Happy Singles’ Day!

This is a time of year replete with holidays and traditions. Some celebrated more globally, such as Christmas and Halloween, others more local such as Thanksgiving and Guy Fawkes night. And others, still, that might not be so well known but which nonetheless register highly on the commercial scale of interest.

The holiday we are thinking of here is Singles Day. It’s a relatively recent Chinese celebration with its roots in universities in Nanjing in the 1990s where bachelors would celebrate that they are proud of being single in an anti-Valentine’s Day celebration.

Held each year on the 11th of November (11/11 as the number 1 represents an individual that is alone) and it began to grow in popularity throughout China.

In 2009, the Chinese online giant, Alibaba, spotted an opportunity to share in Singles Day by offering discounted items. November is a lull period in China’s shopping calendar, falling between the seven-day Golden Week holiday in October and Christmas.

Today, the online shopping bonanza of Singles’ Day puts Black Friday into the shade..

Last year alone Alibaba generated $14bn worth of sales on Singles Day, compared to the $10bn generated by all retailers in the US on Black Friday.

International brands are increasingly getting involved in Singles Day with Apple, Nike and others using the event to launch new products and lines.

And, although it is still, primarily, Alibaba’s event, other retailers are trying to get a slice of the action too.

China’s affluent young middle class is constantly looking for big ticket western consumer goods and the companies who can offer these on Singles’ Day are the companies who will make the most out of this holiday.

The brands who understand the market and target them accordingly by localising websites and accepting payment the way that Chinese consumers want to, will make the most profit. It is worth bearing in mind, for instance, that payment cards and PayPal aren’t widely used in China. What is widely used is Alibaba’s own payment system, Alipay. So, the smart merchant has to accept this method.

In terms of how shoppers shop, much like in the UK and US, mobile is becoming increasingly dominant around the world, and China is no exception, with 42% of online purchases on Singles’ Day coming from mobile devices. This growth and development is to be welcomed, of course together with appropriate  secure authentication in order to both fight fraud and make the transaction convenient.

With more and more global companies engaging in Singles’ Day, the need for strong mobile authentication will become ever more pressing.