Across American markets, Black Friday is frequently touted as the biggest shopping day of the year. But one Chinese holiday dedicated to commercialism has surpassed Black Friday to take the global title of busiest annual shopping day– Singles Day- hosted annually on November 11.
Once a celebration of singledom that emerged from Nanjing University – beginning officially in 1993 – the date was capitalized on by Alibaba and its founder, Jack Ma, in 2012. Ma transformed this former occasion of partner-less merriment into a commercial opportunity. Alibaba-owned Tmall leads the online event, which has grown exponentially each year. A 2017 Forbes Magazine feature described Singles Day “as the Asian version of America’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping sales – but bigger than the two combined”.
“It evolved pretty much as a marketing ploy … in terms of making a purely commercial shopping holiday,” said Jacob Cooke, co-founder and CEO of WPIC Marketing + Technologies, in a September episode of The Negotiation podcast. He noted that the commercial event has increased online sales year over year since its inception, “roughly 20, 30, 40% over that time,” demonstrating its immense success as the largest global shopping day of the year.
“Everyone participates, every walk of life, whether you’re single or not,” he added.
In 2018, only its seventh year, Singles’ Day reported a billion dollars in sales within the first 90 seconds of sales beginning on Nov. 11, according to a Dec. 2018 CNBC article. The platform accrued $30.8 billion USD in GMV across the day’s 24 hours. But Cooke notes that presales aid immensely for many companies, and they can begin as early as Nov. 1.
“The first 36 hours and last 36 hours are peak times,” he said in the podcast, responding to host Todd Embley’s reference to the commercial events as a “10-day bonanza.” Continued Cooke, “It happens consistently now. They start presale at the first of the month and continue for 10 days.”
Cooke also noted that preparedness for the event for brands is essential. With less than one month until the Nov. 11 of 2019, accepted online brands will have determined internal goals – decreased margins versus increased profits, for example – as well as identified discount strategies and then set aside ample inventory. Furthermore, new businesses or organizations that will not participate in the platform’s discounts should create a plan-of-action for reaching consumers on such a busy online holiday.
“It’s really all about the discount,” said Cooke. He added that those retailers who choose not to discount items for 11/11 – or for other holidays such as 6/18 (June 18), another commercial holiday – still gain significant exposure: “There’s just increased traffic over the whole platform in general.”
He continued, “New brands sometimes don’t get accepted into the initial promotion … Really only 10% at most of your active stores are really going to get to participate at a platform level. You have to remember that there’s 10 times [the number] of people on the platform … You’re in full control to push your own deals and own sales to other people to further increase traffic to your stores at that time.”
With 2019’s Singles’ Day just weeks away, Forbes predicts commercial success will continue to rise over previous years. Additionally, Forbes states that this success will arrive despite Jack Ma’s recent retirement and the rise of Daniel Zhang as Alibaba’s CEO. 2019 likely will also see an uptick in competitor online vendors, such as JD, that hope to capitalize on the day’s available dollars.
Cooke agreed: “Since we’re not really seeing a slowdown in the consumer market in China, in fact still pretty heavy increases, I think we can expect a good 11/11 this year.”