‘Singles Day’ 2019: More than Meets the Eye
COVID-19 and China
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One hour three minutes and 59 seconds – this is how long it took Tmall to hit CNY 100 billion in Gross Merchandise Volume (GMV) on this year's ‘Singles Day’– 43 minutes faster than last year's result. A bit more than twenty minutes later, this number reached CNY 120.7 billion, surpassing that of the entire 'Double eleven' day in 2016.

Initiated by China's e-commerce giant Alibaba in 2009, ‘Singles Day’, which falls on November 11 every year, is undoubtedly the greatest shopping festival in China. And actually, it has already become the world's largest shopping event – “‘Singles Day’ has entrenched itself on the Chinese calendar as a hybrid of Black Friday and Super Bowl Sunday.”– According to the Wall Street Journal.

China’s other dominant e-commerce platforms were no exceptions in refreshing their business records in this ultimate shopping event of 2019. (JD: NASDAQ), which accounted for about 20% of total online GMV on Singles Day over the last three years, scored a 10-day accumulated GMV of CNY 131.3 billion in its Singles Day’s pre-sale period, from November 1 to November 10. In the first hour of Singles Day, the GMV of the platform witnessed a 320% year-on-year increase. (苏宁易购) recorded approximately 5% of the total online GMV on last year’s ‘Singles Day’, reported an 89% year-on-year increase in its GMV during the first hour of the ‘festival.’ And its Computers, Telecommunication and Consumer Electronic (3C) products, which are the main categories on the platform, broke through CNY 1 billion in terms of GMV in the first minute after the event started.

Pinduoduo (PDD: NASDAQ) the rising star in this field, published an open letter claiming that it will not disclose comprehensive data on this year’s ‘Singles Day’ campaign. Only information regarding a very limited range of categories were announced.

While products in 3C, home appliance, and Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) categories continue to dominate total sales, there are some interesting new trends taking place this year:

3C products: ongoing consumption upgrading; up-and-coming 5G phones

This year is the first time for Apple to officially participate in the ‘Singles Day’ promotion on Tmall. It took only 10 minutes for the GMV of its official flagship store to reach seven times that of the entire day of last year's festival. More than 50% of the orders came from lower-tier cities, strongly suggesting the uprising consumer spending among small town residences.

According to the newest released report from, total sales of 5G phones during the 10-day pre-sale period were 20 times that of the whole of October. The number somehow demonstrates the market's strong potential since the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology announced the official launch of 5G commercialization on October 31.

Emerging categories: catering and collective toys

In 2015, Generation Y surpassed Generation X to become the main consumption group of online shopping in China. These young people, with their unique spending patterns and consumption habits which differ from those of their predecessors, have been continuously shaping China’s e-commerce markets and accelerating sales growth in categories that fit their interests. (饿了吗) – Alibaba’s online-to-offline (O2O) catering and food delivery platform –has participated in Tmall’s ‘Singles Day’ event since 2018, and witnessed remarkable growth in its sales during this year's campaign.

Data from shows a great number of food and beverage providers like KFC, Starbucks, and Burger King broke their sales records from last year’s ‘Singles Day’ in only one hour and 44 minutes. The ‘Singles Day’ sales on Tmall for the former two brands surpassed CNY 10 million in a short time.

In Tmall's report of 'Generation Y online spending list' released in August 2019, collectible toys ranked first, with 189.7% year-on-year growth on total spending. There were nearly 200,000 loyal players who spent more than CNY 20,000 per capita in this category on Tmall over the last twelve months.

Mystery minis – one of the hottest types among collective toys – sold out 55,000 items in only 9 seconds on Tmall. Popmart (泡泡马特), the leading producer in this area, witnessed its sales exceed the full-day sales of last year's 'Double Eleven' within only one hour from the start of this year's event.

The first year that live-streaming became the mainstream of e-commerce marketing

CNY 2.7 billion represents the sales figures that Viya –‘Taobao's top e-commerce live streamer’– generated from her live broadcast in 2018. According to Alibaba's data, CNY 100 billion of revenue was created last year through this new type of marketing approach. The staggering sales volume that live streams brought to the products led more and more brands to start to pay attention to this new marketing strategy.

This year, more than 100,000 merchants (90% of all the brands) opened up their official live broadcasting channel on Tmall during ‘Singles Day’, a more than 200% year-on-year increase in terms of participation. Viya and Li Jiaqi, China's top e-commerce live-streaming celebrities, both recorded CNY 660 million in sales volume on this year's 'Singles Day', during their 6.6 hours and 5.3 hours of broadcasting respectively.

"By 2019, the majority started to realize that e-commerce live-broadcasting is a relatively independent and well-formed area, " says Zhao Yuanyuan, head of the Live Streaming Department of Taobao, "It was also from this year that many merchants started to be more aware of the importance of live broadcasting, and started to plan it on a strategic level."

More than 50% of top cosmetics brands have advanced the release date of their Christmas set to ‘Singles Day’

The popularity of live streaming shopping in China, along with the phenomenon of more and more well-known brands starting to open their online store on e-commerce platforms, contributes to the high-growth of online cosmetics purchasing.

Within only 1 hour and 24 minutes, sales of Tmall’s beauty department broke through the full-day records from last year's 'Singles Day'. As of 2 a.m., the GMV of more than thirty brands, including SK-II, Innisfree and LaMer, exceeded CNY 100 million.

E-commerce and financial services are linked more and more closely

In recent years, China’s e-commerce players have been making countless attempts to build their own financial ecology. From this perspective, their multiple promotion campaigns are tools to attract consumers to use their own payment systems.

Baitiao (白条), a short-term personal loan product of, recorded a trading volume of CNY 1 billion only within ten seconds. According to JD Finance, the peak payment and total transaction volume on JD pay recorded 327% and 320% year-on-year growth respectively.

Alibaba is also focusing on recommending its virtual credit card service Huabei (花呗). According to Huang Hao (黄浩), President of Digital Finance Group of Ant Finance (蚂蚁金服), “During the period prior to ‘Singles Day’, 40% of the services Huabei provided to the business was to answer their questions regarding how to subscribe to the service. This was double the usual number.”

A big trend to watch

This year's ‘Singles Day’ was the eleventh edition of this annual event which falls on November 11 every year. During these 11 years, Chinese people have witnessed this spending bonanza gradually became an ‘online Spring Festival’ from a marketing campaigns that leave no consumer item unaddressed: from PC terminals to mobile Apps, from campaigns targeting young generations to older age groups, from metropoles to small towns, from FMCGs and electronics to whatever you could imagine–‘Singles Day’ is continuously refreshing the boundaries of China's e-commerce market.

*Contributor: Ivan Platonov; Feng Linyan | Editor: Luke Sheehan

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