Sales on Alibaba’s marketplaces grew 32.3% and mobile accounted for 81.87% of overall Singles’ Day sales.

In addition to deep discounts, Chinese e-commerce behemoth Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. treated online shoppers on Singles’ Day to a gala during which they could watch performances, shop online, connect with celebrities, play social games like a lottery and test new virtual reality technology.

Although China’s economic growth is slowing down, online spending in China is holding strong. On Nov. 11, which is the e-commerce shopping holiday called Singles’ Day, Alibaba said the value of goods sold on its marketplace, referred to as gross merchandise value, rose 32.3% to 120.7 billion yuan ($17.8 billion) compared with 91.2 billion yuan ($14.3 billion) a year ago. 81.87% of sales were generated on mobile devices, Alibaba says.

“The result is really exciting. Sales from high-ticket value products like products in home goods and household appliances boosted the Singles’ Day sales. Another driver comes from growing shoppers in rural areas,” Cao Lei, director of the China E-commerce Research Center, tells Internet Retailer.

The major motivation to shop on Singles’ Day is huge discounts. For example, consumers could buy a chest of drawers that retails for 999 yuan ($146) but was sold, in limited supply, for 1 yuan (15 cents) on Alibaba’s marketplace Tmall.com.

As Singles’ Day evolves it is increasingly blending shopping with entertainment, Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang said during the Singles’ Day gala. David Hill, who has produced Super Bowl halftime shows and the Academy Awards, directed the show, which featured celebrities like basketball star Kobe Bryant, movie star Scarlett Johansson and pop band OneRepublic on stage.

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Consumers watched the show on their TVs, mobile phones and computers, as well as interacted with the event online. For example, shoppers were asked to select their favorite stars on mobile phones to receive coupons or win clothing that a celebrity wore.

Shoppers could increase their likelihood of winning by clicking more often, which helps explain why consumers made a total of 7.4 billion interactions during the show, which was one of the most watched show in China that day, according to CSM Media Research. Alibaba also invited many “influencers” to post products recommendations on Chinese social network Weibo. According to Weibo, there were 1.21 billion views of posts with the Tmall Singles’ Day tag.

Brands also live-streamed on Alibaba to introduce their brands to consumers and get real-time customer feedback. For example, Elizabeth Arden’s executives hosted a live show on Tmall to introduce new products to their fans.

About 8 million consumers test-drove Alibaba’s virtual-reality project from Nov. 1-10. Alibaba sells a cardboard VR headset for 1 yuan (15 cents), allowing consumers to browse, select and pay for products in virtual retail stores of eight merchants, including Macy’s Inc., Costco Wholesale Corp., Procter & Gamble Co, Chemist Warehouse, Freedom foods Group Ltd., Tokyo Otaku Mode Inc., and Matsumoto Kiyoshi Co.

Alibaba’s thinking about itself as an economy, not an ordinary company. “Alibaba’s economy was the sixth-largest in China last year and is likely to be the 20th-largest in the world this year,” Ma said in a press meeting shortly before the close of Alibaba’s 11.11.2016 mega-shopping event. “There will be a virtual economy on the internet. All the young people, the small companies, the businesses … can leverage the sector to do global buying and global selling,” he said.

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