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eCommerce Smack Down: Singles Day Dominates

Update: Singles Day 2014 ends with more than $9 billion in sales for Alibaba.

How did a mock holiday for young singles become the largest online shopping day in the world?

The story begins in the 1990s with Chinese college students creating the day to poke fun at couple-centric Valentine’s Day. Dubbed Singles Day or Sticks Day (a nod to the 11/11 date), the holiday served as a chance to hang out with friends, eat sticks of fried dough, and go on blind dates.

Singles Day grew in popularity over the years and businesses began to pick up on its marketing potential. In 2009, China’s eCommerce superpower Alibaba declared Singles Day a major online shopping event for the first time. It advertised steep discounts on products on Taobao and Tmall, two of its most popular online stores. (Check out Ripen’s Alibaba breakdown for online retailers.) Many more eCommerce sites followed suit.

Just a year later, in 2010, Singles Day set a record for the biggest online shopping day in history, bringing in 936 million yuan ($141 million) in revenue. And the event has only continued to grow.

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Last year more than $5.75 billion was cleared in a 24-hour period – more than double the sales of the same year’s Cyber Monday ($2.29 billion). Last year was also the first year Amazon participated in marketing for Singles Day. Today, its Chinese site is splashed with 11.11 banners and sales on home goods, electronics, apparel, and more.

Ripen marketing director David Rekuc says,”11/11 has turned into a symbolic day for international eCommerce. While it has primarily been contained to China, Singles Day has given the world reason to notice the incredible potential emerging markets have in the eCommerce space.”

This year, the US eCommerce industry has another reason to keep a close eye on Singles Day. 2014 marked the Alibaba Group’s official IPO in the states, and investors are hoping the fifth anniversary of Singles Day will follow the rising sales trend of its profitable predecessors.

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