Around the world, we observe Remembrance Day on November 11th. On this day, we commemorate the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for our countries.

In the Chinese culture, however, it is a day of celebration and shopping. Only gained popularity in the last few years, China’s “Singles’ Day” is celebrated on the 11th day of the 11th month of each year. Singles’ Day, also known as Double 11, marks China’s largest online shopping day. Singles’ Day makes more sales volume than Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Recently, Taobao Mall (TMall) launched the “Torch Envelope” as the warm-up activity for “11/11 Shopping Festival”. Many WeChat users have been temporarily banned because they frequently share the “Torch Envelope” link. Overseas Chinese are also keen to participate in this shopping festival through Chinese merchants’ overseas shopping platforms or local merchants’ shopping platforms. A Canadian example is Hudson’s Bay 11% discount promotions on Singles’ day’s online shopping event. But what is the charm of “Double 11”, and why is it bigger than Black Friday and Cyber Monday?


Workers are swimming in packages at a sorting center after China’s Singles’Day.

Singles’ Day is an entertaining, widespread festival among young Chinese people. So what are they celebrating, exactly? That they are proud to be single. The date, November 11th (11.11), is chosen because the number “1” resembles an individual that is alone.

In 2009, Alibaba held the first Double Eleven Shopping Festival on Taobao.com, storming the online shopping market for the very first time. Through promoting stores on Taobao.com, Chinese consumers’ demand for foreign brands has been brought out. Increasing the involvement of more international brands, Walmart, Macy’s, Gap, Zara, Topshop, Apple, Starbucks, and Costco have joined Alibaba. In 2016, 52 seconds after Alibaba’s “Double 11” shopping festival started, the GMV (Gross Merchandise Volume) was close to 1 billion U.S. dollars, and the total GMV reached 17.8 billion U.S. dollars. 85% of purchases were made on mobile phones. Singles’ Day easily eclipsed the $2.74 billion and $3.07 billion respectively generated online during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales in the U.S., and greatly demonstrates the potential in Chinese consumers market.

“Double 11” is a good opportunity for foreign brands to gain exposure and acceptance in the Chinese market. Even though not many promotions have been made by foreign brands in China, many of their products continue to be the best-sellers on Singles Day. In 2015, Topshop surged 900% over the same period, and in 2016, Costco was one of the top sellers that sold about 3.14 million worth of products in one hour.

Singles’ Day is bigger than Black Friday and Cyber Monday as international brands will be able to offer greater discounts to attract consumers due to the tremendous size of the overall market in China. Comparing to Black Friday and Cyber Monday that heavily rely on in-store sales, Singles’ Day provides a more convenient and quick alternative for those who want to shop online or save a trip to the mall.

Chinese online consumers reached 361 million in December 2014, and a 2016 survey found that more than 90% of Chinese respondents use mobile phones to make a purchase online. The figure shows a great contrast with other markets, for example, the United States (74%) and the United Kingdom (74.6%).  In addition, nearly half of Chinese respondents have shopped online at least twice or more monthly during the past year, well above the global average of 27.9%.

Mobile e-commerce transactions have been a major driver of China’s online sales boom. Chinese consumers are now dominating the global transition to mobile commerce, especially with the popularity of smartphones in rural China. The development of mobile commerce in this potential market of at least 700 million people is undoubtedly a tremendous business opportunity.

So what’s in it for you from a marketing point of view?