It’s fall and the start of the holiday shopping season. And once again, the world’s biggest shopping event has occurred. But no, it’s not Black Friday or Cyber Monday in the U.S. The biggest shopping day comes from the opposite side of the globe from the U.S. – China! Singles Day is held annually on November 11 in China.
Singles Day was originally started in 1993 by college students as a celebration for people who are single, chosen because of the connection between singles and the number ‘1’. Eventually, Chinese ecommerce company Alibaba forged an online shopping event in 2009 to take advantage of the interest, and the rest is retail history.
November 11 is now the globe’s largest shopping event. This year’s sales (stated as Gross Merchandise Value – GMV) reached $84.5 billion, an 8.4% increase over last year. (Note: GMV has no standardized way of calculating the metric.) The GMV reflects sales from November 1 – 11.
Singles’ Day has become an event on its own, including celebrities, fashion shows, TV galas, virtual reality, and augmented reality shopping, and it continues to expand to countries outside of China. However, this year’s event was slightly calmer as Alibaba faces the impact of Beijing’s scrutiny of technology companies and China’s “common prosperity” drive for the nation’s citizens.
Criticisms remain that Alibaba’s infrastructure outside of China is weak, particularly with respect to larger household appliances and items. It is developing international warehouses and improving its transportation efforts though as it seeks to compete with Amazon and other ecommerce companies in the west.
Highlights of this year’s event included:
- Themes of green logistics, eco-friendly products, and consuming “with care.”
- Gave out “green vouchers” for discounts on energy-efficient and low-impact goods.
- Launched a dedicated eco channel that hosted 500,000 products from 2,000 merchants.
- Offered to recycle packaging waste at 60,000 pickup stations across China.
- Donated one yuan (16 cents) to charity every time someone interacted during the event with a social media post about charitable giving.
Why is it so important for global brands to enter this shopping day? Consider that there are roughly 300 million middle-class shoppers in China, rising to an estimated 500 million in the next 8-12 years. While Singles Day may have originally started for lonely Chinese consumers, the shopping day now is seen as critical to driving China’s – and the worlds – economy.
Group Activities and Discussion Questions:
- Most students will not have previously heard of China’s Single Day. Discuss the shopping holiday and its importance in China.
- This is likely the first time students have heard about Singles Day. There are a number of videos that can help explain the event:
- What is 11/11? https://youtu.be/bRv9qG75x2c
- Evolution of Singles Day: https://youtu.be/CY_fE5EJZ-Q
- Discuss how this holiday compares to Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the U.S.
- Video report on 2020: https://youtu.be/iwHbvxd5Rqk
- WSJ video report: https://on.wsj.com/3olgSm8
- How should U.S.-based companies participate in Singles Day?
Source: CNBC; Forbes; New York Time; Wall Street Journal; other news sources