How Alibaba’s Singles Day Blew Every Sales Record Out of the Water.


It happened so fast you might have missed it, but last Monday, Chinese eCommerce giant Alibaba crushed just about every sales record in the book with their $38.4 billion haul on Singles Day 2019. To put that in perspective, that’s as much as Black Friday week, Cyber Monday and Amazon Prime Day combined.

This year represented the 11th installment of the November 11th tradition for Alibaba, and it was the most successful Singles Day on record by far, topping last year’s total by nearly $8 billion USD.

The Singles Day holiday itself originated in China in the 1990’s as a bachelor celebration day, with the date, 11/11, representing four singles. Over time, the popularity of the holiday grew both with singles and couples alike. In recent years, 11/11 has become a popular day for weddings and celebrating relationships in China.

Alibaba’s involvement dates back to 2009, when an ambitious executive named Daniel Zhang came up with the idea of using Singles Day to promote Alibaba’s virtual mall for brands, Tmall. The first edition of Singles Day was a moderate success, scoring around $7 million in sales. Now, 11 years later, Singles Day is the largest 24-hour shopping event on the planet.

Oh, and that ambitious executive who hatched the idea, Daniel Zhang? He is now the CEO of Alibaba Group.

This year’s edition looked much different from the humble beginnings, kicking off with a concert featuring international superstar Taylor Swift and Chinese pop icon GEM. Singles Day sales started with a bang, as well, crossing the $1 billion sales mark in just 68 seconds. By the 30-minute mark, sales had already topped $10 billion and at the end of the first hour, they were sitting around $13 billion.

Retailers in China build heavily around the day, offering preorder deals, coupons and prizes as incentives. In an interesting article last week, one researcher created a downright hilarious flowchart illustrating just how many hoops Chinese consumers are willing to go through to save a few yuan on Singles Day.

On the other side of the equation, the complexity of the actual logistics for delivering all those singles day orders is mind numbing. Alibaba employees worked around the clock to fulfill orders, utilizing high-speed bullet trains, trucks and airplanes to move loads of packages across the country in a matter of hours. The overstuffed trucks for Chinese shipping companies looked more like garbage trucks as packages flowed out into the street. Distribution centers were overrun with a sea of parcels, chaotically strewn about as workers struggled to keep up.

While it was probably quite a pain for the thousands upon thousands of workers involved, it was, by every measure a huge success for Alibaba. With ongoing concerns about the U.S. trade war and the slowest economic growth rate since China started reporting the figures in 1992, many observers see the strong performance of Singles Day as a good reason for optimism in China, in general.

For Alibaba, Singles Day couldn’t have come at a better time. The company is planning an IPO on the Hong Kong stock market on November 26th, which could raise as much as $13.8 billion. Even with so much uncertainty revolving around the Chinese economy and the ongoing trade war, you can bet those shares will be in high demand.

What do you think about Alibaba’s Singles Day event? Do you sell any products through Alibaba? If so, what was your Singles Day experience like? We want to hear from you! Sound off on social media now and join the conversation.