Alibaba Takes New Record With Singles Day and Mobile Payments

November 14, 2018         By: Steven Anderson

Not long ago, we talked about Alibaba—and by extension its mobile payments arm Alipay—in terms of China’s latest holiday, Singles’ Day. Celebrated on 11 / 11 every year—there are four singles right there in the date, after all—it’s a 24-hour event devoted to single people having fun, buying stuff, and generally enjoying life in the face of a society that isn’t always kind to them. It’s caught on in a big way—there are apparently a lot of single people in China—and Alibaba actually posted a new record for Singles’ Day sales this year.

The new record? Just over $30.8 billion moved in the one 24-hour period. The Chinese values noted by CNBC said that 213.5 billion yuan were moved in that period, which at the time came out to be roughly $30.8 billion US. Considering that last year’s sales figures for that same 24-hour interval came out to be 168.2 billion yuan, that’s a huge leap forward. It’s even more amazing given that the first Singles’ Day in 2009—not even 10 years ago—took in just $7.8 million in sales.

With that in mind, it’s really not surprising that Alibaba itself was calling this year “the largest ever in terms of scale and reach.” The biggest element in the growth, reports note, is the sheer growth of online shoppers, and by extension, online shopping. It also helped that the company expanded promotion ahead of Singles’ Day—half a million items were said to be available for preorder—and coupons were also on hand making the Singles’ Day festivities a little more budget-friendly.  Throw in new shopping entirely—Lazada had its own line of sales, along with Ele.Me opening up Starbucks delivery—and the picture was complete.

More shoppers and more shopping together do tend to come together nicely to make an improved picture of consumption, but it’s also a bit of a problem in doing business. These record-breaking paces can’t keep going forever; the flame that burns twice as bright, the aphorism noted, burns only half as long, and China’s shopping frenzy is starting to look like magnesium in water right now.  

Still, for now, China is enjoying some dazzling results in its online shopping and mobile payments use, and that bodes well for retailers in the short term. The long term, however, will bear watching.