WPPB

Alibaba, China's E-Commerce Giant, Made More Than $25 Billion On Singles' Day

Nov 13, 2017
Originally published on November 13, 2017 8:46 pm
Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

When it comes to shop-till-you-drop capitalism, there's no match for China.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DOUBLE ELEVEN DAY")

PHARRELL WILLIAMS: (Singing) If your friends are asking where you've been today...

SIEGEL: Pharrell Williams performing Friday in China to promote online shopping.

ELISE HU, HOST:

Move over, Black Friday. Step aside, Cyber Monday. Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant, has you beat.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DOUBLE ELEVEN DAY")

WILLIAMS: (Singing) Double 11 day...

HU: Every year on November 11, the company throws a sales event called Singles Day. They go all-out promoting it, from Pharrell to an appearance by actress Nicole Kidman with Alibaba founder Jack Ma.

SIEGEL: And it works. On this year's Singles Day, the Chinese spent a lot of singles, a lot of singles.

SETH ARCHER: Alibaba sold $25 billion worth of products in a single day, a 24-hour period.

SIEGEL: Twenty-five billion dollars - Business Insider market reporter Seth Archer puts it this way.

ARCHER: Absolutely insane for its sheer scale. We think about Amazon Prime Day, Black Friday, Cyber Monday. If you add the most recent totals from all of those holidays, you get about 30 percent of the total Singles Day for Alibaba.

HU: Singles Day wasn't always a bankable holiday. It was created by Chinese university students as a sort of anti-Valentine's Day.

ARCHER: November 11 or 11, 11, one, one, one, one - lots of singles.

HU: But it didn't take long for Alibaba to co-opt the holiday for its own purposes.

SIEGEL: Singles Day may be a celebration of singlehood, but China's middle-class families are helping Alibaba go to the bank. The country has more than 500 million middle-class consumers, and that number is only expected to grow.

HU: While sales on Singles Day surpass big U.S. sales, Seth Archer says Alibaba might have learned something from Amazon.

ARCHER: If you think of Amazon during its Prime Day, you had to have an Amazon Prime account before you could take part in any of the deals. It's the same sort of thing for Alibaba.

HU: He says $25 billion is impressive. The other goal turns Singles Day buyers into committed year-round customers.

(SOUNDBITE OF AVIONICS' "SHORES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.