web analytics

China’s Single Day: The Road to the 11.11 Global Shopping Festival

Shoppers around the world know the significance ofNovember 11. The day is known as the “Chinese Singles’ Day” and it is the world’s biggest online shopping day that happens yearly in China.This event has become a traditionin the second-largest economy in the world ever since it was launched in 2009.

The sheer size of online spending in one day is enough to beat “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” orthe entire Thanksgiving Day weekendonline shopping in America. And in2018, sales volume is expected to hit record-breaking numbers again.

The history of Singles Day

The origin of Singles Day is far different from Black Friday in the U.S. where the 4th Thursday of November signals in the start of the Christmas holiday season. Its rootsin China have nothing to do with shopping.The issues were more heart-related andin deference to single-hood.

  • The male surplus

Back in the 1990s, students at Nanjing University protested against Valentine’s Day.Men, in particular, were vocalbecause there were fewerwomento date on heart’s day.

The male population outnumbers females by a wide edge. China’s strict one-child policy, with a preference for couples to bear a son, somehow led to the gender imbalance in the country.

The date 11/11 was chosen by the younger generation because it meant four “Single Sticks” and the number “1” takes after an individual who is alone. They decided to honor singles and celebrate their status on November 11, 1993.No one expected that by the next millennium, a commercialized festival will be born from that famous moment in a Chinese university.

  • How itturned out to be the biggest online shopping bonanza

Singles Day had different names prior to being officially declared as a major shopping event.The day was popularly known as the “bare sticks holiday” because when written, 11.11 resemble sticks.November 11 was also referred to as “Bachelor’s Day” for obvious reasons.

Jack Ma, founder,and chairman of Alibaba Group, and his team came up with a brilliant concept. The year was 2009 and the Chinese e-commerce giant, the counterpart of U.S. behemoth Amazon.com, was looking for ways to boost online sales.

The timing was perfect to introduce the “Double 11” deals since online shopping was just picking up steam. Besides, November was generally a lean shopping month. It sits between the country’s Golden Week national holiday in October and the Christmas season in December. The period is a time-out from shopping.

The Alibaba chief saw an excellent window of opportunity. Instead of moping in single status, why not encourage thesingles and everyone else to buy gifts or presents for themselves on November 11.

It was such a novel idea that it ignited a countrywide shopping phenomenon. The following year, 11.11.11 was dubbed as the Singles Day of the Century.Finally, in 2012, the Singles Day trademark stuck.

Singles Day Statistics

The marketing genius of Jack Ma to link the lonely hearts club with online shopping paid handsome dividends.  When the connection was established in 2009, there’s no stopping the shopping extravaganza.

The Alibaba Group, through its Tmall unit, offered special pricing and promotions for a limited 24-hour period. From then on, sales every November 11 grew exponentially.

  • Record sales every year

When Alibaba tested the waters in 2009, the total consumer spending of 50 million yuan in 27 merchants was respectable. But it was just a portent of things to come. In 11.11.11, the jump in sales was meteoric that it scaled $820 million.

When the shopping event officially became the “Singles Day,”Alibaba’s sales soared every single year from 2012 until 2017. Here are the official sales figures:

Year               Sales (in billions of USD)

2012                         $ 3.04

2013                         $ 5.80

2014                         $ 9.30

2015                         $14.03

  • $17.79
  • $25.30

The Chinese digital dynamo generated $25.3 billion online sales in a 24-hour period on November 11, 2017, while American consumers spent a total of $19.62 billion in online shopping over a five-day period (November 23-27).

Another trivia is that Alibaba raked in $1 billion in just two minutes and one second when the event started and $12 billion within two hours. The Chinese market is really huge considering that a ‘single’ retailer can earn so much profit from a one-day online shopping festival.

  • What to expect on Singles Day 2018

The countdown to the 2018 edition of China’s Singles Day has begun but Alibaba has yet to release their sales forecast. Perhaps, it’s no longer necessary if you were to extrapolate the sales data.

Going by the trends in 2018, the expectations remain high. Alibaba registered record in sales in 2017 and this year could prove to be bigger and better. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see another crazy record in 2018. That has always been the prediction for China’s Singles Day year in and year out.

Alibaba’s shifting focus

Shoppers will always compare China’s Singles Day and America’s Black Friday/Cyber Monday. At this point, the Asian online bonanza is convincingly ahead in terms of sales. However, Alibaba is shifting focus which is the reverse of what retailers in the U.S. want to happen.

Amazon.com Inc., Alibaba’s counterpart, is determined to ramp up online sales and draw customers away from brick-and-mortar stores. On the other hand, the Chinese e-commerce giant has invested $8 billion to enter into the brick-and-mortar universe.

Nearly 90%of Alibaba’s sales were via mobile platforms. This time around, they are after a “seamless blend of the online and offline.” That explains why there is a push to move into physical retail stores.

When Jack Ma uplifted the loveless in 2009, he also openedthe road to the 11.11 Global Shopping Festival. Hence, whatever direction Alibaba is headed today, the company is definitely preparing to introduce fresh shopping concepts. And customers would be the likely beneficiaries.

A “new retail” might be in the offing. Since two years ago, Jack Ma is already envisioning a bold extension of Alibaba’s strategy of pure digital competition into the physical world. It can come sooner than later.

Leave a Reply