Black Friday is a ridiculous celebration of consumerism, but it can’t hold a candle to China’s Singles’ Day. Ostensibly, it’s a celebration of all things singledom, but somehow, it’s evolved to become the world’s biggest shopping event, with over $20 billion (or $24 billion, depending on who you speak to) expected to be spent by Chinese punters over the course of November 11.
It’s hard to overstate how big Singles’ Day is. According to Alibaba, which is China’s version of Amazon, 140,000 brands will flog over 15 million discounted products this year, making it a great time to grab a bargain.
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(Incidentally, as I was finishing this piece, Alibaba announced it had processed over $1 billion in sales after two minutes. Insanity.)
— Alibaba Group (@AlibabaGroup) November 10, 2017
But to truly get a perspective of how big it is, you need to speak to a Chinese person. According to David Huang, CEO and chief sleep officer (I swear, that’s a real job title) of Sleepace, “Singles’ Day is the biggest day for ecommerce in China, especially for consumer electronics. It’s the Black Friday of China, but bigger and more people participate. We probably won’t sleep tonight so that we can deal with all the incoming orders.”
The anticipation is real. According to Huang, customers put the company’s items in their carts weeks in advance, just so they can quickly hit ‘buy’ when the clock hits 00:01 on 11:11. The end result is the company sees a massive spike in sales over just one day.
“Only for ecommerce we will have about 3 times the sales volume than in a usual month in China,” Huang said. “For our business it contributes a significant percentage of our annual revenue for online sales. This year we expect it to bring in about $1-1.5 million USD, which doesn’t include offline sales.”
The company typically discounts its product by 30-40 percent, which is pretty good. That said, if you look through China’s e-commerce landscape, you can find some truly incredible bargains. The Guardian, for example, found one Alibaba retailer selling a lifetime supply of alcohol for 11,111 yuan, or roughly $1,700.
Ah, yes. Singles’ day is held on the 11th of the 11th month, and a lot of deals try to work as many 1s into the price as possible. According to the ever-reliable Wikipedia, that’s because “the number “1” resembles an individual that is alone,” which is simultaneously adorable and awesome, as it’s given me an excuse to shimmy this little ditty into my piece.
But wait, I don’t live in China
The great news is that Singles’ Day is rapidly becoming a global phenomenon, thanks to the impressive clout of Chinese retailers who are expanding into Europe and the United States at a breakneck pace. Most of the big-name Chinese retailers — GearBest, BangGood, and AliExpress — are running promotions.
This means you can grab some tech at tantalizingly tasty prices. You can pick up RC drones for less than $10, as well as steep markdowns on smartphones from the likes of OnePlus, Elephone, Xiaomi, BlackView, and more. And given Chinese phones tend to be pretty good value, you’re getting an amazing bang-to-buck ratio.
Obviously, by their very nature, these deals tend to be ephemeral. If you procrastinate, there’s a chance it’ll be sold out by the time you make up your mind. Singles’ Day inherently rewards impulsive behavior.
Some other things that are worth mentioning: firstly, if you’re importing a gadget from China, there’s a chance you might have to pay import duties. I can attest to the fact that these are annoying: you typically have to pay a processing fee charged by the courier company, plus whatever your government levies on that particular type of product.
When you shop from the Chinese internet, you should use either a credit card (preferably with no foreign transaction fees) or PayPal. This is so that if things go wrong, you’ve got some recourse. On sites like AliExpress, you’re dealing with individual merchants, rather than one big company, so it pays to be wary.
I’d echo this advice for other retailers like GearBest and BangGood, even though they’re both extremely professional sites, with (in my own experience) solid customer service. There’s nothing wrong with being cautious.
And on that note, I’ll leave you to it. Happy bargain hunting!