As the new year begins with the Boxing Day/January sales in full swing, data and trends are emerging about the biggest shopping day anywhere in the world; China's Singles' Day. 

Singles’ Day originated at Nanjing University in 1993 where students sought to celebrate being single on 11.11 (11 November), by treating themselves to gifts. As this became a more popular celebration in Chinese society, Alibaba started to use the day as a 24-hour discount shopping event in 2009. Since then, Singles’ Day has become the biggest physical and online shopping event in the world. In 2023, it is reported that the total value of goods sold amounted to 1.14 trillion yuan ($160 billion), dwarfing the amount of sales in the US Cyber Week.

For another year, Alibaba and have not published their exact sales figures or gross merchandise value. But let’s take a look at what was new for Singles’ Day 2023.

Despite economic concerns leading up to Singles’ Day, in particular consumers’ willingness to splurge on luxury products in the current economic climate, reports suggest that 2023 was another success for brands, in particular those in the luxury space. According to Jing Daily, in the first hour of Singles’ Day, sales of Gucci, Burberry and Ralph Lauren exceeded that of the whole day in 2022. 

Even in a successful year for international luxury brands, unlike in previous years it was local Chinese brands that came in at the top spots for sales.  For example, Hangzhou-based Proya Cosmetics topped the charts in sales in the beauty category.  Singles' Day was also more apparent both for Chinese brands in the West (Shein being a good example), but also UK retailers such as footwear brand French Sole and e-tailer BrandAlley.

In recent years, AI has featured heavily in Singles’ Day, and 2023 was no exception with brands increasing their use of AI to promote the sales of their products:

  1. Virtual influencers: Virtual influencers are computer-generated fictional characters that are often used by brands for social media marketing purposes. For example, Jo Malone collaborated with virtual influencer, Liu Yexi, for its 2023 campaign. In previous years, use of virtual influencers has been limited to pre-recorded videos, but this Singles’ Day they were used in livestreaming. For example, used virtual influencers (Yanxi virtual anchors) to promote products via live broadcast rooms.
  2. AI for brands: Alibaba, through its Tmall Luxury Pavilion and Taobao platforms, implemented various free AI tools to brands selling through the platforms. These included tools to assist with writing product descriptions and generating images of items in different positions and backgrounds.
    Many luxury brands, including Ralph Lauren, also took part in a promotional float parade on Tmall, which consisted of AI generated brand floats.  
  3. AI for consumers: Alibaba also invested in consumer facing AI tools, such as its generative AI chatbot named Taobao Wenwen who assisted consumers with their queries. In addition, a handful of luxury brands partnered with popular AI photo generator, Miaoya Camera, to enable consumers to create digital avatars of themselves trying on branded clothing. 

Singles’ Day is a great opportunity for brands in terms of pushing sales, and for luxury brands it can be a chance to reach a wider market without sacrificing the premium nature of their brands. It is also expected to grow and grow in 2024 and beyond, including outside China.