While American shoppers are slowly easing into the holiday season with Thanksgiving weekend two weeks away, China is wrapping up 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 $38.4 billion across all of Alibaba’s e-commerce platforms. Moreover, the company sent more than one billion packages during the 24-hour spending spree as hundreds of millions of people participated in the shopping frenzy.
Compared to these numbers, Cyber Monday and Black Friday look like exercises in frugality. Last year, total Cyber Monday e-commerce sales in the United States amounted to $7.9 billion with Thanksgiving and Black Friday adding another $9.7 billion for a weekend total of $17.6 billion. This year’s Thanksgiving weekend will likely bring about another record in U.S. e-commerce history, but it won’t come close to matching China’s largest shopping extravaganza.
Less than an hour into this year's Singles' Day, Alibaba announced that the shopping festival had already exceeded $56 billion in gross merchandise volume. That number comes with a big asterisk, however, as the company and some of its competitors started Singles' Day promotions ten days early this year on November 1.