You may be surprised to learn that the World’s largest shopping day is not Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or even Boxing day. It is Singles’ Day, or as Alibaba calls it - the 11.11 Global Shopping Festival. The event began as a cheeky counterpoint to all other retail celebrations that revolve around someone buying a gift and giving it to someone else.
Think of Valentine’s day, birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, etc. The twist is that on Singles’ Day, you buy a gift and give it to yourself! From Alibaba’s perspective, it also helped to fill the gap between China’s Golden Week national holiday in October and Chinese New Year in late January/early February.
This year’s Singles’ Day (November 11th) was its 10th anniversary, so Alibaba pulled out all the stops… wall to wall media coverage, major celebrity endorsements, multiple live events, and a big push outside of China, especially in South East Asia.
The results were impressive – Gross Merchandise Volume (GMV) of more than $30 billion changed hands during the 24 hours, all facilitated by Alibaba’s ubiquitous Alipay payment network. By comparison, that’s about three times the GDP of Germany on the same day. The first $1 billion of those sales came in the first minute after midnight as pre-filled shopping carts were processed. Thus, Singles’ Day beat Amazon’s Prime Day total within the first 60 seconds.
The impressive growth of Singles' Day
The first edition of Singles’ Day was rather inconspicuous. Despite the efforts of Danial Zhang, now Alibaba’s CEO, merely 27 brands participated. Few were willing to offer discounts of over 50% during the event. But, to everyone’s surprising, these 27 brands generated $7.6 million (52 million Yuan) of sales within 24 hours, which emptied many of their inventories.