The Singles’ Day is originally a festival for young Chinese people to celebrate the fact that they are proud to be single. Since 2009, thanks to Alibaba, it has become the 24h online biggest shopping day of the world with thousand of discounts from both local and international brands.

Where does the Chinese Singles’ Day come from?

The Singles’ Day was first celebrated in 1993 by young Chinese students from Nanjing University, to celebrate their celibacy with other bachelors. It took place on the 11th of November, because it looks numerically like 11.11 or one-one-one-one, 4 solitary bare sticks.

Due to China’s gender imbalance, the Singles’ Day is well implanted in the culture. In 2011, official statistics showed that there were 20M more men than women under 30 years old in the country. Predictions forecasts announce a difference of 35M in 2020, and that in 2030 about 25% Chinese men in their late thirties will not be married.

But the 11/11 can also have another meaning, the 4 “ones” representing “the only one”. Some people tell their love on the 11th of November to say how important their partner is, and that they are “the only one” for them.

And then, Alibaba…

Nowadays, the 11th of November doesn’t have much to do with singles celebrations anymore. In 2009, the giant e-commerce company Alibaba had the genius idea to create a special shopping holiday with crazy discounts called 11/11 or “double 11”.  The annual event starts the 11 of November at Midnight and runs for 24 hours offering huge discounts for e-shoppers. Beside the symbolic, it was also a good occasion to boost to sales between the golden week and Christmas.

At the beginning, the objective was to promote Taobao (at that time Taobao Tmall), an online marketplace like E-Bay where retailers sell their products, with discounts up to 50%. After its success, Alibaba started to target international brands to attract more customers.

And this approach has been more than successful! In 2015, Alibaba set a Guinness World Record with $14.3 billion in gross merchandise volume, the best online sales generate by a company in 24h. Last year, Chinese customers spent up to $17.8bn, and more than $12bn just on Alibaba’s website in only 12 hours! Global sales including other websites reached $25bn.

A part of the culture

Shopping is an entertainment today, Chinese customers love shopping and especially online, with an Internet penetration of 90% of the population. The Singles’ Day is now a part of the young generation culture, people speaking about the shopping holiday weeks before with friends or on social media. According to 21st Century Business Herald, Alibaba Group Vice President Gao Hongbing said that individuals between the ages of 26 and 30, who make up under 10 percent of the population, have accounted for over 30 percent of total sales. The second largest block is the 18-25 range.

Singles’ Day vs. Black Friday & Cyber Monday

Can we still compare them? 2016 Black Friday reached $2.72bn and Cyber Monday $3.45bn. Even combined they are way behind the 11/11 and its $17.8bn of sales revenues last year.

Chinese customers make daily transactions on their smartphone, from buying a bubble tea, ordering a taxi, paying invoices or… shopping.  Last Cyber Monday recorded about 30% of sales on mobiles devices, versus 80% during Singles’ Day. The 11/11 is a young festival, born with the new digital native generation. They are celebrating their own holiday compare to the official ones, by offering gifts to friends, but maybe themselves first.

While Black Friday and Cyber Monday focus more on discounts themselves, Alibaba approach the event more like a entertainment and marketing event, with different promotional actions and its now famous Countdown Gala. Like Jack Ma, Founder of Alibaba likes to call it the New Retail, the merging of entertainment and consumption.

The 11/11 is targeting worldwide

For the first time last year, the event was called “11.11 Global Shopping Festival 2016”, showing the company strategy to targeting internationally.  AliExpress, was a also part of it, selling products directly to people abroad. 2016’s Singles’ Day has transcended the Chinese borders and people from all around the world are looking to get the best deals.

In 2016, orders came from 207 different countries and regions. “Russia is among the top three foreign markets of AliExpress, alongside the USA and Spain,” according to Mark Zavadsky, Chief Representative of AliExpress.

What to expect from the Singles’ Day 2017?

For the third year, Alibaba will set up an impressive Gala to open the largest shopping day of the world and the sales are displayed in live. For the Countdown Gala 2017, produced by Emmy-winning Oscars producer David Hill, several international celebrities were announced such as the producer and singer Pharrell Williams, the British pop singer Jessie J, Real Madrid star Luis Figo or Maria Sharapova, the famous tennis champion.

More than 100 celebrities will attend this “red carpet” show, which will take place at the fancy Mercedes-Benz Area, initially built for the Shanghai Expo. For people who don’t have the chance to get it, the event will be streamed live on the Taobao App and Youku, the video streaming website. The show will also be displayed on Chinese TV channels.

For the first time this year, Hong Kong and Taiwan will adopt the event and people could buy global brands on Tmall.  About 60,000 brands are set to participate this year. Offline stores will be part of the adventure for the first time too, like different shopping stores in Shanghai. Regarding to the sales growth year-to-year from the beginning, the still growing middle-class and the promotion that started earlier this year, no doubt we will witness another record for the 2017 edition. Let’s see in a few hours!

What about Internships China?

After going to see Alibaba Headquarters in Hangzhou with our 15 students we decided that Yes, we too will have a great Singles’ Day promotion !

We offer you a good occasion to come to discover China, having an unforgettable experience in this dynamic country with a beautiful cultural heritage.

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