Topline: China’s—and the world’s—biggest online shopping event, known as Singles’ Day, takes place on November 11, with Alibaba and a record number of other Chinese e-commerce companies offering massive discounts over the 24-hour period.

  • Singles’ Day rose to prominence when Alibaba successfully launched its first shopping festival on that day in 2009; now re-branded as 11/11, the event boasts over 200,000 participating brands—up from 60,000 in 2017 and just 27 in 2009. 
  • It has become by far and away the largest shopping event in the world, raking in just over $30 billion in gross merchandise volume last year—and sales are expected to hit $37 billion by that same metric this year, according to Forrester Forecasts. The e-commerce festival is expected to be bigger and more international than ever in 2019, with Alibaba increasing the range of items on sale and adding 1 million new products on offer this year, the company said.
  • A larger number of U.S. retailers—almost 25%, according to Adobe, plan to get involved, including big names ranging from Apple to Estee Lauder, posting deals on Alibaba’s platforms as well as their own U.S. websites.
  • Alibaba, which kicks off the event by hosting extravagant fashion shows and concerts, is also bringing in more starpower: Taylor Swift is set to perform as the headliner in the opening gala this year, while Kim Kardashian did a livestream on Tmall to launch her fragrances for the shopping festival.
  • As discounts get bigger, promotions are also getting ramped up to new levels. Social media and especially video-driven e-commerce, which has taken off in recent years, is expected to be an even bigger part of the shopping bonanza this year, according to Sophie Cheng, general manager at FutureBrand China. “Experience is becoming widely seen as one of the keys to the festival’s success, for example through celebrity endorsement and the gamification of the Alibaba platform.” 
  • Chinese consumers can shop on Alibaba’s main websites, Taobao and Tmall, to find the biggest deals, while international shoppers must use AliExpress.com. 

Tangent: 2019 will be Alibaba’s first year organizing 11/11 without founder Jack Ma at the helm, after China’s richest man stepped down from his position as chairman in September.

Crucial quote: “Think of 11/11 as the SuperBowl for brands,” Jiang Fan, president of Alibaba’s Taobao and Tmall businesses, told CNBC. “It’s an opportunity to pull out all the stops to wow Chinese consumers.”

What to watch for: Almost 80% of Chinese shoppers said that they plan to boycott American goods during Singles’ Day, according to a recent survey from AlixPartners, which predicts the U.S.-China trade war taking a toll on participating U.S. brands this year. 

Big numbers: In 2018, Black Friday sales amounted to $6.2 billion, Cyber Monday sales hit $7.9 billion and shoppers spent roughly $4.2 billion on Amazon Prime Day—but even combined,  none of those come close to the $30 billion in gross merchandise value during Alibaba’s Singles’ Day, according to Adobe Analytics. 

Chief critic: Gross merchandise volume will grow at a slower rate this year, although sales will still add up to a large figure, predicts Declean Kearney, managing director at market research firm Edge by Ascential. He also forecasts a rise in the number of micro-influencers, who use live streaming and other social media during the event.