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What is Alibaba’s Singles Day?

Alibaba’s Singles Day is the world’s largest shopping event of the year. Organized every year by Alibaba on the November 11th in China, the singles day generates more than US Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined in only 24 hours.
But how did it start and how does Alibaba make so much money on this very specific day?


Singles Day: the world largest e-commerce event

As previously said, Alibaba’s Singles Day is the world largest e-commerce event. Last year it generated 213,5 billion RMB, the equivalent of 30,7 billion US dollar in one single day. With a constant increase through time, Alibaba’s singles day generate more than any other e-commerce anymore over the globe. For instance, even by gathering the worldwide known Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which respectively generated 6,22 Billion USD and 7,9 Billion USD in 2018, it does not even reach half of the Alibaba’s Singles Day Gross Merchandised Value (GMV).

Like every year, in 2018, the 9th edition of the Singles Day event broke again many international records for an e-commerce platform. The most astonishing one being the milestone of 1 billion USD sales reached in only 1 minutes and 25 seconds. Even with a slight decrease in the growth (+27% in 2018, compared to the +39% of 2017) the event doubles its total GMV every couple of years.

Alibaba’s Singles Day growth over time

How was created the Singles Day?

Even if this very particular day is known as Alibaba’s Singles Day, this e-commerce holiday was not created by the Alibaba Group. It is based on a famous Chinese expression, Guānggùn Jié or 光棍节 in mandarin which means “bare sticks holiday” or “single day”. November 11th, written has 11/11 represent 4 single persons gathered, related to bachelor, single and unattached. First celebrated in 1993 by Nanjing University student, the Singles Day was a day when bachelor people were buying gifts for themselves, celebrating being single.

This tradition is one of the blow backs of the Chinese One Child Policy and its influence on the proportion of men in the Chinese society. With almost 30 million more men than women in the population, this cultural holiday was born.

However, China had to wait until 2009 when Daniel Zhang, the actual CEO of Alibaba since 2015, had the idea to turn this cultural holiday into an e-commerce celebration. Lost between 2 important events, between China National Day on October the 1st, and the Spring Festival from January to February, the Singles Day comes in a perfect spot for a shopping event. This 4-month period has no event, and Alibaba exploited this opportunity, turning this cultural holiday into the most important e-commerce event.



Alibaba’s Singles Day going global strategy

This year, for the 10th anniversary of the Singles Day, Alibaba’s strategy is to promote this event worldwide and evolve it to a more international celebration. After using celebrities to promote the event of the past few years, like Nicole Kidman and Pharell Williams, Alibaba has teamed up with Taylor Swift. Particularly popular in China, Taylor Swift’s last 2 albums recorded better sales in China than in the US, her home country, making her the most suitable personality to spread this event over the Chinese borders.

Last year, transactions were recorded from 230 countries around the globe with 180 000 worldwide brands present for the Singles Day, with 237 brands reaching more than 100 million-yuan sales on the singles day. The top countries abroad were Japan, the United States, Korea, Australia and Germany.

Daniel Zhang, Alibaba’s CEO since 2015, after the 11th November 2018 sales record.

For the 10th edition this year, more than 200 000 worldwide brands are expected on the event. With already 666 million mobile monthly active users in China, Alibaba is willing to expend its business abroad trying to reach 500 million consumers outside China. Even if the western population does not use e-commerce has Chinese people do, Alibaba has worked hard with different supports and subsidiaries all around the globe to achieve this objective. Now, all we can do is wait a few days and see how it goes after the 11/11.


PS: A little mouse told me one of my classmate just wrote an article about the shoppertainment trends of this year’s Singles Day.

By Erwan Chatelet

MBADMB Student from October 2019 to April 2020. Interested in Sustainability, AI and Data sciences, I plan to stay a few years in Shanghai, the heart of digital innovation.

5 replies on “What is Alibaba’s Singles Day?”

So interesting to learn more about this incredible e-commerce event and it would be so interesting to learn more about the data of this year’s edition 🙂 Thank you Erwan

And for 2019, Alibaba single day reach more than they predicted!
Very nice article for foreigners to know more about the biggest e-commerce day worldwide

It is so clever to create entertainment around the event and to use the Chinese tradition to create this emotional link to it. I mean …. 30,7 billion US Dollar ! Let’s note that the preorders as a big role to play in this success, not all of this money is generated in a day.

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