Smashing Records: Alibaba’s 11-11 Singles Day Sales Hit $14.3 Billion


Alibaba Singles Day

It’s the world’s Super Bowl of shopping because it’s the biggest and best—and it’s also trademarked and owned by a single commercial interest. Yes, Alibaba, which yesterday broke all shopping records ever recorded, trademarked the holiday name (“Double Eleven” for the 11-11 annual sales spree) in 2012.

The results of this year’s event were staggering, passing $5 billion dollars (US) in transactions in 90 minutes. It took 72 seconds of Singles Day for Alibaba to cross the 1 billion yuan ($157 million) sales threshold and it hit 10 billion yuan in less time (12 minutes, 28 seconds) than it takes to listen to Iron Butterfly’s In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.

At Alibaba HQ, many watched the giant video screen numbers count up alongside the clock. An hour later, Alibaba had moved $4 billion worth of merchandise and by the 12 hours mark, halfway through the spending marathon, it had surpassed last year’s $9.3 sales figure. Singles Day 2015 clearly set a new record, raking in an astounding $14.3 billion.

One of the most noteworthy details of Singles Day 2015 was Alibaba’s employment of Kevin Spacey in character as Frank Underwood from hit Netflix show House of Cards. The show streams there in a number of video platforms and is even watched by the nation’s President Xi Jinping.

Spacey was on hand with other celebs for the three-hour, star-studded broadcast, which Alibaba billed as China’s “Tmall Double-11 Night Carnival.”

Spacey is, of course, no stranger to a brand-backed paycheck; he’s the face of Jameson’s film project, Renault, E-Trade, Olympus and American Airlines. He reprised his Underwood role for the White House Correspondents Dinner and suggested it as a character in the Call of Duty video game.

In the viral spot, Frank Underwood laments his inability, as the President of the US, to take part in Singles Day shopping on Alibaba due to all of the White House firewalls. Underwood recommends going to and picking up some new burner phones, some M&Ms and to “see if they’re selling a replica of my class ring from The Sentinel.”

Alibaba Singles Day Frank Underwood Ring

Spacey was only off by one site. Demonstrating just how much stuff Aliabab sells,, another of Alibaba’s platforms, does in fact sell a replica of Underwood’s ring for $3.79 (discounted to $3.41 for Singles Day!)

Alibaba Tmall 11-11 Singles Day 2015 Jack Ma Daniel Craig

Also on hand for Alibaba’s live on-air event—singer Adam Lambert and 007 himself, as British actor Daniel Craig was on stage with Alibaba founder Jack Ma to promote the just-opened (and very brandtastic) Spectre—and looking a little lost at the gameshow-like proceedings.

As the Los Angeles Times describes the segment, “the hosts fawned over ‘Mr. Bond’ and reminded viewers to ‘go out and support 007!’ Tickets for the latest James Bond film Spectre could be bought on Tmall for about $3, an unusually low price for a Hollywood blockbuster.”

As the Times continues, the broadcast was a “combination of the Grammys, the Oscars, a game show, the Home Shopping Network and Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve — all counting down to China’s equivalent of Black Friday or Cyber Monday. The program was created by Alibaba to stoke interest in ‘Double 11,’ a newfangled Chinese holiday also known as Singles Day.”

Singles Day 2015 brought to light a curious new phenomenon of the holiday: real-time obsession with sales numbers. The aforementioned Alibaba HQ screen kept a live accounting of the clock and the spending, almost completely disconnected from what was being bought. Who cares, what’s the total?

At one point during the holiday, half of the top trending topics on social network Weibo were about Singles Day. But not longer after, the top topic went from specific sales and excitement about items to “天猫 交易额” or “Taboo Sales Volume.” A day later, “天猫 交易额” is still in Weibo’s top 10 trends alongside topics about TV shows, stars and a missing college woman. The holiday has gone from get-togethers at restaurants by college guys with no girlfriends (1990s) to a national day of online consumption unity (2009–2012) to an annual extravaganza seemingly solely concentrated on measuring the might of Alibaba (2013–2015).

And what the sales total hides is important. As brandchannel noted yesterday in our look at how Alibaba came to own the holiday, there have been some questions about exactly how positive all this spending is for anyone except Alibaba. Many retailing partners of the platform giant have complained that Alibaba forces extreme discounts for participation, effectively cutting each retailer’s profit margin to close to zero.

For what it’s worth, China’s second-biggest online retailer and current legal rival regarding Alibaba’s potential illegal business tactics,, does not report its total Singles Day sales volume in dollars but instead in total items sold. It did note that 2015 was a record year though.

Now all that’s left of Singles Day 2015 is the logistical nightmare of how to deliver 310 million packages in two days.