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The future of Singles’ Day


Imported from the US in the last decade, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have grown to become part the UK national zeitgeist. There is one commerce day, however, that far exceeds these days in stature, and yet much of the UK has not heard of it. Nenad Cetkovic, COO of ecommerce data-feed company Lengow, writes for eDelivery on the Chinese retail phenomenon Singles’ Day.

Nenad Cetkovic, Lengow

Nenad Cetkovic, Lengow

With 3,000 logistics companies, 1.7 million employees, 400,000 vehicles, 5,000 warehouses and nearly 200 aircraft, required to handle Singles’ Day orders, it is expected to be responsible for about 760 million packages sent worldwide, and will see an expected growth of over 40% compared to last year. The day marks China as the dominant force in retail and ecommerce.

The event started in the 90s and was turned to profit via promotion by the ecommerce giant Alibaba to become, in a few short years, the largest commercial online day in China and worldwide. It represents not just an anti-Valentine’s Day – a day of celebration or commiseration for single people – but an all-consuming giant, looming on the UK horizon.

In 2015, Singles’ Day brings together more than 40,000 merchants and over 5000 brands. The day now spans more than 25 countries, where hundreds of millions of products will be offered for sale, sometimes with heavily discounted prices. In fact, it is not uncommon for products to have nearly 80% off the usual retail price. For the first time this year, Alibaba is also taking an omnichannel approach with some Singles’ Day activity happening offline at over one thousand brick and mortar stores.

As a result, all parts of the supply chain from payment, logistics, delivery and merchants work to manage the mass of orders, creating a big knock-on impact on the B2B sector and service providers operating in Europe and the rest of the world.

So where will Singles’ Day go from here? 80% of ecommerce in China is handled by Alibaba, who recently bought the Chinese equivalent of YouTube. Of Singles’ Day, Alibaba has set its sights on international markets and for the first time, the day will reach a range of international buyers outside China through the use of the portal Aliexpress. The marketplace directly connects tens of thousands of Chinese producers with consumers. It is an online platform that is now available in more than 15 foreign languages, offered as an application for mobile and tablet, and is available on Android and IOS as well as Alibaba’s own Chinese operating system.

Alibaba has also announced the opening of offices in Europe, with a focus on France, Italy and Germany, as well as acquisitions of the largest global players in ecommerce. And they are looking to push for deeper involvement of international brands. P & G, Unilever, Burberry, Estee Lauder, Zara, Apple, Nike, Uniqlo, Huggies and Macy’s are among the hundreds of global brands highlighted by the Chinese giant this year.

The Chinese internet population represents some of the most active social media users in the world and China e-commerce is expected to account for 12.4% of total retail sales by 2017. But Singles’ Day will inevitably seep deeper into European consciousness and become an increasingly global moment. Expanding into international markets can be a bewildering but highly effective way to grow your business and increase profit and it is now it is up to organisations to capitalise on the opportunities this Chinese phenomenon offers. In order to avoid missing the 11.11 boat, there may be a case for UK brands securing a presence in China on Alibaba’s marketplaces sooner rather than later.

Main image: “Shanghai downtown3” by MiLu24 – Own work.
Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

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