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What is singles’ day? All you need to know about 11.11

By Rebecca Montag | September 14, 2022
What is singles’ day? All you need to know about 11.11

Did you know that the biggest shopping event in the world is not Black Friday or Cyber Monday? In fact, it’s a holiday that most Americans haven’t even heard of. Singles’ Day is an unofficial Chinese holiday that occurs each year on November 11. It has become a massive shopping event both online and offline, overtaking both Black Friday and Cyber Monday in terms of revenue.

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While it’s not a big event in the United States, it’s an important holiday for eCommerce brands worldwide, particularly if they sell to a Chinese market. Here’s all you need to know about Singles’ Day.

What’s Singles’ Day?

In 1993, a group of students at Nanjing University decided they wanted to celebrate being single. It was a kind of singles’ version of Valentine’s Day, during which young people who were not in relationships could spoil themselves, celebrate, and meet each other.

The students decided to hold the celebration on November 11, or 11.11. They chose this date because of the four number ones in a row, representing single people.

The unofficial holiday grew in popularity, particularly among young single people across China. Then, in 2009, online retail giant Alibaba realized that they could target the market of young single people eager to spend money on themselves. They initially promoted their Taobao store, which is an online marketplace similar to eBay, encouraging brands to offer promotions and discounts. Alibaba ended up generating about $7 million in sales that first year.

The Growth of Singles’ Day

Since then, more and more brands have joined in, and the revenue has only increased. In 2011, global brands Gap and RayBan threw their hats in the ring, opening stores on Alibaba in order to participate. This was the first step in globalizing Singles’ Day sales.

Credit: Statista

Singles’ Day continued to grow over the years that followed. In 2015, after going public the year prior, Alibaba set a Guinness World Record for its Singles’ Day sales. Its $14.3 billion in revenue was the highest ever online sales revenue generated over a 24 hour period by a single company. People in over 200 countries placed orders that day.

Singles’ Day also expanded from a one-day shopping spree to two weeks full of shopping events. Revenue has continued to increase yearly, too. In 2021, Alibaba reported revenue across its platforms equal to $84.54 billion from the two-week Singles’ Day period. JD.com, another Chinese eCommerce giant, reported revenue of $54.6 billion, bringing the total to around $139 billion in sales. Despite the massive sales, however, growth was slower than years past.

As the popularity of the event grew, more international brands began to participate. Companies including ASOS, Nike, Apple, Adidas, Brooks Brothers, and Estee Lauder have begun to offer Singles’ Day deals and promotions. In addition, global celebrities have been called up to promote the sales. Celebs including Nicole Kidman, Taylor Swift, and Katy Perry have performed at Alibaba’s Singles’ Day events. Billie Eilish released a Singles’ Day capsule collection in collaboration with Urban Outfitters, and Kim Kardashian used the shopping holiday to promote her cosmetics line.

Is Singles’ Day Coming to the USA?

Despite the fact that Singles’ Day has gained traction with many international brands, it doesn’t seem to be making its way to the United States market just yet.

American consumers are already inundated with quasi-holidays that encourage shopping, from Prime Day during the summer to Black Friday in November. In addition, Black Friday sales are now starting to show up as early as the beginning of November. With so much else happening on the calendar, shoppers in the US are unlikely to jump on the Singles’ Day sales train.

American brands may also feel left behind on Singles’ Day. Trade disputes between the US and China as well as escalating tensions are in the way. According to a survey conducted by Alix Partners, 78% of Chinese respondents report that the current situation will impact their willingness to buy from American brands.

That being said, individual American brands are beginning to offer deals and discounts in honor of Singles’ Day, and it is possible that it will pick up steam as eCommerce continues to grow. However, it is unlikely that it will ever reach the scale of Singles’ Day revenue in China.

There are a couple of trends to look for on Singles’ Day this year. More and more consumers are starting to seek out companies that stand up to their social and environmental responsibility. With the scrutiny that many Chinese companies are facing from regulators, JD and Alibaba are focusing more on social and environmental aspects of their brands.

JD reported that it reduced carbon emissions by 26,000 tons during Singles’ Day events in 2021 compared to 2020. Alibaba has also made moves for a more socially responsible business plan. As Yang Guang, vice president at Alibaba, said in a press release, “We also leveraged the power of 11.11 as a platform to fulfill our social responsibility. This year’s festival was a meaningful milestone as part of our commitment towards building a sustainable future.” We expect to see this environmental trend continue.

Another interesting trend in the Chinese eCommerce space is live streaming. Live stream shopping has taken hold on many eCommerce platforms in China. Influencers and celebrities often promote products directly on these live streams, while providing viewers with the opportunity to buy the items. Live streams will likely play a large role in Singles’ Day promotional strategies this year as well.

Singles’ Day and ECommerce Brands

ECommerce brands that target Chinese audiences would do well to come up with a strong strategy for Singles’ Day. This includes stocking up on inventory, setting up deals and/or discounts, and a specialized promotional strategy. There is a great opportunity to bring in revenue during the two-week shopping spree.

For brands that don’t target a Chinese market, however, Singles’ Day likely won’t affect sales significantly. The holiday occurs at the beginning of November, though, a period of time when many holiday sales are already beginning. So whether or not your brand is celebrating Singles’ Day, starting to put your holiday sales in order ahead of November 11 is a good idea.

In addition, eCommerce sellers all over the world can learn from the trends they witness on Singles’ Day. Paying attention to the latest marketing strategies, consumer behaviors, and technological developments can help brands plan for the future. For example, it will be interesting to observe the impact of live stream shopping on global eCommerce.

A Growth Partner For All Your Needs

The holiday season is fast approaching. If you haven’t already put your sales strategies in place, now is the time to do so.

Fortunately, 8fig is here for all of your growth needs. We are an eCommerce growth partner, providing eCommerce CEOs with an automated AI CXO to take care of the many interconnected aspects of your business from supply chain planning to cash flow management to marketing. In addition, we provide eCommerce brands with unlimited continuous capital on a flexible schedule that can be adjusted in real time.

Have you been searching for a way to take your eCommerce business to the next level? Sign up for an 8fig Growth Plan today and see how we can help you reach your goals.


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