At the close of its November 11 Singles Day event, Alibaba made headlines when the firm announced that it had made $25.3 billion in gross merchandise volume (GMV), marking a 39% increase from its previous year's record. And artificial intelligence (AI) was a critical part of that success.
To put that number into perspective, Alibaba rival JD.com only reached $19.14 billion after 11 days of transactions around the event. Alibaba made its billions in a span of just 24 hours.
At its peak, 325,000 orders were being made per second, according to an Alibaba press release. To handle this volume, and the myriad of other challenges that came with Singles Day, the firm had to rely on its investments in AI, machine learning, and cloud computing.
SEE: IT leader's guide to the future of artificial intelligence (Tech Pro Research)
One of the biggest issues—customer service—was handled almost exclusively by AI. According to the release, Alibaba's AI-powered customer service robot handled 95% of customer service inquiries during Singles Day.
For advertising around the event, Alibaba's AI-based marketing platform generated more than 400 million custom banner ads, the release said. Additionally, AI was also used in product recommendations to create around 60 billion personalized pages in some of Alibaba's apps.
Alibaba also needed strong infrastructure to handle the additional traffic. Using colocation technology, the firm was able to achieve an average CPU utilization of 40% and a peak utilization of 60%, the release said. Also, computer resources were automatically allocated through an intelligent engine that "cut down the number of servers required by approximately 30%," the release noted.
In Alibaba Cloud's North China data center, the company deployed a patrol robot that monitored the data center's overall condition and took care of routine tasks. According to the release, autonomous load testing was also used to save 1,000 man-days worth of engineering compared to the previous year's Singles Day.
Live streaming was supported throughout the firm's 15 data centers worldwide, and some 1,200 content delivery network (CDN) nodes were utilized to support the additional content delivery during the event, the release said.
AI and machine learning are making their mark in the enterprise, and Alibaba's Single Day effort is clear evidence that the technologies will soon be table stakes for all businesses.
The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers
- Alibaba reached $25.3 billion on Singles Day, relying heavily on AI, machine learning, and cloud computing to handle the increased traffic and sales.
- Alibaba's AI-powered customer service robot handled 95% of customer service inquiries during Singles Day, among other marketing efforts.
- Colocation and an intelligent engine helped Alibaba more efficiently use its compute resources during the event, cutting the number of required servers by 30%.
- Special report: How to implement AI and machine learning (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
- Alibaba breaks previous Singles Day sales record to hit $25.3B (ZDNet)
- The Complete Machine Learning Bundle (TechRepublic Academy)
- What Alibaba can teach us about digital transformation (ZDNet)
- Understanding the differences between AI, machine learning, and deep learning (TechRepublic)
Conner Forrest has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.