- Alibaba raked in over $8 billion in sales in the first hour of its made-up marketing holiday, “Single’s Day.”
- Singles Day has its roots in an obscure Chinese holiday for students who had not married yet.
- Alibaba CEO Jack Ma capitalized expertly on the holiday, and now, Single’s Day dwarfs traditional American shopping holidays like Black Friday, and is much larger than Amazon’s “Prime Day.”
Alibaba turned Single’s Day, the Chinese holiday for the single-set, into a huge economic opportunity through a savvy marketing blitz.
The company raked in well over $8 billion during the first hour minutes of this year’s sale, largely through its online shopping platforms, Taobao.com and Tmall.com as well as a glitzy gala.
Students at Nanjing University first celebrated Single’s Day in 1993 as an appreciation of, you guessed it — being single. They picked November 11 (11/11) as an ode to the loneliness of the number one.
But Single’s Day was never meant to be a somber affair. Just like couples buy each other presents on Valentine’s Day, Single’s Day is an opportunity to treat yourself and buy the things you’ve always wanted.
Yue Xue, a ‘dating consultant’ in Beijing explained to Time in 2014 that the concept of being single in China is a recent development. “China used to be a society where there was no dating culture,” Xue said. “There was no going on dates to turn into a relationship. You see someone, if you can marry them or you never see them again.”
Singlehood only gained widespread acceptance in China because of Western films and television shows. And just as Valentine’s Day has become a juggernaut for consumption, so has Single’s Day.
Alibaba launched a massive marketing push around Single’s Day in 2009, offering special “Double 11” deals.
Their timing was perfect. E-commerce has exploded in China, leading to a 5,740% growth in Alibaba’s “Double 11” sales between 2009 and 2015, the Atlantic reports.
In the last couple years, Alibaba, once known only as an online retailer akin to Amazon, has moved aggressively into the entertainment space, launching a television production arm, and purchasing an online-streaming service that’s popular in China.
“Jack Ma (Alibaba’s CEO) is building Alibaba as the hub of all things commerce, whether it be physical goods bought and sold online, or now virtual goods and services,” Brian Buchwald, the CEO of consumer intelligence firm Bomoda told the LA Times.
And Alibaba has combined their expansion with brilliant marketing. In years past, Alibaba aired a three-hour television special, “Tmall’s Double-11 Night Carnival” in order to drum up excitement for the insane “Double-11” deals.
And this year, the company put on an extravagant gala, that included Pharrell Williams and tennis star Maria Sharapova delivering messages to drum up sales.
In 2016, Alibaba pulled in $17.8 billion on the holiday, and it’s expected to blow past that number this year.
For comparison purposes, Alibaba made only $9.3 billion in 2014’s Single’s Day sale, $5 billion less than 2015, amounting to a 57% jump in sales.
While Bloomberg notes that analysts are predicting Alibaba’s Singles Day will record a 31% increase in transactions over last year, that’s only half the growth rate of last year.
In a nod to the friendly competition between Ma and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Amazon recorded $1 billion in sales for its made up holiday, “Prime Day,” and it was the largest single day for sales in the company’s history, reports Markets Insider’s Seth Archer.
It’s a good day for Alibaba.