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.

Published:
Updated: 06 Oct 2021
red tulip in grass

What is Singles' Day?

Singles’ Day is the world’s biggest shopping event, with sales exceeding 74 billion USD (498 billion Yuan) in 2020. That’s more than Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Prime Day combined.

Dubbed “Anti-Valentine’s Day”, Singles’ Day is a celebration of single people across China, and increasingly, the world.

 

When is Singles’ Day?

Singles’ Day falls every year on November 11. It’s known as “bare sticks holiday” because of how it looks numerically (11/11), consisting of four lonely ones.

 

Who created Singles’ Day?

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, the world’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.

 

Singles’ Day grows 949,000% in 11 years

In 2009, Alibaba’s first Singles’ day sales event included 27 brands, generating a gross merchandise volume (GMV) of USD $7.8 million or 50 million yuan.

By contrast in 2020, the Alibaba Singles’ Day GMV hit an all-time high of $74.1 billion USD. That’s up an astonishing 949,900% in just 11 years, with an 85.6% increase from 2019. It’s also more than double the total sales from spanning Black Friday to Cyber Monday, which were $34.4 billion in 2020.

Singles’ Day 2020 had more than 250,000 brands participating, including 31,000 foreign companies. During peak activity, brands were handling 583,000 orders per second.

 

For Alibaba and the 11.11 Global Shopping Festival, the sky’s the limit.

 

Singles’ Day shopping statistics

Double Eleven currently dwarfs similar shopping days in other parts of the world. Here are the impressive stats:

  • Singles’ Day 2020 sales attracted around 800 million shoppers worldwide.
  • With the rising success of Singles’ Day, Alibaba expanded the shopping festival to an 11-day period in 2020, stretching from the beginning of November until the 11th.
  • Livestreaming commerce proved itself on the big stage. Alibaba’s Taobao Live had 28 livestreaming channels, with real-time translation in four languages. As a result, Taobao Live saw 2020 pre-sales exceed 2019’s entire first day of pre-sales in just the first 10 minutes.
  • For Singles’ Day 2021, Alibaba is trying to repeat the magic with a 40-day, content-heavy campaign run on Taobao in the lead up to Singles’ Day sales.
  • Alibaba’s Cainiao Network processed more than 32 billion delivery orders over the 2020 sales period.
  • For brands on the rise, Double Eleven can make up as much as 25% of yearly 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.
  • What do people buy during the 11/11 shopping event? Top-selling categories include electronics, cosmetics, beauty items, and fashion. 

Singles’ Day: Mcommerce and Southeast Asia

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 expendable 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 2019, 90% of Singles’ Day sales came from smartphones.
  • 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.
  • The Asia-Pacific is expected 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 2021 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.

 

Singles’ Day outside Asia: The biggest players

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. 

  • The top five foreign countries selling to Chinese consumers through cross-border platforms were Japan, the United States, South Korea, Australia, and Germany.
  • In 2020, U.S. businesses made over five billion in sales, the most of any country outside of China.
  • Singles’ Day awareness 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.
  • In Switzerland, many of the biggest online retailers have incorporated the day into their holiday sales.

 

More traffic, more website traffic issues

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 2018 for example, 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?

 

(This blog has been updated since it was originally written in 2019.)

Want to protect your website on the biggest shopping days of the year?