The Secret to Alibaba’s Singles Day Success? Brick-and-Mortar

We’ve all heard by now that Alibaba’s Singles Day—think of it as the Chinese Prime Day—shattered sales volume records, recording over $30 billion in revenue for Jack Ma’s retail giant. What you haven’t heard is that brick-and-mortar retail played a key role in that windfall, in a strategy the company is calling ‘new retail.’

It turns out that Alibaba is leading the way on tying together digital savoir-faire with the enduring appeal of a brick-and-mortar presence. That’s proving especially key for sales in QSRs. Here are some of the brick-and-mortar-based tricks up Alibaba’s sleeve:

  • Through, its food delivery platform, and a partnership with Starbucks, Alibaba orchestrated Starbucks deliveries in eleven cities.
  • Alibaba has a chain of grocery stores, called Hema, in which customers can make purchases with their phones, skipping the cashier line (cough cough, Amazon Go/Whole Foods). This strategy isn’t limited to Alibaba anymore: Standard Cognition, offering this kind of solution to other retailers, just raised $40 million in Series A funding.
  • Through its property TMall, Alibaba set up installations in 200,000 brick-and-mortar outlets where customers could make purchases that would later be delivered to their doors.

Takeaway: Delivery capabilities are a must-have retail solution, and AI-driven POS solutions are a cutting-edge technique that the biggest brands should be considering. 

Joe Zappa is Street Fight’s managing editor.

Joe Zappa is the Managing Editor of Street Fight. He joined Street Fight as a contributing writer in 2015, has compiled the daily newsletter since 2016, and has spearheaded the newsroom's editorial operations since 2018. Shoot him an email at