Why Alibaba’s Singles Day is the World’s Biggest Retail Event


For those who have missed it, this past November 11 was home to Double Eleven (11.11), also known as Single’s Day Festival – one of the world’s wildest shopping events next to Black Friday and Diwali

Initiated by Alibaba and adopted by many e-commerce platforms and retailers, the day of, and often even the week of November 11 can provide consumers enormous discounts.


A significant portion of annual revenues come from this Single’s Day alone. This is exciting for retailers.


Interestingly, even though the day is known as Single’s Day, nearly every Internet user in China receives an invitation to the event, regardless of their bachelor status.


Looking at the numbers: Single’s Day statistics

This year, Alibaba saw many whopping record-breaking numbers. From 544,000 transactions per section to 1.292 billion delivery orders, the Single’s Day reached $38.4 billion in sales


With over 200,000 brands participating, roughly 500 million users were participating and provided with a choice of over a million new products on shop. Many profited throughout the event, with 299 brands reaching USD 14 million in gross merchandise volume (GMV). These brands included Apple, Nike, Estee Lauder, and Giorgio Armani.



Amongst the countries that were seen participating in the Single’s Day event, the top 10 countries listed were Japan, the U.S., Korea, Australia, Germany, France, the U.K., New Zealand, Italy, and Canada.


A brief history of November 11 Singles Day

Over recent years, November 11th has become quite the festive holiday, particularly in China. From heavy promotions to massive sales, the day has become the most popular shopping holiday among Chinese consumers.

Originally, Single’s Day started off as an anti-Valentine’s Day in the 1990s, where students of Nanjing University celebrated their singledom.




Before ending the country’s one-child policy, China has been experiencing an enormous surplus of males in their population. This led to a growing bachelor crisis and inevitably resulted in massive consumer spending. The outweighing ratio was so severe that sociologists expected there to be roughly 35 million more males than females by 2020. 

It wasn’t until 2009, Alibaba seized the blue ocean of the Single’s Day event, and amid a time where e-commerce began to grow, they began to release “Double 11” deals. Holding the first Double Eleven Shopping Festival on Taobao.com, this golden opportunity – which at first only had about 27 merchants selling on Tmall.com and a consumer spend of around 7 million USD – has now transformed into the biggest shopping day globally.


The global spread of Singles Day

Over the past decade, Single’s Day has spread across many regions, particularly in Asia. These regions include Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, and mainland China.

One of the reasons for this surge of consumption in Asia, in particular, is attributed to the growth in population, as well as the emergence of the new middle class. There is an increase in expendable income, and mobile penetration has increased in SE Asia, eclipsing even China.




This has shown to be a driving force in Single’s Day sales, as a report found that SE Asia’s Internet market is expected to reach USD $50 billion by 2025.

In China, 802 million individuals (57.7% of the population) are active internet users, with 788 million of internet users accessing everything via mobile. This data demonstrates the sheer amount of mobile users and highlights the importance of retailers focus on mobile as a medium for the future.


How Singles Day affects retailers everywhere

Single’s Day has become a vital opportunity for international retailers all over the world to drive sales growth in the Chinese market, as Alibaba’s Tmall offers access to an incredibly massive consumer base. This has incentivized many brands to participate in the platform and inevitably led this event to become a global phenomenon. 


With it spreading across the globe, much like Black Friday, massive e-commerce sites have joined the Single’s Day event and offer big discounts and promotions during the event as well. 

Some of these examples include Lazada, which is approximately 90 percent owned by Alibaba. Featured in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam, the website has reported having broken record sales during the event. It was noted that the company received a record of over 3 million orders within the first 60 minutes.




Shopee, another leading online shopping platform in Southeast Asia also saw a huge spike in sales as well. Apparently, they tripled their order volume in the first hour when compared to last year’s performance.


The event has not been limited to Asia, though, as US apparel seller Shopbop was also seen giving massive discounts on Singles Day. In Europe, Alibaba has been noted to bring the holiday over to countries like the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Poland, Russia, and Turkey through AliExpress


Apple’s sales transactions (from its flagship store on Tmall) were reported to have exceeded by seven times the year before. This happened in just 10 minutes. Moreover, with cosmetics, a big brand like MAC reported having sold 60,000 units of a limited-edition, 11.11 lipstick in five minutes of pre-sales. These sorts of results from retailers have been visible everywhere, from brands like Olay and Shiseido, incubating 50% of their new products with Tmall this year.


Final thoughts

Numbers don’t lie. Alibaba’s Singles Day has become the world’s biggest retail event.


With so much data out there showing what items and categories are of greater interest, retailers can leverage big data and implement AI solutions like predictive analytics to plan to organize their inventory better. 


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