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While Valentine’s Day receives a lot of backlash for being a holiday invented by greeting card companies, its antithesis is turning out to be far more commercially viable. In fact, it was only 7 years ago, that Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba trademarked the billion-dollar idea of Valentine’s Day’s opposite—Singles’ Day.
What started as a campus celebration of singledom by 4 Chinese college students, has since become a Chinese cultural and consumerist phenomenon. In 2009, Alibaba had its first exclusive 24-hour offers on the 11th of November in celebration of Singles’ Day. While other brands in China started running their own 11/11 deals, Alibaba went a step further by trademarking the holiday. Since then it’s multiplied in size, with each year’s sales surpassing the previous year’s.
Last year, Alibaba sold goods and services worth 213.5bn yuan (£30.5bn) in just 24 hours. Notably, more than 90% of those sales took place on mobile devices and now the event is spreading beyond China.
After the 2011 sales figures, the retail giant saw the potential in Singles’ Day for what it was—a mass consumer frenzy that appealed to single people wanting to ‘treat themselves’ and get their hands on exclusive deals. Singles’ Day has grown to become a yearly commercial Chinese blitzkrieg, eclipsing even the US’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales combined.
With performances and appearances by global celebrities like Daniel Craig, and Nicole Kidman in the past, Alibaba’s Singles’ Day gala events are nothing less than a visual spectacle and this year it was Taylor Swift who kicked off the festivities. There’s also extensive use of live-streaming and influencer marketing which is fast becoming the norm for China’s digitally evolved netizens. This year, even Kim Kardashian cashed in on China’s Single’s Day extravaganza.
Brands like Apple, L’Oreal and Dyson, made more than 100 million yuan, or £11 million, in pre-orders. Retailers like Amazon, ASOS, New Look, Sports Direct and Superdrug are few of the brands that have thrown their hats into the Singles’ Day ring. This year Alibaba says it sold goods worth 272 billion yuan or £30.1 billion.
In China, which has a significantly skewed gender ratio, this marketing strategy works wonders. The country’s infamous one-child policy has resulted in men outnumbering women, leaving more singles to market to. Meanwhile, the trend in the declining number of ‘partnered’ individuals in the UK could be a contributing factor for the rise of Singles’ Day back home. With actor Emma Watson saying she’s ‘self-partnered’ and statistics showing the married population of England and Wales declining to 50.5% in 2018, this could point to Singles’ Day becoming the latest cross-cultural import into the UK.
Year after year, Singles’ day represents the sheer buying power of the Chinese market. It’s no wonder that international and overseas brands have woken up to the opportunity and started selling to the market that proves, year after year, that they will purchase simply because they can.
There’s no better time to market to China than today, which is why we specialise in helping Western businesses tap into China’s generation of digital consumers with our tailor-made solutions.
Get in touch with JGOO today, and we’ll help you kick-start your China strategy!