Singles Day, otherwise known as 11.11 Shopping Festival in China, is now the biggest online shopping day in the world, according to the Alibaba Group and data from various sources like comScore and Bloomberg. Alibaba’s online shopping platforms Tmall.com and Taobao Marketplace recorded sales of more than $3.1 billion on the day last year, or twice the number of the 24-hour online sales record of Cyber Monday. This year, the record was even further shattered when numbers clocked in around $5.7 billion by the end of the day.
With China’s e-commerce revenue expected to hit US $539 billion by 2015, Western brands on Tmall.com such as Microsoft, Gap, Toys “R” Us and Clarins, have their eyes pointed east.
So now that the day has passed and we’ve seen our US Cyber Monday numbers utterly anialated, what should we know and learn from 11/11? Here’s a timeline highlighting the growth of the biggest shopping day we’ve ever seen:
– Early 90’s: China’s “Singles Day,” or 11.11, is a holiday created back in the 90’s as an alternative to Valentine’s Day. On this day, young Chinese celebrate their bachelor life. The date is chosen for the connection between singles or bachelors and the number “1.”
– 2009: Alibaba Group launched an online shopping festival on November 11 to help celebrate “Singles Day” and liven up a slow shopping period between October’s National Day and the Chinese New Year in January or February. Alibaba Group’s Taobao and Tmall platforms featured deep discounts on popular consumer goods on 11.11.
– The success was immediate, bringing in huge sales thanks to China’s rapid e-commerce growth and consumers’ interests in promotions.
– 2012: 11/11 became the biggest online shopping day not just in China, but the world. Tmall.com and Taobao Marketplace recorded sales of more than RMB 19.1 billion ($3.1 billion) on November 11, beating the 24-hour online sales record of $1.5 billion on Cyber Monday in 2012.
– Five years ago, the festival had 27 brands participating. In 2013, 20,000 brands joined the promotion, including Microsoft, Gap, Adidas, Toys “R” Us and Clarins.
– 2013: In an effort to bridge the gap between online and offline shopping in traditional brick-and-mortar stores, Alibaba Group works to enable Tmall brands to extend promotional activities to some 30,000 real-world outlets so shoppers could go to stores to check out merchandise in person, then scan a QR code with their cellphones to drop the item into their virtual shopping basket. On Nov. 11, consumers automatically received the appropriate online discounts when they clicked the “buy” button.
– 2013: Alibaba logistics partners built or renovated more than 150 distribution centers, increased storage and warehouse space to more than 2 million square meters, and increased hiring of logistics service personnel by 60 percent compared with 11/11 last year. Tmall.com also offered RMB 300 million worth of digital “red packets” (rebates) to shoppers: users could download discount coupons wirelessly and encourage friends to download them using China’s popular microblogging platform, Weibo. Those who successfully shared cash vouchers with friends via social network sites could see bonuses doubled. The group also increased its network bandwidth to 5 terabtyes, up from 2.1 terabtyes last year, to handle the traffic.
If you don’t feel deficient yet, you’re probably doing a pretty awesome job in prep for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. If this does make you feel a bit like an under-achiever, don’t worry – take it as a learning experience.