Singles’ Day 2017 Spending Shatters Records at $25bn

Singles’ Day continues to outperform itself as this year’s version of the popular sales day saw spending exceed $25 billion, obliterating records set in previous years. While past growth trends pointed to another record-breaking year, the extent to which it smashed previous records still came as a surprise to many observers.

The annual event, which is held on November 11, was started as a way to honour those without partners. The original idea was for single people to treat themselves to a present, but the discounts have gotten so steep that many people shop on this day for gifts as well. Singles’ Day is largely promoted by the Chinese e-commerce behemoth Alibaba, but many other retailers are also on board with the sales.

While it may be similar to Black Friday in concept, in sheer statistics, it leaves the discounts offered the day after Thanksgiving in its dust. This year’s Singles’ Day was four times larger than both Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined, which are traditionally the two biggest days of shopping in the U.S.

In 2017, customers spent a remarkable 40% more on Alibaba than they did last year, and it took just 13 hours for 2016’s record to be reached. The first two minutes after midnight saw a billion U.S. dollars changing hands. The final sales tally for the event came in at $25,386,927,848 to be precise.

Alibaba hosted celebrities like Nicole Kidman, Maria Sharapova and Pharrell Williams in Shanghai for a TV gala to kick off the sale. The event is about entertainment as much as it is about getting good deals. Alibaba Co-Founder Joseph Tsai said: “This is a big event for China, for the Chinese economy. On Singles Day, shopping is a sport — it’s entertainment.”

Singles Day’ 2017: The Numbers

Forbes reports that 140,000 brands took part in this year’s shopping extravaganza, which is also a 40 per cent rise over last year. A data-driven “uni-marketing” approach is used by Alibaba to help companies target consumers more effectively. Some of the big international names that reaped the rewards this year included Estee Lauder, Bose, GAP, Nike, Starbucks and P&G.

This year’s event also made use of 100,000 “smart store” brick-and-mortar locations throughout the country. Interested customers could go there to look at items in real life before purchasing them online, and this is believed to have boosted sales for Alibaba significantly.

An estimated 812 million orders were placed, which amounted to a mind-boggling number of deliveries in a period of just a few days. Alibaba is testing out Big Data-based smart logistics that will speed up delivery from proximity warehouses. Just how fast is it? The first order was reportedly delivered less than 13 minutes after it was purchased

Alipay was used to process 1.48 billion payments on Singles’ Day, and nine out of ten of these were through mobile phones. This is up from the 92 per cent of last year’s sales that took place on mobile devices and light years ahead of the U.S., where just 30 per cent of Black Friday shoppers used mobile payments last year. At its peak, Alipay handled 256,000 transactions per second.

On Singles Day, 15 million products were listed. The best sellers came from categories like baby products and wellness, which is not surprising given the affinity of safety-minded Chinese consumers to purchase these types of goods from abroad for peace of mind.

Revenue on the day also came from “virtual shopping cart space”, which allowed customers to pay extra to have a bigger capacity in their online shopping cart; Chinese retailers normally limit the number of items a person can place in their cart to help make operations smoother.

It will be interesting to see how big this event will become and if it goes global.