The Double 11 Festival: The Day China Shops

An advertisement promoting Double 11 Festival deals

An advertisement promoting Double 11 Festival deals

November is coming and you probably find that your Chinese friends spend more time online shopping. They seem extremely excited, but for what? The answer is definitely going to be "Double 11 Festival is coming!"

The Double 11 festival, which takes place on November 11th, is the single biggest online shopping day in the world. It is a bigger bigger than both Black Friday, and Boxing Day.

It was created in 2009 by the Alibaba Group, as a way to promote the launch of their T-mall business. According to their COO, the reason why they chose November was because "people need to buy a lot to get ready for winter, we have 'Golden Week' in October, and 'Christmas' in December'; but there is nothing happening in November." 

"November 11th" has also been called "Singles' Day" and is celebrated widely amongst university students since the early 1990s. In Chinese, bachelors are called  "光棍"(guāng gùn) which means "stick" and "1111" look like four sticks, thus a funny nickname for a new festival.

To target the younger generation, Alibaba used slogans such as "Shopping for your future lovers", and "Shopping alone is better than doing nothing alone". They also promised huge discounts and free delivery fees in order. Alibaba sold 52 million RMB (8.5 million USD)  on that single day. Not bad for a first try, and Alibaba's Double 11 revenues have been skyrocketing ever since.

52 Million RMB - Alibaba's Revenue on the first Double 11 day

China's consumer economy is growing rapidly, and more and more e-commerce companies are joining every year to celebrate the Double 11 festival. Brick and mortar retail outlets are even capitalizing on the festivities with plans to create a "shopping carnival" type atmosphere.

Just as "chocolates" are to "Valentines' Day",  I understand that the "Double 11' is another crass marketing promotion. I tried to resist it, however I finally gave up in 2013 when my dear colleague Jane convinced me into purchasing a winter jacket for my father. In 2014, I was in Canada for the whole winter, but "Double 11" started the "global Carnival" and shipped internationally.  So much for resisting the Double 11.

Domestic consumption, export and investment, are driving the growth of the Chinese economy and the Double 11 festival seems almost natural in this context . Are you going to "celebrate" this festival in China, too? 入乡随俗?(Rù xiāng suí sú, When in Rome, do as the Romans do.)