Alibaba’s Singles Day made more than Black Friday in 1 hour, here’s what the experts say

This year’s Singles Day shopping event has now come to a close, once again blitzing records to see over $38 billion (£29.6 billion) sold across Alibaba’s platforms in 24-hours.

The 11th annual Singles Day, also called 11.11, has seen meteoric growth over the last decade and now dramatically dwarfs any other shopping event in the world.

Last year Black Friday sales across the whole of the UK stood at £7 billion, while Alibaba raked in $12 billion (£9.35 billion) in its first hour.

Despite the astronomical figures, Singles Day grew at its lowest rate since it started this year at just 26 per cent, suggesting that its dominance could have reached its peak.

Here’s what the experts say:


Alibaba’s own UK managing director David Lloyd says that Singles Day provides a window into the future of retail in both the Chinese and UK markets.

“This year we generated $38,379,306,366 in GMV but beyond the big numbers, Alibaba’s Global Shopping Festival offers a fascinating insight into the future of retail in China,” he said.

“For the brands that take part, it’s not just about sales and engagement, but brand-building, using entertainment, data-driven product innovation, consumer insights and star power to attract shoppers.

“One of the most exciting new trends in consumer engagement is livestreaming – particularly for international brands looking to reach new customers. Working with Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) via livestreaming is an extraordinarily powerful way to bring products to life.

“Consumer beauty tech brand Smoothskin, an Intense Pulsed Light hair removal business based in Swansea is a stand-out example of a UK brand that has successfully incorporated livestreaming into its China growth and marketing strategy, particularly around the Global Shopping Festival this year.”

READ MORE: Alibaba could soon appear on UK high streets


ParcelHero’s head of consumer research David Jinks points out that Brits spend more on Singles Day than any country in Europe, despite the sensitivity of its date.  

“Singles Day’s clashes with Remembrance Day, traditionally marked on the 11th day of the 11th month to commemorate the fallen soldiers of World War I and subsequent wars,” he said.

“That means many UK retailers are reluctant to jump aboard the world’s biggest shopping event…British retailers and shoppers have certainly embraced Singles Day to a certain extent. Brits spend more than any other European nation on the event; in fact only Germany comes anywhere close to UK retailers’ sales.

“Is Singles Day Christmas or crass? Shopping on sensitive days is a delicate issue. When John Major’s Government introduced Sunday trading back in 1994 it was highly controversial, but consumers soon embraced Sunday shopping.  Perhaps the same will hold true for November 11th. However, the idea of people tapping shopping orders during the minute’s silence does seem highly insensitive.”


FutureBrand China’s general Manager Sophie Cheng highlights the event’s increasing internationalism, and argues that to keep up with Chinese retailer brands must embrace “new retail”.

“Experience is becoming widely seen as one of the keys to the festival’s success, for example through celebrity endorsement and the gamification of the Alibaba platform. 

Chinese consumers spend on average 44% of their time on social media applications, with 11% of their time spent on short-form video apps such as Douyin (known as TikTok outside of China). Video-driven e-commerce has really taken off in recent years, with billions of dollars of livestreaming transactions occurring through Taobao in 2018 alone.

In 2016, Alibaba Group co-founder Jack Ma coined the term ‘new retail’ to describe the seamless integration of online and offline channels, and this year 200,000 ‘smart stores’ in China were signed up for Singles’ Day to make discounts available to Alibaba customers. While surveys have shown the younger generation of shoppers in Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities are comfortable with ‘omnichannel’ shopping, Chinese consumers generally prefer committing to the final transaction online”.

READ MORE: Alibaba’s Singles Day makes a staggering $1bn in first minute


Wunderman Thompson Commerce’s global head of consultancy Hugh Fletcher says that “big sales days”, now matter where they originated, should be embraced by retailers.  

“While Black Friday has grown to dominate the retail calendar in the UK and US, it attracts nowhere near the spend that China’s equivalent, Singles’ Day, does,” he said.

“These shopping events highlight an ongoing trend that retailers are taking towards big shopping experiences, creating their own peak moments in the calendar. Amazon has taken a similar approach with Prime Day and built a loyal customer base, as 72% of shoppers wish that online retailers offered similar services to Amazon Prime.

“Events such as Amazon Prime Day and Black Friday are popular because the smarter brands know consumers will be on the hunt for deals and offers that help them save money. Last year’s shopping event saw $45bn worth of goods purchased, proof that the day will be increasingly important to retailers in the UK looking to develop and grow their business.

“Ultimately, retailers that ‘own’ events such as Singles Day and Black Friday will reap the financial and loyalty successes that will likely come with it.”

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