Xinhua Headlines: China's digital economy on the rise: new engine, new opportunities

Alibaba’s Singles Day sales is much much bigger than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.

Xinhua/Huang Zongzhi via Getty Images

Black Friday — and Cyber Monday — is a great invention because we get to go crazy buying stuff at lower prices. But you know what’s even better?

Alibaba’s Singles Day shopping bonanza.

Called the 11/11 Global Shopping Festival, it’s an annual 24-hour online shopping spree of sorts by the Chinese internet giant which falls on Nov. 11, otherwise known as Singles Day in China because of its collection of ones.

It’s essentially Asia’s version of Black Friday created by Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang in 2009 to draw buyers to Alibaba’s shopping platform, Tmall. But simply calling the extravaganza an Asian take on Black Friday is doing it injustice. It’s much much bigger than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined, shattering records last year when it raked in $25.3 billion in sales.

Singles Day was chosen by Zhang to host the event because he thought it’d reduce feelings of being alone if lonely hearts can enjoy buying themselves great stuff online. But this has little to do with being single and a lot more to do with getting you — single or not — to part with your moolah on the internet.

There are 180,000 Chinese and international brands celebrating the 10th 11/11 shopping spree this year with goods offered at atomised prices. Think pizza combos under $4 and KFC meals under $2 (it’s lunch as I write this), or even last-minute winter and Christmas shopping at a steal.

If this all sounds tantalizing (or maybe you just want to warm up your fingers before Black Friday), here’s one place you can head over to shop the event: Aliexpress. Besides third-party agents, Aliexpress is probably Alibaba’s only shopping platform that lets you buy in English, so head there for the convenience. Deals are also attractive, with reusable metal drinking straws going at 14 cents (I got mine a few months ago for $1.75) and a Huawei Honor View 10 phone starting from $265.

For the brave souls and multilinguists, you can also score more deals on Tmall or Taobao – where I found those KFC and pizza deals — both of which are only available in Mandarin. There’s even an official Taobao livestreaming channel that broadcasts fashion shows and other ongoing promotions while Tmall has a page dedicated to 11/11 sales. It’s not even a problem if you can’t read Chinese — just have Google translate the entire site for you.

There are more ways than one (or three) you can do this though. Some agents let you submit your orders before the day itself and they’ll do everything else for you, like SGShop in Singapore. And yes, while we’ve heard a lot about fakes and goods of subpar quality on Alibaba’s platforms, you should be fine by being more careful and reading reviews of a seller before making purchases.

It might all seem a little complicated, but once you get the hang of the basics, you’re probably going to have more fun engaging in a treasure hunt for more price cuts – such as preorder perks, limited perks, store vouchers or coupons called “hongbaos” (little red packets) — than the actual buying.

Non-shoppers aren’t left out of the festival either, and you won’t even have to buy anything. The 11/11 sales have become such an important event for Alibaba that it’s now a tradition for the company to organise a gala on the day itself — broadcast live online — complete with a counter showing how much people have spent on Nov. 11.

The gala is so huge that Alibaba founder Jack Ma chose to debut his 22-minute short film featuring A-list Chinese actors such as Jet Li and Donnie Yen there last year. It’s not a Chinese-only event though, with international stars like Jessie J, Nicole Kidman and Pharrell Williams in attendance at the gala last year. Miranda Kerr and circus group Cirque du Soleil are expected at this year’s gala, according to a factsheet seen by CNET.

Despite the popularity of 11/11, not everyone’s on board yet. I asked my mom if she’s holding a sale event for her shop on Nov 11, but she told me no.

“Do you know what 11/11 implies in Hokkien,” she asked me.

Yao xi, starve to death.”

Now playing:
Watch this:

Tricks to score extra savings on Black Friday and Cyber…


This story was originally published November 9.

Black Friday 2018 deals in each category

Black Friday 2018 deals by store

Black Friday 2018: CNET’s complete coverage