hurray single

Singles Day falls on November 11, cleverly playing on the four “single” digits of 11/11. It’s hailed as the opposite of Valentine’s Day and a guilt free excuse to treat yourself. Maybe you missed it. I sure did.

As George Anderson notes in RetailWire, this solo occasion is racking up multi-billions. In 2014, it surpassed $9B globally, exceeding Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.

Most interesting is its origin. A popular Chinese holiday since the late 90s, it has been exported by Alibaba (NYSE: BABA) on its AliExpress US marketplace and imported by other large sites like Overstock.com and Dealmoon.com. As the largest global IPO ever, Alibaba carries some clout these days.

According to Alizila, the Wikipedia for Alibaba news,  27,000 merchants and 42,000 brands participated. Alipay, Alibaba’s answer to PayPal, has been a catalyst as well as it enables retail transactions as well as online purchases.

Demand was fierce. The first billion dollars changed hands in the first 20 minutes. Compare that to Cyber Monday, which took a whole day to reach $2.3 billion. Nearly half of transactions were on mobile devices.

Marketers cheer Singles Day in the US. Here are five reasons why

  1. It’s conducive to valuable and growing demos (singles), regions (large urban markets with high Chinese-American populations) and channels (social media)
  2. It’s an incremental purchase occasion, removing the guilt of being self-centered and replacing it with a reason to celebrate
  3. It’s tailor made for distinct product categories, such as Overstock’s “freedom” categories like trips, gear, and bachelor trappings 
  4. Small Business Saturday has shown how a large enough anchor tenant (Amex) with deep pockets can build a consortium in the busiest shopping period of the year
  5. It’s on track to be the largest “manufactured” holiday in the world in terms of transactions

Traditionalists deride Singles Day in the US. Here are five reasons why

  1. Veteran’s Day is also November 11. Replacing a US holiday about sacrifice with one about self-indulgence is a bit off putting for many (even though Veteran’s Day has become a “sale” day itself)
  2. Singles already can buy things for themselves—what better reward when you’re already shopping by yourself?
  3. The US is flush with commercial occasions already in late Q3-Q4, including Back-to-school, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, Hanukkah, and Christmas
  4. While delayed marriage and divorce rates have increased the number of the unattached, Singles Day excludes the married class, unlike pre-existing Q4 shopping themes
  5. It may not break out of niche categories like treats, apparel, jewelry, and trips

Outside China, Russia is the largest market for Singles Day. In the US, it has the advantage of being first. It precedes rather than follows major events traditionally celebrated as shopping occasions . This means more dollars, rubles and renminbi are up for grabs. It also means guarantees of free shipping and 3 day delivery will be easier to meet. But its far from certain this single-minded trend will make a mark.

What do you think? Will Singles Day be a base hit or a home run in the US?

Categories: In-store, Online, Social | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

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  1. Shep

    Larger than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined? I’d say it already has stuck globally. To make it in the US, it just needs to be unique and fun. Online retailers will provide the push

    It’s just another reason to spend money on yourself. And when the deals come out, the shoppers come out.

    It’s not like online retailers are going to check ID to make sure you’re single. All money is green, after all.

    • That’s a good point. A deal for one is a deal for all. There’s no denying those “married” or “significantly attached” from grabbing discounts. Success is sales, not purity of participants.

  2. Uh Oh

    Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Alibaba’s chairman Jack Ma was not exactly ecstatic about the surge in sales that he feared would overwhelm delivery companies. Inability to fulfill orders will leave a bad taste in consumers’ mouths.

    See more in this article: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/alibaba-and-the-truth-behind-the-singles-day-sales-numbers-2014-11-16

    • And there’s good reason to be concerned as Alibaba expands to countries with less developed delivery infrastructure. In Russia, as the article notes, “there were people marching on the streets demanding answers for why their postal service is that awful.”
      Presumably, the US has a bit more practice in rush logistics.

  3. Jeff Krastov

    Bah humbug. Don’t see this working except for selfish millenials who’d rather treat themselves than friends, family and the less fortunate.

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