Black Friday sales hit record highs this year. But that doesn't mean it was the biggest online shopping day in the world this November.
Shoppers spent $2.4 billion online on Wednesday, a whopping 31.8% increase from 2017. Thanksgiving Day online sales hit $3.7 billion, 28% growth year over year. Black Friday was similarly impressive, with $4.1 billion in online sales, an increase of 23.3%. However, there was another major shopping day earlier in November. On Singles Day — November 11 — Alibaba sales reached$30.8 billion online globally, far exceeding Black Friday figures. Most of those sales were in China. However, US shopping on Singles Day grew 29.1% compared to 2017.
"If you look at the average Ali Express consumer in the US, they're middle-class folks just like in China," Alibaba president Michael Evans told Business Insider on Singles Day in Shanghai.
American shoppers spent $1.82 billion online on Singles Day — less, even than on a Wednesday before Thanksgiving. However, the impact of Singles Day in the US is quietly and swiftly growing.
Perhaps the biggest effect Singles Day in having on the US is American companies learning to take a page out of Alibaba's handbook. While the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is the closest thing to Alibaba's 11/11 kickoff gala, companies across the board are imitating Alibaba in stretching Black Friday to be longer and start earlier.
"US retailers are looking closely at the success of Alibaba's 'Singles' Day' shopping extravaganza to inform next year's Holiday shopping season, particularly the concept of its 'pre-sale' period,".
Accenture Strategy's Frank Layo said: "It allows shoppers to preview merchandise and deals in the run up to the main event and secure goods in their shopping carts, usually for a small deposit. This helps to improve conversion rates and gives retailers granular visibility into inventory requirements."
Next year, Alibaba may poach shoppers more directly. While the trade war has helped dump some cold water on Alibaba's move into the US, executives have hinted that they want Singles Day to become more of a global event.
Evans said "Everywhere I go, which is pretty much everywhere in the world, there are not very many people who do not know about 11/11, Many people ask the question — how can we participate next year? People are very interested, I think partly because they've heard of Black Friday and Cyber Monday and they think that's quite big. They've heard of Amazon Prime Day. But we sold as much in five minutes as Amazon sold in an entire Prime Day."