Staggering Singles’ Day facts every retailer should know
There’s no denying it: Singles’ Day is on the rise. Every year brings more companies, more countries, and billions more into its fold. What started as an “Anti-Valentine’s Day” and a celebration of singledom has transformed into the biggest ecommerce shopping day of the year. Here’s what you need to know about the day known as Double Eleven: its origins, its present-day stats, and its potential future.
Singles’ Day is the world’s biggest shopping event, with sales exceeding $139 billion USD (889.4 billion Yuan) in 2021.
For a sense of scale, ecommerce giant Alibaba’s gross merchandise volume (GMV) during Singles’ Day 2021 was $84.5 billion USD. That’s almost 7 times the global GMV from Amazon’s Prime Day.
Dubbed “Anti-Valentine’s Day”, Singles’ Day is a celebration of single people across China, and increasingly, the world.
Singles’ Day falls every year on November 11. It’s known as 11.11, Double Eleven, or “bare sticks holiday” because of how it looks numerically, consisting of four lonely ones.
But Singles’ Day has expanded in recent years, with sales now starting in the beginning of November and lasting 11 days.
Singles’ Day was created in 1993 by students from Nanjing University who wanted to claim their own Valentine’s Day for singles. From there, the celebrations quickly spread beyond the university, becoming widely recognized across China.
In 2009, Singles’ Day was adopted by Alibaba, China's largest retailer and ecommerce company. The company saw it as a chance to boost sales between China’s Golden Week national holiday (the first week of October) and Christmas.
Singles’ Day China, now officially called the 11.11 Global Shopping Festival, has skyrocketed in popularity over the last decade.
In 2009, Alibaba’s first Singles’ day sales event included 27 brands, generating a gross merchandise volume (GMV) of $7.8 million USD or 50 million yuan.
By contrast in 2021, Alibaba’s Singles’ Day GMV hit an all-time high of $84.54 billion USD. That’s up over one million percent (108,3746%) in just 12 years, with an 8% increase from 2020.
Singles’ Day 2021 had more than 290,000 brands participating, of which 70,000 were participating for the first time. Estimates put the number of discounted products at a massive 14 million, and the number of Chinese participants at 900 million.
Double Eleven currently dwarfs similar shopping days in other parts of the world. Here are the impressive stats:
- Singles’ Day 2021 sales attracted 900 million shoppers.
- Singles’ Day sales in 2021 exceeded $139 billion USD (889.4 billion Yuan).
- Alibaba’s Tmall accounted for 57.59% of all Singles’ Day sales, making $84.5 billion across the period and growing 8% YoY.
- Jingdon (JD.com) had the second largest market share for Singles’ Day 2021 at 27.06%. JD.com grossed $54.6 billion across its Singles’ Day sales, increasing its transaction volume by 28.6% year-over-year and taking its largest ever share of Singles’ Day sales.
- Alibaba and JD.com dominate Singles’ Day sales, with the third largest brand in terms of sales volume being Pinduoduo, which made up just 6.4% of total sales.
- 2021 was the first year in Singles’ Day history Alibaba reported single-digit growth, with sales up a modest 8%. For comparison, sales between 2019 and 2020 spiked 85.6%.
- Chinese consumers spent an average of $38 USD per order (272 yuan) during 2021's Singles' Day sales.
- Over 29,000 overseas brands participated in 11.11 in 2021, offering over 1.3 million products via Alibaba’s Tmall Global.
- A record 200 luxury brands participated in Singles’ Day sales in 2021, including many newly participating brands like Hermès and Saint Laurent.
- JD.com reported shoppers bought $15 million worth of Apple smartphones from its site in just two seconds during Singles’ Day sales.
- Over 6,000 new apparel brands participated in JD.com’s Singles’ Day sales in 2021.
- With the rising success of Singles’ Day, Alibaba expanded the shopping festival to an 11-day period for the second year in a row, stretching sales from the beginning of November until the 11th.
- Alibaba turned its focus to sustainability in 2021, launching its first dedicated vertical for eco-friendly products. This featured over 500,000 products with a “Green Product Certification”.
- Alibaba additionally issued $15.7 million USD in “green vouchers” to encourage consumers to purchase sustainable goods.
- China’s Gen-Z consumers accounted for 31% of the total Singles’ Day spend in 2021. Those over 40 accounted for just 23% of total sales.
- Chinese consumers’ top reasons for shopping on Singles Day included: looking for specific items or discounts (61%), wanting the latest product releases (50%), and supporting/exploring brands (36%).
- On 11.11 2021, 505 million people shopped on mobile on Alibaba’s Taobao. Of these 505 million, approximately 49.9% opened the payment page.
- The social ecommerce platform Pinduoduo had 417 million active shoppers on 11.11.
- On November 11 alone, 1.16 billion packages were transported in China. That’s down from 1.33 billion in 2020 due to a longer Singles’ Day shopping period.
- Alibaba stepped up its logistics tech in 2021, deploying 350 driverless delivery robots that delivered over 1 million orders across 11.11 sales.
- The “bare sticks holiday” is becoming increasingly popular in many regions across Southeast Asia, including Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, and Vietnam.
- For 2021’s Singles’ Day sales, many mature brands moved away from significant discounts and towards cultivating loyalty and increasing customer value through loyalty programs and exclusive promotions. Xiofeng Wang, Principal Analyst at Forrester, said:
“[Providing major discounts] boosted short-term sales and new customer acquisitions dramatically but sometimes damaged relationships with loyal customers and sacrificed long-term brand value. Mature brands now differentiate Double 11 marketing with exclusivity rather than discounting, rewarding the most loyal customers with member-exclusive promotions and offering repurchase coupons to encourage repurchase after Singles’ Day.”
Livestreamed shopping, also know as live commerce, has been one of the most successful sales delivery methods in China since Alibaba pioneered the trend in 2016.
Live commerce is a Singles’ Day sales staple. It combines ecommerce with entertainment through major celebrities, live giveaways, exclusive discounts, and 24-hour streaming across the whole Singles’ Day sales period.
Here are the stats:
- $11.8 billion USD (73.8 billion yuan) was spent on live commerce platforms during 2021 Singles’ Day sales.
- Top Chinese influencers Austin Li and Viya drove $2.9 billion in sales across their 12-hour livestreams. Li’s stream alone attracted 250 million viewers.
- 11% of Chinese consumers planned to participate in Singles’ Day just to watch the livestreams.
- 88% of respondents from first-tier cities planned on spending via livestream shopping during Singles’ Day sales in 2021. For comparison, 79% of respondents from tier-3 and tier-4 cities planned to use livestreamed shopping. (The city tier system is frequently used to segment the large Chinese market, in which tier-1 describes the largest and most developed cities like Beijing, and other tiers characterize cities with smaller populations and less affluent consumers).
- One 2022 survey found 77% of Chinese shoppers have purchased products using live commerce. For comparison, just 22% of Australian shoppers have used live commerce.
- Users of live commerce spent an average of 33.9 minutes per day on Taobao across Singles’ Day sales, compared to 28.3 minutes for non-users.
- Alibaba ran a 40-day content heavy livestreaming campaign on Taobao in the lead up to Singles’ Day sales.
- European brands like L’Oréal and Lancôme have mastered the Chinese art of livestreaming, attracting audiences of up to 5 million in their own hosted livestream sessions in 2021.
- Benedict Cumberbatch participated in 2021’s Singles’ Day livestreams to give clues about a mystery box. He joins Singles’ Day Western celebrity livestream alumni Katy Perry, Kim Kardashian, Miranda Kerr, and Taylor Swift.
The Southeast Asian and Chinese markets have been ripe for this shopping celebration for several reasons. The population is growing, the middle class is emerging with an increasing disposable income, and affordable smart phones are accessible throughout the region.
Mobile, in particular, has been a driving force behind sales during the 11.11 Global Shopping Festival.
- In 2021, mcommerce sales accounted for over half of total ecommerce sales across all Asia-Pacific countries. The only exception was Japan, where mcommerce accounted for 32% of ecommerce.
- In Southeast Asia, ecommerce sales on 11.11 2021 were up 260% compared with the average from the last week of October.
- A recent report found 69% of Southeast Asians are now on the internet, with mobile connections from the region exceeding 887 million.
- The region’s internet economy is expected to surpass USD $50 billion by 2025, exceeding earlier estimates of growth.
- 2.35 billion people across Asia used ecommerce in 2021. This number is estimated to reach 3.1 billion by 2025.
- China has the most ecommerce penetration in the world, with ecommerce sales making up 45% of total retail sales in 2021. One survey suggests 66% of consumer spending in China in 2022 takes place online.
- A 2020 survey found Singles’ Day was the most anticipated sales event of the year in Malaysia.
- In 2021, 44.6% of Malaysian internet users made a purchase on a mobile phone every week.
- 68.3% of Thai internet users made online purchases every week in 2021.
- In 2019, 90% of Singles’ Day sales came from smartphones.
- The Asia-Pacific was predicted to account for 60.8% of worldwide ecommerce sales in 2021.
- A 2021 report showed that Southeast Asia’s young adults are spending about 60% of their waking lives online.
- In China, the home of Singles’ Day, 940 million individuals (65.2% of the population) are active internet users. 877.8 million of these users access it through mobile. That’s 93.4% of the country’s total user base.
Mobile is a key player in Singles’ Day ecommerce, an astonishing find given mcommerce penetration across Asia has yet to hit its full potential. And with 2023 reshaping the retail landscape, we can expect to see new mobile trends, commerce, advertising, and video dominate the digital economy in the years to come.
Is there potential for Singles’ Day shopping celebrations to be incorporated into Holiday Season sales outside Asia?
Many signs point to yes.
More and more European ecommerce companies are merging Singles’ Day into their end of the year sales, both in China and in their home markets.
- Although not the size of Cyber 5 sales, Singles’ Day made its mark in Europe in 2021. Sales on 11.11 were up 80% in Italy, 68% in Spain, and 57% in France, compared to an average from the last week of October.
- The top five foreign countries selling to Chinese consumers through cross-border platforms were Japan, the United States, South Korea, Australia, and Germany.
- Over 29,000 overseas brands participated in 11.11 in 2021, offering over 1.3 million products via Alibaba’s Tmall Global.
- In 2020, U.S. businesses made over $5 billion in sales on Singles’ Day, the most of any country outside of China.
- Awareness of Singles’ Day is on the rise in many European countries:
- The German-based Media Markt, one of Europe’s largest consumer electronics retailers now promotes Singles’ Day at their stores. They ensure their discounts are “nicht nur für Singles” (not just for Singles).
- The biggest Dutch ecommerce site, bol.com, began participating in Singles’ Day in 2017, which proved to be the year’s busiest Saturday. In 2020, the business expanded their Singles’ Day sales into a three-day event.
- A Vogue article on Singles’ Day says Western brands Luisa Via Roma, Verishop, and By Far, run major Singles’ Day sales in Europe and the U.S.
- In Switzerland, many of the biggest online retailers have incorporated the day into their holiday sales.
Singles’ Day shatters sales records and draws in more shoppers every year. And the steady growth of ecommerce, mcommerce, and the Asia-Pacific market is only projected to continue.
But more traffic brings with it more website slowdowns and crashes.
In 2021, Chinese shoppers flocked to the first Singles’ Day livestream pre-order event, crashing Taobao for 20 minutes.
The hashtag “Taobao crashed” was the number two trending topic on Wiebo, China’s version of Twitter. The topic thread had almost 18,000 comments, with many users complaining about missing out on deals and not finishing their orders.
The costs of website crashes add up fast, both for reputation and revenue.
In 2020, Alibaba reported up to 583,000 orders per second during peak periods.
A 20-minute crash is 1,200 seconds offline.
That’s up to 699,600,000 (almost 700 million) lost orders.
With an average order value of $38 USD (272 yuan), that means Alibaba's 20 minute crash could have cost them up to $26.5 billion in sales.
This isn’t the first year Singles’ Day has crashed sites. In 2018 the ecommerce website Momo also saw traffic reach a new high with over 700 million transactions. At one point, the website crashed for 20 minutes because of traffic overload.
On the year’s biggest ecommerce shopping day, even a minute of website downtime can result in staggering sales losses. Even minimal slowdown or downtime can have a lasting effect on brand reputation.
With billions on the line, are you doing what it takes to safeguard your website?