China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba kicked off its annual “Singles’ Day” shopping spree—China’s equivalent of Black Friday—today. This year will mark the first time that Alibaba’s merchants and consumers get a taste of “new retail,” a term founder Jack Ma coined to depict the increasingly blurring boundaries between the online and offline shopping worlds.

Started as a 24-hour online sale, Alibaba’s 11.11 Global Shopping Festival—as it is officially called—has evolved into a 24-day festival season to celebrate the country’s orgy of consumption. The Festival smashed its own record by racking up 120.7 billion RMB (approximately $17.8 billion) in gross merchandise volume (GMV) within 24 hours last year, eclipsing the $2.74 billion generated online during the US’s Black Friday sales in the same year.

That number was projected onto a large screen, live-streamed in real time to millions around the country last year. But Alibaba is seeking something else this time: How many customers it’s able to drive away from their computers to physical retail stores. As such the giant is partnering with 52 shopping malls to set up 60 pop-up stores across 12 cities in China during the Festival, a spokesperson says.

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Rita Liao

Telling the uncommon China stories through tech. I can be reached at ritacyliao [at] gmail [dot] com.