Mark Tanner
Mark Tanner
13 November 2013 0 Comments

20 years ago at Nanjing University, a group of students decided to celebrate their bachelorhood by creating a festival called ‘Singles’ Day’ on 11.11. The date was chosen because of the connection with single 1’s, which carried through in celebrations such as eating four Youtiao, deep fried dough sticks that resemble a ‘1’, with a baozi steamed bun.   Similar to much of China’s popular culture, it spread over the Internet and is now a firmly-entrenched annual tradition for Chinese youth.

Like many celebrations, businesses in China have seen the opportunity and jumped onboard.  Unquestionably the most successful commercialisation started in 2009 by Alibaba, turning around a traditionally-quiet month of online sales with Singles’ Day promotions.  Five years on, most of the big online retailers in China are on board offering discounted products from bracelets to BMWs, often slashed by 50% or more. 

It took just six minutes on Monday morning for Chinese desktop shoppers to spend ¥1 billion ($160 million) on Alipay.   Before lunchtime, 1.6 million bras had sold, three times the height of Mount Everest if folded and stacked.  Two million pairs of undies were also scooped up.  By midnight, 402 million unique visitors, almost one in every three Chinese, had checked out the deals on Tmall and Taobao, placing a whopping 171.4 million orders; contributing to a total of 324 million parcels expected to be delivered in China this week

A grand total of ¥35 billion ($5.7 billion) was spent, 83% more than the 2012 Singles’ Day record breaker, and two and a half times the size of America’s Cyber Monday last year – firmly cementing it as the biggest one-day shopping day on the planet.  More than 2% of all China’s online shopping for 2013 happened within the 24 hour period.  No other event demonstrates the scale of China’s online influence, and the opportunities it presents, quite like Singles’ Day.

Nevertheless, there is obviously much more to the China market than eCommerce, some of which we cover below.  We hope you find it helpful.

Consumers,Chinese Consumers

Why Is It So Important For Us To Understand The Evolution From China’s Farming Landscape To The Digital Landscape?: With 5,000 years of continuous history, it is remarkable that China is changing as quickly and dramatically as it is. Our overview on how social media, mobiles and eCommerce are playing such a big part on these changes.

Kenzo Thinks China is Ready for ‘Less Recognized’ Brands: An increasing number of Chinese consumers are “expanding their brand repertoire beyond the long-beloved established brands”, which means good news for newcomers and less established brands in China.

What do Chinese Consumers Want From British Brands?: Chinese consumers have an appetite for British goods, for their high quality, unique heritage and quirky style. There’s certainly no shortage of Union Jacks around Chinese cities.

Online: Internet, eCommerce, Mobile & Social Media

Online Sales Records Toppled on PRC’s Biggest Shopping Day: Mobile accounted for 21% of Singles’ Day sales on Tmall and Taobao, more than four times last year’s 5%.  Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Guangdong were the top three spending provinces.  Smartphone maker Xiaomi sold more in value than any other store on Alipay, and accounted for the top-4 selling products of the day.  The most expensive single order was a 13.33 carat diamond ring, selling for ¥20.5 million ($3.4 million).

China Farmer Turns Yarn Baron as Villages Embrace Alibaba: 22% of Alibaba’s 7 million stores on Taobao and Tmall originated from small towns and villages in China.

China’s Mobile Phone Sales Surge in Q3: 103 million mobiles sold in China in Q3, up 54.5% from a year ago. 93 million were smartphones, taking the smartphone share of the market to 91%. Samsung, Lenovo and Coolpad were the top-3 brands, with Apple’s share falling 1.1% from Q2, although it’s expected to rebound in Q4. iPhones are now available in 50% more Chinese stores than 12 months ago, in hope of bolstering sales.

Lenovo’s New Secret Weapon: Hollywood Star: Apparently Ashton Kutcher is chipping in with design, specifications, software and usage scenarios for tablets, to help Lenovo compete with Apple in the tablet space – curiously, he recently starred as Steve Jobs in the Jobs movie. Lenovo’s notebook sales rose 8% last quarter from a year ago, when overall industry shipments fell by 12% globally. Its smartphone share in China remains flat.

76.5% of Sina Weibo Users Access the Service via Mobile: 10% access the microblog from outside of China, predominantly in the US and UK. First tier cities in China have the highest number of checkins, with 60% from restaurants.

Sina Weibo’s New Subscriptions Connect Fans with Brands and Celebs: Celebs and businesses on Sina Weibo who are verified can now charge a premium for content, and specific content can now only be viewed in selected locations.

China’s Most Exclusive Social Network Hits 3 Million Users: China’s ‘exclusive’ referral only social network P1 now has 3 million users.

Chinese Food and Beverage

New KFC Promotion Strives for Disaster Trifecta in China: KFC makes another boo-boo in China, and are getting slammed on social media for it. Their ‘Half-Price Buckets’ actually contain less food than the original buckets. Chinese consumers are shrewd and ensure they get their money’s worth, being especially vigilant about rip-offs – in Shanghai restaurants have started installing scales for diners to verify the weight of food.

Canadian Shopping Platform for Chinese Buyers in Operation: Polar Bear Canada Corporation has launched a B2C supermarket targeting Chinese consumers who want imported foods.

Click and Clink: Amazon Selling Wine in China: Amazon China is selling wines directly imported from California, with Shanghai consumers buying almost half of the volume.

Chinese Police Find Slaughterhouse Selling Cat Meat: Chinese authorities find an underground abattoir in a village close to Shanghai, with freezers fill of domestic cats being sold as rabbit.

Tourism and Travel

Alibaba Sets Out to Grab a Slice of China’s Surging Travel Bookings: Alipay has teamed up with UATP (Universal Air Travel Plan) to make it easier for China’s 800 million registered Alipay account holders to pay for flights, hotels and other tourism services.

Pollution Halves Visitors to Beijing: Tourism in Beijing declined 50% in the first three quarters of the year, compared to a year ago. At this rate, Beijing will see its first decline since 2008.

Recreation and Sport

Guangzhou Evergrande and the Making of Asia’s First ‘Superclub’: Guangzhou’s Evergrande is putting their money where their mouth is in their aspiration of becoming Asia’s first true football superclub, paying manager Lippi more than ¥80 million ($13m) a year. Things are looking good for the club who defeated Korea’s FC Seoul on Saturday night to become China’s first ever winner of the AFC Champions League, Asia’s foremost club soccer competition.

Residential Property

Investors Become Like Bulls in a China Shop: A Sydney property developer believes prices in some areas would drop by 25% if Chinese buyers lost interest.

Premium and Luxury Goods

2% Chinese Consumed One Third of Global Luxury Products: 33% of the world’s luxury cosmetics, private jets, jewelry, watches and designer bags are bought by just 2% of Chinese.

Kooky, Weird & Wonderful

Kangaroo Testicles a Hit With Chinese as Aphrodisiac: At a time when China’s pollution is crippling men’s fertility with two thirds of sperm at Shanghai’s main bank not meeting World Health Organisation standards, Chinese consumers have gone nuts over an aphrodisiac made from Kangaroo jewels, selling between $30-$150 for 100 capsules. The male kangaroo may mate with 40 female kangaroos and produces twice as much semen as a bull.

That’s The Skinny for the week!  China Skinny would love 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.