Single’s Day vs. Black Friday
The remarkable numbers behind Single’s Day and opportunities for Western brands
Last Saturday, on 11/11, it was the start of China’s Single’s Day, known as the largest shopping event in the world, reaching unprecedented numbers.
While this large online shopping celebration globally might be unfamiliar to many in the Benelux region, it has generated more than a billion dollars in sales for the tech giant Alibaba in only the first 90 seconds of the 24-hour shopping event. These numbers are unheard of, and ‘truly a dream come true’ for many retailers.
Last year, shoppers spent approximately $132.6 billion between the two largest Single's Day retailers, Alibaba and JD.com. This combined figure, according to data from Alibaba and JD.com, covers about the first two weeks of November 2021.
In comparison with Black Friday last year, shoppers spent $8.9 billion, as reported by Adobe. Additionally, shoppers spent $10.7 billion on Cyber Monday in 2021.
The numbers of the Chinese shopping feest largely overshadow those of the Western Black Friday. But how big is Single's Day?
How big is Single's Day?
The numbers behind Single's Day are remarkable. Alizila estimates that at least 900 million people — just over 11% of the world's population — shopped Single’s Day deals throughout the two-week event in 2021. Meanwhile, nearly 180 million people shopped around Thanksgiving weekend, including Black Friday and Cyber Monday, according to the National Retail Federation.
Single's Day is dominated by two major players: Alibaba and JD.com, another Chinese e-commerce company.
Alibaba is one of the world's largest online shopping companies. Its size is hard to overstate: Alibaba boasts 925 million mobile monthly active users, according to its holding company, Alibaba Group. For comparison, Amazon has just over 300 million active customer accounts, according to Amazon.
Alibaba's online shopping business is spread across several distinct marketplaces, where third-party brands can offer exclusive deals to Alibaba customers. Its main marketplace, Tmall.com, hosts roughly 25,000 brands from nearly 100 countries around the globe, according to Tmall Global. The company recently launched a "luxury pavilion" for designer brands and now carries products from luxury giants like Hermès International and Chanel.
The history of Single's Day?
Single's Day doesn't have its roots in retail. In the 1990s, a group of Chinese college students wanted a playful way to celebrate being single, so they designated Nov. 11 as Single's Day (11/11, or 1-1-1-1). On that day, people treated themselves to indulgent splurges.
Retailers eventually recognized an opportunity. In 2009, the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba adopted Single's Day as a 24-hour online shopping spree, offering exclusive deals on its website and marketplaces, where third-party businesses use Alibaba's platform to sell directly to consumers.
Now, Single's Day has transcended its retail origins. In 2017, Alibaba transformed the event into an 11-day affair called the Alibaba Global Shopping Festival. In China, it has become a part of popular culture, with Alibaba hosting elaborate galas to mark the occasion.
In 2009, only 27 brands participated in the holiday, according to research from the International Institute for Management Development. In 2021, a whopping 290,000 brands offered Single's Day deals, according to Alizila, the corporate news arm of Alibaba Group.
What about sustainability?
In the year 2021, the Chinese government exerted significant pressure and subjected numerous private Chinese firms, including the prominent e-commerce giants Alibaba and JD.com, to intense scrutiny. Consequently, these e-commerce entities assumed a more solemn and conscientious stance, making commitments to assist their partners in the creation of products with reduced carbon footprints. Additionally, they pledged to engage in philanthropy by making charitable donations. This shift in tone and commitment reflected a response to the increased regulatory pressure and scrutiny imposed by the Chinese government on various sectors, urging businesses to align with environmental and social responsibility initiatives.
Opportunities for Benelux brands
"Single's Day? We've been participating for years," remarks Nicola Antonelli, the Chief Marketing Officer of the luxury multi-brand boutique Luisa Via Roma. Although the store maintains a physical flagship in Florence, over 90 percent of its business is conducted online. The boutique embraced the Chinese marketing calendar in the early 2010s, particularly after launching a Mandarin version of its website. Luisa Via Roma is part of a growing cohort of Western brands and retailers actively endorsing the Chinese shopping phenomenon beyond China's borders.
Today, nShift advises retailers aiming to boost revenues both domestically and internationally to include Single's Day (11 November) in their strategic planning for the peak season in 2023. Originating in China 30 years ago, Single's Day has evolved into the world's largest shopping event.
In recent times, retailers across Europe have observed significant upticks in Single's Day sales, with customers, often from China, actively seeking the best offers. Noteworthy sales increases were recorded in Italy (80%), France (57%), Germany (35%), and the UK (22%).
Collectively, the revenues generated on Single's Day in 2022 amounted to nearly $130 billion—surpassing Amazon's global sales for Black Friday by tenfold.