China’s 1.4 billion people will mark Singles’ Day – the country’s exponentially larger answer to America’s Black Friday or Prime Day events – on Wednesday (Nov. 11), with analysts expecting companies to ring up billions of dollars in online sales.
“If I had to offer a projection, I’d say [this year’s Singles’ Day will generate] about $45 billion for the entire shopping festival,” Kevin Carter, founder of the Emerging Markets Internet & Ecommerce ETF, told The Street.com.
The unofficial holiday falls on Nov. 11 each year. The name “Singles’ Day” refers to the date’s four 1s (or singles).
The event is rumored to have been the brainchild of four bored college students nearly 30 years ago, as a not-so-subtle rejection of Valentine’s Day. Since then, Singles’ Day has blossomed into one of the world’s biggest money-makers. The holiday saw more than $38 billion in sales last year, compared to Cyber Monday’s $9.4 billion and Black Friday’s $7.4 billion in online sales.
Singles’ Day as an Economic Barometer
While largely promoted by Chinese eCommerce giants Alibaba (and its Taobao unit) and JD.com, the online shopping festival has expanded beyond mere gift-buying, product launches and promotions.
Rather, it has become a closely watched economic barometer of consumer and economic strength within China, which has the world’s second-largest economy, second only to the United States.
Singles’ Day has become such an important event that for the first time since Alibaba began actively promoting it in 2009, the eCommerce giant will host two Singles’ Days as a way to offset the pandemic’s economic impact.
“Through our expansion from ‘single’ to ‘double,’ 11-11 will be offering more opportunities for merchants both online and offline to engage with consumers as well as provide a better consumer experience overall,” said Jiang Fan, president of Taobao and Tmall (another Alibaba unit).
Fan said the companies also added a “new sales window” from Nov. 1 to Nov. 3 this year, ahead of the main Nov. 11 event. He said the move is aimed at “providing merchants, specifically new brands and small businesses, the opportunity to showcase their products and tell their brand stories amid the pandemic.”
Fan said COVID-19 has fundamentally changed consumers’ shopping preferences, accelerating the digital transformation of many businesses. He noted that Singles’ Day has also become a critical time to debut products, which Fan said will top two million this year – double that of a year ago.
Going Global (and Livestreaming)
In just 11 years, Singles’ Day has grown from just 27 merchants to hosting more than 250,000 brands this year.
Alibaba said 2020 will also mark the event’s largest international presence ever, with the holiday expanding to six southeast Asian markets: Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
To logistically manage the expected international sales lift from Singles’ Day, Alibaba said it would charter approximately 700 cargo flights to double the delivery speed on at least half of this year’s cross-border parcels.
Another big driver of Singles’ Day is the massive livestreaming audience that tunes in to participate in a collective shopping experience, which could be described as a mix of rock concert, game show and birthday party.
“Within five years in America, if you don’t do livestreaming, your company will just disappear and get left behind,” Mark Yuan, co-founder of livestreaming commerce consultancy And Luxe Inc., told CNBC. “Right now, if you’re a business, you have a website. In the future, if you’re a company in retail, you will do livestreaming.”