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The Double 11 Global Shopping Festival is undoubtedly the world’s biggest online shopping festival that observes an astoundingly high sales revenue every year. The mass-scale event is annually conducted on November 11 and sees participation from billions of customers, brands, and businesses across the globe. Last year, over 800 million customers spent a total of US$74 billion GMV during the Double 11 event.
While the annual event produces big revenue numbers, e-commerce platforms also need to use advanced technology and intelligent applications to meet the demands of high traffic and transaction volume. During the 2020 Double 11 festival, Alibaba Cloud leveraged a robust digital infrastructure for zero downtime across operations, cloud-native offerings to enable efficiency for developers, and a variety of consumer-facing applications for enhanced customer engagement. And the e-commerce giant has already come up with new strategies and innovations to step up this year's event. While waiting for this year's Double 11 to kick off, let’s take a look back at the technologies used last year to support the annual global shopping festival.
Improved customer engagement is one of the many important factors to consider when enhancing the online shopping experience and boosting overall sales. To provide an interactive experience to the customers during the 2020 Double 11 festival, Alibaba Cloud leveraged a slew of consumer-centric applications, including virtual anchors, a 3D modeling design platform, and livestreaming for shopping.
Taobao Live launched a virtual anchor service for the merchants harnessing the Alibaba Cloud DAMO Academy’s latest multi-module technology with Natural Language Processing (NLP), Text-to-Speech (TTS), image recognition, and cloud rendering. Other technologies used include perception of intelligence and cognitive intelligence to add a human touch to the virtual anchor. In addition to responding to the customer query and explaining the product details, virtual anchors made the shopping experience a whole lot fun for the customers with their pleasant greetings, sophisticated dance moves, and games during livestreaming.
Another digital initiative taken by Alibaba Cloud to create engaging experiences for the customer and businesses during 2020 double included a 3D modeling design platform powered by machine learning. 3D modeling enables brands to create virtual showrooms and provide a new digital space for customers to explore their products. The 3D modeling design platform by Alibaba Cloud allowed the merchants to build more than 100,000 online showrooms displaying virtual 3D products. It also reduced the time taken to create models from three hours to just 10 seconds. These virtual showrooms were available for customers on Taobao and helped sell high-end products such as houses, furniture, etc. The machine learning technologies leveraged by Alibaba Cloud to set up the 3D modeling platform included Graph Neural Networks (GNN), knowledge graphs, 3D shape analysis, and Convolutional Neural Networks (CNN).
Lastly, livestreaming has become all the rage among brands in China and is transforming the online shopping landscape. Chinese consumers consider livestreaming an essential part of the shopping experience to decide, discover, and purchase new products. Since livestreaming is a significant sales and engagement driver for Chinese e-commerce platforms, it was used extensively during 2020 Double 11. A total of 9,000 live streams were watched by over 8 million global viewers on AliExpress, Alibaba’s global retail marketplace.
To move past the common challenges associated with livestreaming, such as accents, mispronunciation, and slang, Alibaba Cloud leveraged a real-time translation feature on AliExpress. DAMO Academy’s innovative speech model powered real-time translation. It supported translation from Chinese to different languages such as English, French, Russian, and Spanish. More than 70% of the AliExpress merchants leveraged the translation capability. It helped boost the overall sales and better understand different accents in a livestreaming environment.
Extremely high scalability and computing performance are critical during the Double 11 festival. Even a second of downtime can negatively impact the customer shopping experience and lead to significant revenue loss. Alibaba Cloud efficiently supported the world’s biggest festival last year by embracing cloud-native technologies. For instance, MaxCompute, Alibaba Cloud’s data warehousing platform that supports big data computing, successfully handled up to 1.7 exabytes of data in a day through the entirety of the 11-day festival starting from November 1 to 11. This data is equivalent to processing 230 high-resolution pictures of all the 7 billion people in the world.
Alibaba Cloud also harnessed its cloud-native databases – PolarDB, AnalyticDB, and Lindorm, ensuring Double 11 ran smoothly. AnalyticDB processed up to 7.7 trillion lines of real-time data during the 2020 Double 11 event, equivalent to 15 times the data present in the UK Web Archive at the British Library. Furthermore, Alibaba Cloud supported one of the largest container clusters in the world during the 2020 Double 11 festival, which allowed upscaling to one million containers per hour. It resulted in a whopping 80% reduction of computing resources for every 10,000 transactions conducted.
To enable an environment-friendly shopping experience for billions of customers during the 2020 Double 11 festival, Alibaba Cloud used state-of-the-art green technologies such as liquid cooling and wind energy deployed at its hyper-scale data centers. Alibaba Cloud’s Hangzhou hyperscale data center comes equipped with one of the largest liquid-cooled server clusters in the world. The rare ‘liquid cooling’ technology by Alibaba Cloud involves submerging the servers in a liquid coolant that helps get rid of the heat sans the cooling equipment. In addition to cooling down the IT hardware, it brings down the total energy consumption by over 70% and efficiently handles the monumental computing work required during Double 11. Moreover, the Hangzhou data center also helps save 70 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) electricity consumption every year compared to traditional data centers. To put that into a larger perspective, the electricity saved is sufficient to power over 16,000 households in the UK in a year. The average electricity consumption in UK households is close to 350 (kWh) every month.
Summing it up, it takes a combination of best-in-class technologies and applications to create a successful and engaging online shopping experience during the Double 11 global shopping festival. While we have already discussed the technologies leveraged during the 2020 Double 11 festival, the much-awaited 2021 Double 11 is almost here. What do you think would be the innovations powering this year's Double 11 festival? We would love to hear from you.
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