Singles' Day, the antithesis of Valentine’s Day, was first celebrated in China in 1993. The perceived loneliness of the number one made November 11th the perfect day to celebrate single people all over the country. It was a day for people not in a relationship to treat themselves and enjoy being single. At least that was where the holiday had its roots. ‘Double 11’ now has a very different significance to what it had in 1993.
In 2009, Alibaba launched a massive campaign promoting exclusive deals only available on ‘Double 11’. Thus began the commercialisation of Singles' Day. Now, like Black Friday and Boxing Day, the 11th of November is a day for shoppers to go wild. In 2015, nearly $20 billion of merchandise was sold on Singles' Day - 55% more than in 2014. Interestingly, a third of purchases were made abroad, with Nike sneakers and Levi’s clothing proving extremely popular.
This year Singles' Day is going global. To boost the appeal of the 24h shopping bonanza among audiences outside of China, Alibaba lined up a number of celebrities including Scarlett Johansson and Kobe Bryant for a pre-sale gala. The company also piloted a number of concepts including virtual reality shopping for stores like Macy’s and Costco and Pokemon Go style augmented reality gaming to drive publicity ahead of the event.
Australian businesses have also been taking part, with the 1500 or so brands selling goods on Tmall (Alibaba's answer to Amazon) likely to make significant profits.
Whether these efforts pay off remains to be seen but the numbers look promising: Alibaba Group posted $1.3 billion in sales within the first five minutes of its promotions this morning, hitting almost $16 billion half-way through the day.