Mark Tanner
Mark Tanner
12 November 2014 0 Comments

Fancy buying a Xiaomi smartphone online in China? If you’d done it yesterday, you would have joined more than a million others who collectively spent  ¥1 billion ($163 million) buying Xiaomi gadgets by noon. That was Singles’ Day – the largest online shopping festival on the planet, by far.

Goods were discounted by 50% at many of the 27,000 participating Tmall stores, drawing in the bargain hunters en masse.  By 1:20pm, 2013’s record ¥36.2 billion ($5.7 billion) sales figure was broken.  At the strike of midnight 11 November, a total of ¥57.1 billion ($9.3 billion) worth of merchandise had been sold over the day, 63% more than 2013.

While the Xiaomi mobiles, Uniqlo fashion and Haier appliances all sold jaw-dropping numbers, arguably Singles’ Day’s most impressive feat was the logistics and operations that withstood the onslaught. Alipay, for example, processed as many as 2.85 million transactions per minute.

The 278,545,339 products purchased just on Alibaba’s platforms will have to be delivered to consumers in every corner of China this week. 250,000 temporary staff have been hired as part of the 1.25 million-strong army of delivery people – that’s the population of Estonia, working tirelessly to deliver online purchases.

If you needed proof of just how fast smartphones are becoming a part of Chinese consumers’ lives, look no further than Singles’ Day.  The share of purchases by mobile grew almost ten times from 2012’s 5%, and more than double last year’s 21%, to settle at 42.6% of all sales. 

Alibaba’s focus on globalisation saw consumers in 217 countries and regions spending up a storm, with Hong Kong, Russia, USA, Taiwan and Australia rounding out the top-5 overseas countries.

China Skinny was privileged to be hosted by Alibaba at their Hangzhou HQ for the shopping festival.  Here are some of the photos and facts leading up to the Double-11 bonanza, and more photos and info from the big day. We hope you enjoy this week’s Skinny.

Online: Internet, eCommerce & Mobile

Photos: Pre-Alibaba’s 2014 Singles’ Day Bonanza: China Skinny was at Alibaba’s Hangzhou Campus for the Singles’ Day Hullabaloo. Here are some photos and facts leading up to the big day, and snaps and stats from Singles’ Day itself.

Singles Day to Create 250,000 Temporary Jobs: Courier companies across China were estimated to hire an additional 250,000 couriers to cope with the demand from Single’s Day. Shanghai Yunda Express Co, for example, hired 10,000 temporary staff and added 1,000 trucks and 50,000 square metres of storage space for the extra demand.

How Mobile Taobao Works: 42.6% of China’s Singles’ Day goods were purchased with a mobile. Here’s a 1:55 video showing some of the features of the Taobao mobile app.

China Breaks 40 Million 4G Users, and That Number is Growing Fast: China’s 4G users are estimated to have tripled since July this year, from 14 million to 43 million. China’s smartphone population use an average of 186MB of data a month, 50% more than a year earlier.

Why Advertisers Don’t Get Gaming: By 2015, 266 million consumers in China are expected to spend at least two hours a month playing online games, with 64% paying to play according to Superdata. This provides plenty of opportunity for marketers, however the greatest chance of success will come from putting the gamer first, and then the brand.

Chinese Female Internet Users Insight: 75% of Chinese families’ purchase decisions are decided by women. The Internet is an increasingly influential channel in these decisions, particularly among those under 35, who account for 83.6% of the 280 million Chinese females online according to EnfoDesk.

Consumers,: Chinese Consumers

Sold in China: By 2022, China’s retail market will top $8 trillion, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit; the U.S. retail market in 2022 will be just over $4 trillion.

What Is Driving China’s Shopping Mall Boom and Bust?: Nine of the top ten cities for new shopping centres globally were in China in 2013. A new mall opens almost every day on average in the Mainland, with 4,000 expected to be operating by the end of 2015.

Beijing IPR Court to Open This Month: In a step to improve China’s poor IP theft record, a new Beijing court opens this month to deal solely with IPR cases, hoping to increase efficiencies and the quality of trials. Similar courts will open in Shanghai and Guangzhou by the end of this year.

Overseas Chinese Tourists

From Hipster To Horseback: Chinese Luxury Travellers Demand Authentic Experiences: Chinese luxury travellers prefer U.S. hotels that connect with U.S. history and culture. There has been a significant shift from standardized, large-size hotel chains to much smaller hotels offering a personalized experience – those with a connection to nature and wildlife are particularly popular.

Wellness, Health & Beauty

How Proya Built a Cosmetics Brand By Betting on China’s Lower-Tier Cities: Local cosmetics brand Proya was founded a little over 10-years ago, but is now in the top-3 domestic brands with over 600 mall kiosks plus specialty stores in more than 500 cities. It has targeted China’s less competitive and often underserved Tier 3 & 4 cities and has branding that sounds similar to L’Oreal.

Recreation and Entertainment

Why Americans Should Care That The Chinese Box Office Will Hit Almost $5 Billion This Year: China’s box office is expected to hit $4.9 billion this year, around half of the value of the USA, yet movies such as Transformers made 20% more in China than America. Roughly 13 new cinemas are built in China every day.

Saving An Ancient Opera Form: Sizhou Xi, a 200-year old form of Chinese opera has been assisted by a modern measure – raising ¥30,000 ($4,900) in donations on WeChat. More than ¥228 million ($37 million) has been donated through Tencent’s online charity platform since it was introduced in 2007, including ¥540K ($88K) in three days to save a premature baby in Hubei.  More than half of the pledges now come through WeChat. Alibaba’s Alipay has processed more than ¥212 million ($35 million) in donations since 2010. Most donors are men aged 15-29, usually giving amounts well below ¥100 ($16).

Cars and Auto

Rent-a-Car, Hertz Rev Up for Chinese Consumers: China’s rental car market is just a quarter of the size of the U.S., but like with most things, it is growing much faster. The market climbed from ¥9 billion ($1.5 billion) to ¥34 billion ($5.6 billion) between 2008 and 2013 and is expected to reach ¥65 billion ($10.6 billion) by 2018.

That’s the Skinny for the week!  On the to-dos this week, why not contact China Skinny to discuss how we could help with your marketing, online initiatives or research to take advantage of China’s opportunities.  Just email us at or call us at +86 21 3221 0273 so we can learn more about your objectives and let you know how we can help.

If you’ve missed earlier news or need to learn more, there’s a library of information about Chinese consumers in prior China Skinny Weekly’s right here. You can have this delivered to your inbox each week by subscribing for email updates, or if social media is more your thing, please follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Linked In or Google+, or subscribe to our RSS feed.  If you have any feedback or suggestions for future articles, please let us know.