Singles’ Day started in the 1990s as an excuse for young single people to get together. Alibaba adopted it in 1999 and turned it into a shopping event, and over the years it has grown into a 20- day shopping festival and has become the biggest event in retail and e-commerce in the world. This article will look into the success of Singles’ Day as an example to show the signal of shifting power in the global sales market, moving away from the US towards Asia, specifically China.

The Most Influential Consumers of the 21st Century

The American consumers have been the main driver of the global economy for decades, yet this might no longer be true as the influential power of Chinese consumers is on fire with the fuel of a rocket. It is projected that by 2022, Chinese middle-class shoppers will both outnumber and outspend the US counterparts, with 76% of China’s urban population (780 million) being considered as the middle class.

“The trend of a rising Chinese middle class is not going to stop, trade war or no trade war. China’s middle-class consumers have experienced significant real wage growth over the past decade, and they are looking for high-quality products to satisfy their discretionary spending and an increasingly sophisticated lifestyle.” Alibaba executive vice chairman Joe Tsai said.

The Sophisticated Technologically Savvy Population

Led by popular mobile apps, AliPay and WeChat Pay, people in China now conduct their daily life without a wallet, cash or credit cards. With their mobile phone, they can hire a taxi, order food, book travel, shop, watch TV, and much more. The high accessibility to the mobile network allows all citizens in all tiers to participate in the festival.

According to the Chinese government, 57.7% of the population, 802 million people are now actively using the internet, and 98% of the group, 788 million people, are mobile users. Alibaba has 666 million monthly active mobile users, which is double the entire U.S. population. For comparison, just 30% of 2017 Black Friday shoppers bought on mobile. It comes as no surprise that Alibaba’s Singles’ Day volume outpaced U.S. online sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined and topped Amazon’s Prime Day.

Seeing a World of Opportunities in China


Retailers around the world are seeking to take advantage of this growing Chinese economic market. Over 60,000 global brands like Adidas, Bose, La Mer, Mac, Mattel, Mondelez, Nike, P&G, Uniqlo, and Zara participated in the market. Based on Google search results, three US retailers including Tiffany & Co., Amazon and Barneys New York advertised Singles’ Day Sales on their website. Barneys had a specific promotional code and Amazon had over 9,000 items cataloged for Singles’ Day.

International celebrities such as model Miranda Kerr, singer Mariah Carey, global entertainment group Cirque du Solei, David Beckham, Nicole Kidman and Pharrell Williams also participated in the live televised gala countdown to the festival. 

The growth of Chinese economic power shows no sign of stopping, indeed this year Alibaba extended Singles’ Day across South East Asia and gained significant sales in Chinese expatriate communities such as Australia and the U.S., and the planning for 2019 has already begun.

The potential of the Chinese market is beyond Alibaba’s Singles’ Day but as ambitious as the message of this year’s 11/11: “Yesterday’s best is today’s starting line”. Do you have your strategy ready for it in order to reap the benefits and win at the starting line?