Singles' Day in China is the world's largest shopping event. Since its beginnings in 1993 at Nanjing University, it has grown to become a national phenomenon. Singles' Day was originally started as a way to celebrate singles and as a protest against couple-centric festivals. The date 11/11 was chosen because of its resemblance to "bare sticks", which is Chinese slang for bachelors.
In 2009, Alibaba focused on Singles' Day and promoted it as an opportunity for consumers to splurge on gifts to themselves, offering steep discounts to consumers through its online site, Tmall. The gross merchandise value (GMV) of goods ordered during the first Singles' Day was $7.5m.
In 2017, the GMV was $25b, larger than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined and setting a new record for most one-day sales. Early reports for 2018 estimate the total GMV at approximately $31b, an increase of 24%. The day began with a bang, with sales hitting $1 billion in one minute and 25 seconds. According to CNBC, sales exceeded $10 billion in just over an hour, which is five minutes and 21 seconds faster than last year. Each sales metric easily beat the 2017 records.
We analyzed global data around Singles' Day to provide insights to help businesses prepare for the peak traffic volume around holidays (and beyond).
Global Traffic Patterns
When examining global patterns, we first specifically looked at traffic in countries with large Chinese populations: United States, Spain, Russia, France, Brazil, Canada, Australia, Japan and South Korea.
Comparing the session traffic on 11/11 against a baseline of the seven preceding days, the traffic surge was noticeable in most of those countries:
France saw the largest traffic increase on 11/11 compared to the baseline. The United States and Australia experienced the next largest increases. Interestingly, Brazil, South Korea and Spain saw traffic decrease. Perhaps this was due to these populations getting their shopping done ahead of time, or possibly observing Armistice Day and Veterans Day (called Remembrance Day in Brazil).
Another global statistic that we tracked was the type of device used to make purchases. Here, mobile and tablets combined for 64.09% of sessions, which represented an increase of 11.97% (mobile) and 16.66% (tablet) over the baseline on Nov 11. Desktop usage saw a decrease of 16.76% in comparison. This is hardly surprising given the high penetration of mobile devices used for shopping in Asia Pacific. According to eMarketer, mobile devices are used for 75.1% of total retail ecommerce sales in Asia Pacific. Specifically, per Forbes, the number of Alibaba mobile monthly active users is 666 million--double the entire U.S. population.
With regards to the mobile OS being used, iOS was the clear leader, despite Android having a far greater number of global users, according to Statista.
If we examine the conversion rates for each mobile OS, we see a small drop off with Android users. iOS users on the other hand, had a healthy increase in their conversion rate from the baseline.
Clearly, mobile devices were the primary vehicles for people going online on Nov 11th, which corresponds with the data presented earlier. The larger number of iOS users was a surprise, despite the fact iOS users are about one quarter of Android users, worldwide. The fact that Apple's iPhone was the top-selling phone during Singles' Day may be the reason; this could reflect growing usage among shoppers most likely to purchase from their mobile devices.
When Will Singles' Day Go Global?
One of the curious things that hasn't happened is Singles' Day sales promotions going global, e.g. broadly supported by United States retailers. This year, there appeared to only be three US retailers advertising Singles' Day sales, based on Google search results: Tiffany, Amazon and Barneys New York. Barneys had a specific promotional code (also tweeted) for Singles' Day and Amazon had over 9,000 items catalogued for a Singles' Day search.
Next year may be when we see a larger number of retailers start to offer Singles' Day sales to capitalize on the growing visibility and popularity of the day. Being prepared for this peak traffic event is important, and Akamai can help by testing your website and mobile applications performance at varying load levels. To learn how you can easily test from tens to millions of users and from development to production, start with the Akamai CloudTest demo.