The Abacus

Alibaba Singles Day hits new records


Last weekend saw another Singles Day in China—and another set of broken records. 

For anyone who still hasn’t heard about Singles Day, it was created around twenty years ago by a group of un-attached Chinese university students as a sort of ‘anti-Valentines Day’.  People buy gifts for their single friends, and single people buy gifts for themselves.  Retailers offer big discounts for a 24 hour period.  Most of the selling occurs online, and this year more than $US25 billion worth of sales were made—up almost 40 per cent from the year before.  Forbes Magazine offers a comparison with Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the US, where last year the combined sales of both days were less than $7 billion.

Singles Day is a microcosm of the Chinese consumer story.  Top selling products this year reflect Chinese people’s growing desire for healthy, safe, clean and green products: milk powder, diapers and multivitamins topped the list.  This emphasis on wellbeing helped move Australia from the fourth to the third biggest selling country on this year’s Singles Day, with Bio Island among the top five most purchased products, and Chemist Warehouse breaking its sales record from last year within seven hours of trading.

In all, 812 million orders were made on Singles Day 2017.  Of the payments made through Alipay, 90 per cent were by mobile phone.  Last week Mac Wang, Head of Growth for Stripe in Australia, wrote an article in The Australian offering some tips for Australian businesses looking to take advantage of the Chinese digital consumption boom—which goes well beyond Singles Day.

He offers four principles:  First, do your homework by taking advantage of the huge Chinese diaspora in Australia and working with organisations such as the Australia China Business Council.  Second, get mobile right—there are 50 times more mobile payments made in China each year than in the US.  Businesses need to offer the payment methods Chinese consumers regularly use.  Third, businesses should manage the complex ways Chinese consumers discover new products and services by partnering with Chinese e-commerce systems and optimising their results on Chinese search engines.  Finally, businesses must understand Chinese cultural expectations, such as the desire to establish a relationship with a seller through online chat features and other services.


Mac Wang’s article can be found here.


An article on Singles Day from the AFR can be found here.


The Forbes article on Singles Day can be found here.



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