Biz / Tech

Ten things you might not know about Singles Day

Ding Yining
It started out as a student event, and here are more you may need to know about this high-profile event when entering its pre-sales stage.
Ding Yining
Ten things you might not know about Singles Day

The Singles Day (November 11) used to be a folk holiday initiated by students at Nanjing University.

Seizing on the numeral "1" for a solo person and the date of 11-11, the single students used the occasion to celebrate being unattached and would often buy gifts for one another.

When did it turn into a major shopping spree?

It was first staged by Alibaba in 2009. The exponential growth kicked in around 2013 as sales figures kept breaking records and made headlines.

Alibaba introduced a gala on November 10 from 2015, with entertainment shows staged to help promote noteworthy products. JD, Suning and other major retailers jumped on the bandwagon, offering pre-sale discounts from late October.

How many sales have been generated by the shopping spree?

In the first year, the event racked up sales of 52 million yuan (US$8 million) in 24 hours, with only about two dozen vendors offering discounts.

Last year, it recorded sales worth 498.2 billion yuan.

What has changed this year?

Alibaba said pre-sales kicked off at 8pm on Wednesday, instead of at midnight, so shoppers won't have to stay up late. The second stage of pre-sales starts at 8pm on November 1. JD and other major shopping sites have followed suit.

Ten things you might not know about Singles Day

Who handles the deliveries?

Tens of thousands of delivery staff are mobilized to deliver packages every year.

In 2014, more than 586 million packages were handled on November 12. The aftermath of the Singles Day shopping spree is a peak season for the postal service and major courier firms.

Do I get a discount on sites other than Alibaba?

Almost all major digital platforms and physical retailers participate in the sales promotion in one way or another.

Short-video sites Kuaishou and Douyin have their own shopping channel. Video and audio streaming sites offer subscription discounts as well.

Why is it an important event?

It's regarded as a major barometer of consumer sentiment and domestic consumption trends.

Brands will be closely watching sales figures and rankings on top digital sites. Bestselling products reflect shoppers' latest preferences while those less sold demonstrate declining popularity.

How are shopping sites faring in lower-tier cities and how do promotional campaigns help them attract new buyers?

Various gimmicks, lucky draws and promotions are leveraged to woo new shoppers as competition intensifies in the digital realm.

In terms of time spent, Pinduoduo and Taobao still take the lead, according to research company YipitData.

JD's social shopping service Jing Xi posted strong annual growth in July-August, while time spent on Tmall and Taobao fell.

Ten things you might not know about Singles Day

How do other major digital sites compete with Alibaba?

JD is adding a new location-based shopping channel on the app's homepage by combining with Dada Group's on-demand delivery capability.

This means fast delivery services of high-quality products from stores in a vicinity of 3-5 kilometers, based on the location of shoppers.

As many as 100,000 physical stores have been connected to this "Shop Now" feature on the channel, offering fruits, vegetables, medicines, electronic accessories, home appliances, beauty products and apparel with one-hour delivery service.

Shoppers will also have the opportunity to receive red envelopes, coupons and discounts in the digital currency format.

How are they responding to potential environmental issues?

The digital giants have pledged to encourage sustainable development and promote inclusiveness to consumers, merchants and partners across the ecosystem.

Alibaba's logistics affiliate Cainiao Network will introduce package recycling services at 60,000 Cainiao Post Stations in 20 cities.

What kind of challenges do brands face?

"Brands need to further break down barriers in different channels, both online and offline, and turn newcomers into repeat buyer devotees," said Zhang Tianbing, Deloitte Asia Pacific Consumer Products & Retail Sector Leader.

According to a latest survey by Deloitte and Tmall, customer value will become more important than gross merchandising volume, and brands will need to offer more tailor-made services for customers at different stages.

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