Black Friday starts this Friday! No, relax, America, not for you – this Friday is Singles Day, which is the Chinese equivalent of Black Friday/Cyber Monday for retail and eCommerce. (But we really had you going there for a minute, huh? You really thought the retailers had started the Christmas season mega-early this year, right? Psych!!!)
Singles Day in China is kind of a cross between a reverse Valentine’s Day and Cyber Monday – instead of recognizing one’s sweetheart, it celebrates the singles’ life with gift-giving, parties and massive online consumption. On this day, capitalism raises its head, sniffs the air and says, “We have a yen for billions of sales dollars in one day!”
While Singles Day has been ‘a thing’ since it started as Bachelor’s Day for single men at Nanjing University in the 1990s, it quickly incorporated women as well and became Singles Day (young people the world over are always looking for a new excuse to party). Seven years ago Chinese retailer Alibaba launched what is now the massive one-day heavily-discounted sale on their online marketplace TMall. Singles Day sales now exceed combined retail sales for the U.S.’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday (China $14.8B vs US $5.3B last year).
Singles Day is celebrated every November 11th – ostensibly because that date is 11/11 (1111) representing all the singles in China. This year, for the first time, Alibaba will feature Singles Day in countries outside the mainland. Jack Ma, Alibaba’s Founder and Executive Chairman, has indicated that consumers in Taiwan and Hong Kong will be able to buy international products at TMall.
Ma further indicated that next year, Alibaba intends to add countries from Southeast Asia and of course, they’ll be coming for the rest of us too. The TMall B2C marketplace now incorporates many international merchants as well as some of the most leading-edge technology in the world. The majority of sales are expected to come through mobile devices and some users will be able to connect their devices to headsets and shop in virtual reality. China leads the world in online eCommerce and as China goes, so goes the rest of the world. Online retailers globally will be paying attention to see how this year’s Singles Day goes down, and if you want to know where you’ll be shopping for bargains in a few more years, you will be too.
Singles Day is no longer just for Alibaba. Singaporean eCommerce giant Reebonz is offering 15% and 20% discounts at their mall (Minimum spend: $800 for those singles that have a lot of disposable income). Heavy hitting competitor Amazon has just launched their free Prime shipping in China, just in time to grab a piece of the spending pie. Here come the Americans, Mr. Ma!
Think Black Friday is overhyped in the US? In China, Singles Day promotions have been underway since mid-October with the sort of events those rank American amateurs can only dream about. The past few weeks’ happenings have included fashion shows, a Pokemon GO-style AR (augmented reality) game featuring Alibaba’s black cat mascot, pre-orders during the televised event and the unveiling of their VR shopper experience. The juggernaut concludes tomorrow night with a four-hour televised gala event featuring American pop singer Katy Perry, (Alibaba’s ‘global ambassador’), various Asian bands and a slew of other celebrity appearances.
Some closing Asian eCommerce stats:
- Alibaba’s sales growth is expected to be 40% this year on Singles Day (eMarketer, 2016) which they hope will improve their revenues in the face of a cooling Chinese economy.
- Jack Ma may want to make Alibaba an international online mall behemoth, but he still faces serious competition from JD.com and Tencent, Alibaba’s biggest and second-biggest rivals, as well as Amazon, and India’s Flipkart and Snapdeal.
- South Korea’s eCommerce economy is expected to grow from $38B this year to $50B in 2018. (PFS Web 2016)
- Indonesia is another up-and-coming Asian eCommerce player which has made itself Asia’s foremost mobile-first nation (TechCrunch 2016). They already have the world’s highest mobile Facebook usage rate which will grow to 99% by 2018. (eCommerce IQ, 2016)
What the stats above mean is that language translation isn’t just for Westerners anymore. In order to execute on plans for world domination, Alibaba and their competitors will need to offer website translations and customer support in multiple languages. India has only just recently come to the realization that 70% of their citizens don’t speak English and have begun translating and localizing their websites into some of their more common languages.
We wish Asian eCommerce providers the best of luck this Friday for Singles Day! Just remember, when you come to North America you’ll need to speak our language.
Yappn Corp is an enhanced machine translation company with a growing Asian presence and a yen for a really good sale. We help international vendors easily upload their product changes to Asian marketplaces in their own language for instant translation. Among many other talents! For more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at +1.905.763.3510 x246.
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Written by Nicole Chardenet, Sales Development Rep at Yappn.