Singles' Day (11.11)

Five ways Black Friday and Cyber Monday differ from Singles' Day

  • Singles’ Day rings up more sales than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined, helped by tech such as facial recognition
  • The speed of sales on Singles’ Day is of a different magnitude – US$1 billion in the first two minutes in 2017
PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 November, 2018, 6:32pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 November, 2018, 1:45pm


Singles’ Day sales for Alibaba alone were almost double the combined revenue of US retailers on Black Friday and Cyber Monday last year. The Chinese company had revenue of US$25.3 billion, and rival recorded sales of US$19 billion, according to Reuters. In comparison, sales events during the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States garnered a paltry US$14.49 billion.


Technology such as payment via facial recognition is being used to facilitate Singles’ Day sales. Alibaba, for example, added facial recognition payment systems to 100,000 stores in China for 2017’s Singles’ Day.

Facial recognition technology has been developing at a rapid pace in China, and has begun to transform various sectors.


Speed is king during Singles’ Day. reported US$71.9 million in sales of air conditioners in 30 minutes, and US$14.3 million in television sales in just one minute in 2017. While those numbers seem impressive, they pale in comparison to Alibaba, which took US$1 billion in the first two minutes and a further US$12 billion in the next two hours.

Speed has become part of the experience of Singles’ Day, with shoppers preparing hours or days in advance to snatch up deals and discounts during the short 24-hour period they’re available. Since they make sales through their phones, which are connected to mobile wallets provided by WeChat Pay and Alipay, consumers don’t need to worry about logistics or physical obstacles.


Sales keep growing at an exponential rate. Alibaba’s revenue during the 2017 event was 39 per cent higher than in 2016, according to Reuters, and analysts expect growth to continue.

Only 39 per cent of Chinese citizens are connected to the internet, according to the World Bank, but that figure is growing each year. With more people connecting their bank accounts to their phones and taking part in Singles’ Day events, sales are likely to grow in proportion.

Compare those numbers to figures from Cyber Monday 2017, during which retailers raked in US$6.59 billion in sales – making it the largest online sales day in the US, according to a report from Adobe Analytics. Black Friday and Thanksgiving Day sales tallied US$5.03 billion and US$2.87 billion in revenue respectively.


While the event ostensibly started as a way for people to celebrate being single, it has morphed into an e-commerce splurge that has become increasingly popular with women. reported double the number of women shopping during Singles’ Day in 2017 than the previous year. Sales of cosmetics, mother and child products and similar categories grew as a result.

E-commerce analysts at Azoya Group have also said that women account for more than 70 per cent of customers on foreign e-commerce sites.

Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.