Most Americans probably think that the concept of Black Friday is bit sad. It’s a blitz of consumerism during the one weekend we’re supposed to be giving thanks and spending time with loved ones. It’s such a dark, tragic event for those caught in Walmart moshpits that it has earned it moniker “Black Friday.”
But even the most rampant post-Thanksgiving consumerism pales in comparison to a Chinese holiday called Singles’ Day.
This day, which is billed as an anti-Valentine’s Day celebration, is held on Nov. 11 because the numbers — 11/11 — are symbolic of bare tree branches. When you’re a single middle-aged person in China, people use the expression “bare branches” to refer to you.
And yes, stores make a fortune off of your loneliness.
The event, as Bloomberg Business and Business Insider have reported, is more lucrative in China than Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Double 11 day began not too long ago in 2009, but with the help of Alibaba — the Chinese counterpart to Amazon — Singles’ Day is the single-most profitable shopping day in the world.
In 2013, Alibaba’s online profits on 11/11 totalled $5.8 billion. In 2014, that number rose to $9.3 billion. For the sake of comparison, Americans are expected to spend $5.7 billion online on Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.
Just six years ago when Singles’ Day was created, only about two dozen companies were offering celebratory discounts. It was truly a day to wallow in self-pity without feeling pressured by society to do anything. But when Alibaba got involved, it only took three years for Singles’ Day to turn into a massive display of consumerism.
The online shopping hype that Alibaba and Amazon are able to generate is actually rather predictable: the majority of shoppers (61%) already do product research online before making a purchase, and the majority of shoppers also love getting a discount on anything and everything. So when a business is able to combine simple product research and quick transactions at the same time, plus a massive discount on everything imaginable, it’s easy to see why consumers would prefer to shop online.
It’s unknown how much revenue Alibaba brought in during Singles’ Day 2015, but according to USA Today, analysts believe that this year’s shopping extravaganza could garner revenue as high as $11 billion.
Alibaba stated that within the first 90 minutes of Singles’ Day this past Wednesday– i.e., by 1:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning in China — sales had already exceeded $5 billion.