Article / 11 November 2015 at 7:12 GMT

#SinglesDay — 2014 smashed as sales head for RMB 80bn

China Watcher / Shanghai
  • RMB10bn in sales reached in 12 minutes, RMB20bn in 30 minutes
  • $9 billion sales volume from Single's Day 2014 already surpassed in 12 hours
  • Fastest growth is in the first few hours and in the morning before lunchtime
  • Alibaba is the only firm to announces its Single's Day sales figures in real time
  • Alibaba won't care if its site crashes as long as it breaks its own sales records

By Neil Flynn

The long-awaited day has arrived, and China’s army of shoppers has come out in full force for the world’s biggest online shopping event: Single's Day.

As was expected, the sales figures are huge. RMB10 billion ($1.5bn) in sales was reached in just 12 minutes, and RMB20bn was reached in 30 minutes. About 45 million people were shopping online during the first hour of sales, Alibaba said, with about 70% of customers making purchases on their mobile phones.

Alibaba Singles Day
Source: Weibo

From the ground in China

Single's Day began in an unusual fashion this year, For the first time, Alibaba chairman Jack Ma opened the event on a popular TV variety show, with a New Year style countdown at midnight. Whilst tacky and somewhat cringe worthy, this illustrates the value of Single's Day in popular Chinese culture.

Jack Ma (Yes...dressed as a woman)
Alibaba’s eccentric founder Jack Ma presents the televised Single's Day opening ceremony. Source: Hunan Television

As always, Single's Day began with disappointment for most, as the sheer traffic on its shopping platforms almost crashed the site, making it almost impossible to complete any purchases.

It’s a perpetual issue, but in reality Alibaba won’t care too much, so long as it continues to break its own sales records for the annual occasion. In addition, the infrastructure (and expense) needed to deal with this traffic flow would be very large, and it only affects the first 30 minutes of every Single's Day.

Alibaba Singles Day GMV
Source: Alibaba Investor Relations

Alibaba's Huabei credit payment system allows users to make purchases using credit, to be paid back at a later date. This is the first Single's Day in which it has been in full use, and Alibaba has added RMB2,000 to every user's credit limit, to encourage them to spend more.

On Alibaba watch

Alibaba is the only firm to focus on during the event, as it is the only firm that announces its Single's Day sales figures in real time. Rival firms such as and VIPshop will often announce their final sales figures in a press release on the November 12. However, as Single's Day is an event that Alibaba created, and a term that rivals aren’t allowed to use, Alibaba hosts a major media event.

The firm is updating its sales figures on its investor relations page, but as of the time of writing, Alibaba is on course to break its own record of gross merchandising volume (GMV) - all times are Beijing Time, GMT +8:

  • 0012 – Total GMV exceeds RMB10bn ($1.57bn)

In 2014, peak times, such as the first 30 minutes of the event, saw 80,000 orders processed a second. At the peak of Single's Day 2015, 45 million users were online at the same time, and mobile contributed 90% to total GMV.

  • 0017 – Mobile GMV exceeds RMB10bn ($1.57bn)

2015 Single's Day mobile GMV has reached 40% of the total mobile GMV from Single's Day 2014 in just 15 minutes.

  • 0100 – Total GMV reaches RMB 24.77bn ($3.89bn) and mobile GMV is 73.85% of total GMV

The contribution of mobile to total GMV throughout the whole of the calendar third quarter was 61.73%. Mobile contribution to GMV on Singles’ Day 2014 was 42.6%.

  • 0204 – Mobile GMV exceeds RMB24.3bn ($3.82bn)

In just over two hours, the mobile GMV from Single’s Day 2015 has exceeded the total mobile GMV from Single's Day 2014. It has almost exceeded mobile GMV for the whole of the fourth quarter of 2013, including Single’s Day 2013.

  • 0426 – Total GMV reaches RMB36.2bn ($5.69bn)

In four and a half hours, total GMV for Single's Day 2015 has exceeded the total GMV for Single's Day 2013.

  • 0745 – Total GMV reaches RMB41.7bn

Total GMV has exceeded total desktop GMV in the US from Thanksgiving through to Cyber Monday in 2014

  • 1149 – Total GMV exceeds that of Singles’ Day 2014

Total GMV reached RMB57.1bn ($8.97 bn) within 12 hours. Mobile GMV was RMB40.9bn, contributing 71.61% to total GMV

Quite simply, Single's Day is a leviathan of an event that smashes through milestones year after year. The GMV from Single's Day 2014 has already been surpassed, so now it is simply a case of seeing how much more the firm’s sales figures will grow.

It is worth noting that the fastest growth occurs in the first few hours of the event, and again in the morning before lunchtime. By this point, the best deals have been sold out, and consumers are left with the figurative scraps.

Therefore, despite reaching RMB57.1bn before lunchtime, growth will slow and we won’t get close to RMB100bn. Looking at the trend of the past two Single's Day events, year-on-year growth in 2013 and 2014 was 83.2% and 63.2% respectively.

If we make the crude assumption that year-on-year growth in 2015 will be around 40%, this would equate to RMB80bn in total GMV. Applying the mobile GMV that the firm reported at 1149, this would equate to mobile GMV of RMB57.3bn, exceeding total GMV from Single's Day 2014.

Singles' Day GMV Forecast
Source: Alibaba Investor Relations

Jack Ma’s long-term goal is for RMB100bn in Single's Day total GMV. I have previously discussed how this would take a few years to reach, but it looks likely that Single's Day will come very close to this target.

-- Edited by Adam Courtenay

Neil Flynn is is a China watcher based in Shanghai. Follow Neil or post your comment below to engage with Saxo Bank's social trading platform
Neil_Flynn Neil_Flynn
At 2:05pm, Singles' Day total GMV surpassed RMB63.6bn (USD10bn), with mobile GMV contribution at 70%. My initial prediction of RMB80bn (40% YOY growth) continues to look like a reasonable target
Martin O'Rourke Martin O'Rourke
Sometimes a figure seems so abstract that it loses all meaning but for some context, the five-day online desktop binge in the US from Thanksgiving Thursday through to Black Friday in 2014 was $6.56 billion, according to internet analytics firm comScore. Single's Day is clearly in a different league.
Martin O'Rourke Martin O'Rourke
Alibaba's sales are now reported to be beyond $13 billion with just under 1.5 hours of trading to go in China's time zone.
Martin O'Rourke Martin O'Rourke
Jack Ma speaking to CNBC: "It's impossible to keep growth at 8-9% a year but 7% growth is still reachable and even at 5-6%, is good."
Martin O'Rourke Martin O'Rourke
Ma says we could see 800 million online users in China in the next few years with more disposable income
Martin O'Rourke Martin O'Rourke
Alibaba's share price jumps above $82.30 on the open and currently resides around the $82.20 mark. Graph courtesy of SaxoTraderGO.
Martin O'Rourke Martin O'Rourke
Share price is now back at the $81.40 zone but we can expect this to fluctuate over the next few hours.


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