What Alibaba Has Planned for Singles Day in China

November 14, 2017         By: Steven Anderson

In China, the growth of a new holiday known as “Singles’ Day” has been massive. The start of what amounts to a month of discounts and promotional offers, singles in China celebrate their unattached status with a little thoroughly un-Communist materialism. Alibaba—one of China’s biggest names in retail and mobile payments—is poised to take advantage with some new and unusual offerings.

The stakes for Singles Day operations are massive; just last year, Alibaba alone handled around $18 billion in transactions. However, with changes in pricing and return policies, this year difficult to compare to last with any real validity. There’s also a lot of room to show off; last year, for example, saw a Pokemon Go-style coupon event where customers caught virtual cats which offered discount coupons.

This year, meanwhile, is likely to feature such things as the “Smile to Pay” function from Ant Financial, as well as the augmented-reality mirror for trying on clothes. Many of these developments have already been seen somewhat lightly, but as the Chinese equivalent of Christmas comes into play and several million Chinese decide to buy themselves a gift for once, these advances will only be further driven.

Interestingly, this phenomenon is largely fueled by demographics; China’s now-infamous one-child policy has led to a massive disparity between men and women. Now, we’re seeing the disaster this has wrought first-hand, as men in China outnumber women by better than 20 million. It’s expected that, by 2030, one in four Chinese men nearing 40 will have never married simply because there aren’t enough women in China.

Thus we see that the market is ripe for singles to enjoy their singlehood with some noteworthy splurges—it’s said that electronics tend to do well here—and with mobile payments and related mobile technology on the rise in China, it’s a perfect storm that adds up to some impressive advances. While it’s likely more covering up a much larger problem, it’s still an interesting way to respond to the vast quantities of singles currently living in China.

Whether you consider this a liberating concept or a huge tacit agreement to sweep a problem under the rug, one thing is clear: it’s a big day for mobile payments and shopping technology as a whole.