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Singles’ Day 2019: 0 to 1 Billion Dollars in 67 Seconds

A celebration that University students in China conceptualized in 1993 was adopted by Alibaba in 2009 and has grown to become the largest shopping festival in the world. 

How did Singles’ Day become the world’s largest shopping event?

When Singles’ Day shopping opened on Alibaba on the 11th of November 2019, sales crossed 1 billion dollars after just one minute and seven seconds. Before you can say, “what the…”, let’s understand the phenomenon –  what is Singles’ Day.

Students in China initially conceptualized this festival as a celebration of their single status. So young people who may not have had anyone to celebrate Valentine’s day with could show themselves some love on Singles’ Day. The date was chosen as 11th November or 11-11, with the digit 1 representing a single person. Alibaba took over this festival later, called it ‘Double 11’, and has succeeded in steadily growing the frenzy and shopping since.  

While the original idea may have been that single people shop to pamper themselves, today the festival goes even beyond shopping. Events, parties, and performances are held, mostly around the theme of finding love. But couples in relationships also celebrate this day and many choose it to get hitched in matrimony!

Celebrity performers at Singles’ Day 2019 included Taylor Swift, who sang at Alibaba’s opening Gala and Kim Kardashian, whose perfume line launch was live-streamed by Tmall. 

It’s estimated that over 200,000 brands from over 200 countries participated in Singles’ Day 2019. China is a huge consumer market and 20% of consumer spending is online. Retailers drive online as well as in-store sales on Singles’ Day, wooing buyers with a multitude of deals and discounts.  

The numbers are simply astounding. Alibaba’s sale this year are believed to have crossed $38 billion, while JD.com reported over $25 billion. With just two sellers crossing $63 billion, the festival is far ahead of America’s largest shopping days Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Delivering the goods sold is a huge project in itself and Alibaba is reported to be deploying high-speed trains as well as cargo flights and trucks for this purpose.  

Retailers put their most creative ideas into Singles’ Day

Apart from discounts, consumers in China are also seeking new and interesting ways to interact with brands. Retailers put their best creative foot forward to target these young and tech-savvy buyers. One of the key trends observed this year was live-streaming video, used extensively during the weeks leading up to the festival, as well as on Singles’ Day itself. Many brands streamed live videos with celebrities or influencers demonstrating products and answering viewers’ questions. The power of this strategy is borne out by Alibaba’s announcement that they expect live streaming on their platforms to contribute $70 billion in gross merchandise value (GMV) between 2019 and 2021. 

Kim Kardashian’s live-stream with top influencer, Viya Huang, drew 13 million viewers to her Tmall site and helped to sell the entire stock of KKW perfume in just a few minutes.

Singles’ Day is rapidly growing beyond China and becoming popular in other countries. Lazada, an eCommerce portal owned by Alibaba is mainly responsible for driving the growth of this festival in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. 

Singles’ Day is a way for marketers to understand the consumers of the future and is also one of the most exciting arenas in the world to test marketing strategy and innovation.  

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