibaba continues to beat performance expectations. In first quarter 2017 results, the company posted a 56 percent rise in revenue, largely on the strength of its core e-commerce business.
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