The Madness that is Singles’ Day

Some of you may be Black Friday and Cyber Monday fiends, but have you heard of this Singles Day madness?!? Singles’ Day, set on November 11th, 11/11, hilariously, originally began in the 90’s as a day in China for partnerless individuals to celebrate being single. An anti-Valentine’s Day, if you will. In 2009, however, Alibaba, Chinese e-commerce powerhouse, decided to take advantage of the holiday, offering deals and discounts on all of its platforms and turning it into the largest offline and online shopping day in the world. On top of that, Chinese—single or not—count down to midnight on November 10th with a live streamed “gala” that is actually an entertainment extravaganza. “It’s like the Oscars Red Carpet, a multi-headliner concert, and a New Year’s Eve celebration, rolled into one live streamed event.”[1] This past year’s countdown “extravaganza” included A-list celebrities including Nichole Kidman, Pharrell Williams, and Chinese movie star Fan Bingbing.

Although Alibaba sponsors Singles’ Day, this year, over 60,000 global brands participated. Alibaba’s Tmall platform is a business to consumer online retail platform with retail participants both in China and internationally. Familiar brands like Lululemon, Adidas, Bose, Gap, Mac Cosmetics, Nike, Procter & Gamble, Macy’s and Zara all have a significant presence on Tmall and therefore participate in and benefit from Single’s Day.

How does Singles’ Day compare to Black Friday and Cyber Monday?


In my research, I found that Thanksgiving and Black Friday are now grouped together in reporting revenue. This year, the three days that kick off holiday shopping in the US—Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday—brought in a total of $14.5 billion. Singles’ Day nearly doubles those revenues, bringing in $25.3 billion in one ~single~ day this year. Last year, Singles’ Day more than doubled Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday revenue bringing in $17.8 billion versus the total of $8.65 billion from those three days in the US. I think it is important to note the impressive increases in sales from last year to this year in both the US and China events. I think this is due to the rise in people shopping online instead of or in addition to in stores. Shopping is becoming more and more accessible and convenient and on Black Friday, many deals are also online so the thought of fighting crowds and standing in lines keeps people home and turning to e-commerce alternatives.


Shift to Mobile

This year, everyone is talking about the shift to mobile shopping on these days becoming more prominent each year.

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During Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the percentage of sales made on mobile has leveled off the past few years. The percentage of sales made on mobile on Singles’ Day, however, has increased from 21% to 90% in four years, over which total revenue in sales tripled. This is happening for a number of reasons. First, retailers are realizing the value in creating apps with excellent user experience that leverage the ability to collect consumer data and use it to optimize the customer’s experience on the app. Similarly, mobile payment platforms are making it easier and more convenient than ever to shop on mobile. Also, it was reported this year that 75% of millennials are more likely to shop on their phone than on their computer.[1] At midnight at the start of Singles’ Day, Alibaba takes off the cap that normally limits how much can be put into a shopper’s cart and people. go. crazy. In the moments after midnight hit this year, Alibaba was processing 256,000 transactions per second. A lot of the percentage of sales that come from mobile happens like this in the first hour of Singles’ Day, especially since many of them were very large, limitless orders. A final reason for yearly increase in percentage of sales on mobile is Alibaba’s Alipay technology, which is essentially China’s version of Apple Pay, but much more widely adopted and integrated into the society.

What about Amazon’s Prime Day?

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Amazon’s Prime Day was in fact inspired by and modeled after Alibaba’s Singles’ Day. Prime Day obviously operates on a much smaller scale as it is only open to Prime members, but the two are largely the same concept. In only five minutes, Singles’ Day shoppers spent the total revenue of Amazon Prime Day’s 30-hour event ($1 billion).[1] Yet, Jeff Bezos and Amazon have high hopes for Amazon Prime Day to grow to be comparable to the scale of Singles’ Day.

The question is whether Amazon will ever be able to scale enough to compete on Alibaba’s empire-like level. Even though this semester it has seemed like Amazon is dipping their toes into anything and everything, they are nowhere close to the retail empire that Alibaba is in China. It is said, “if you win China you win the world.” Alibaba seems to be making its way toward “winning the world,” especially in capturing global companies like Lululemon, Macy’s, Gap, Nike, etc. However, as we have seen this semester, Amazon is innovating quickly and often, which might give them the edge to “win the world” in different avenues outside of retail.





  1. kaitlinardiff · ·

    Great post! I had no idea that Alibaba had leveraged such a unique holiday in order to pull at a new demographic. This makes me wonder if other companies will begin to follow suit by either using the same holiday or finding other unique ones. I think that it shows a lot of great conclusions from our class — Amazon might be dominating in the US, but still faces fierce international competition; online shopping is only increasing in relevance to our demographic; sometimes the first idea (in this case: Cyber Monday) isn’t necessarily the best, and may in turn shift to just better executed ideas (such as Single’s Day.) With the advent of voice-assisted technology, who knows how the buying process will turn next!

  2. whitmcdonald2 · ·

    I too, had no idea that this was a thing! How interesting!! It still blows my mind how many shopping days we have created around a time of thanks. Great insight into the Alibaba’s attempt to take advantage of a forgotten demographic. That infographic was very surprising to me, especially because I didn’t know Singles Day was a thing. But the mobile aspect makes sense- maybe its all the single people out and about hoping to meet people and shopping in their spare time when they aren’t talking to potential suitors! LOL! Thanks for an awesome post Sarah!

  3. Yvette Zhou · ·

    I am glad that you have brought single’s day! It has been catching many attentions in China since Alibaba created it as Shopping day. And every year, it broke the record of spending online. Alibaba have helped small business especially by single’s day and to some level, helped logistic and transportation industry LOL. Thanks for sharing this to the class!

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