While American shoppers are slowly easing into the holiday season with Thanksgiving weekend two weeks away, China is getting ready for what may well be the biggest online shopping event in the world: Singles’ Day. Originally conceived by young people celebrating the joy of being single, November 11 (11.11. – each digit representing a single person) has evolved into a huge shopping event, with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba particularly successful in marketing the occasion.
Year after year, the Chinese e-commerce giant posts new Singles’ Day sales records, with last year’s gross merchandise volume amounting to a staggering $74.1 billion across all of Alibaba’s e-commerce platforms. That number comes with an asterisk, however, as the company started Singles' Day promotions early for the first time, spreading out the shopping spree across two sales periods from November 1 through November 3 and on November 11. This year, the event is structured similarly, but in face of the Chinese government's tech crackdown Alibaba is emphasizing sustainability and inclusiveness over sales records, at least publicly.
Compared to Singles' Day, Cyber Monday and Black Friday, the biggest online shopping days in the United States, look like exercises in frugality. Last year, total e-commerce spending on Cyber Monday amounted to $9.8 billion in the U.S. with Thanksgiving day and Black Friday adding another $12.3 billion for a weekend total of $22.1 billion. This year’s Thanksgiving weekend will likely bring another record in U.S. e-commerce history, but it won’t come close to matching China’s largest shopping extravaganza.