Singles’​ Day 2018: China’s Increasingly Emotional Consumers Shake the World


It’s Singles’ Day 2018 and I’m behind the scenes with Alibaba in Shanghai. It’s awesome. The numbers are coming in and the GMW is now at 120B RMB (as of 10am Nov 11).

I’m rushing about to events today. But here are my take-aways so far:

Take-Away 1: Chinese consumers are getting more emotional. Their behavior is changing faster than their wealth.

Yes, Singles’ Day is about the rising wealth of Chinese consumers. In particular, the middle class and urban consumers. Everyone knows these numbers.

But Singles’ Day is more about the increasingly emotional behavior of Chinese consumers. Their behavior is changing rapidly and is a world away from what we saw 5-10 years ago.

Chinese consumers are no longer all about getting a good price and saving money. They are shopping for enjoyment and entertainment. To make themselves happy. And to pursue their aspirations in life. Ten years ago, Chinese consumers used to buy air conditioners and sofas based on a good deal (and with little brand loyalty). Now they are buying make-up and fashion based on how it makes them feel.

China’s urban families are rapidly transitioning from “value hunters” to more emotional, aspirational and free-spending consumers.

Singles’ Day is the most visible expression of this rapidly changing behavior. It is a big party. It is shopping and commerce as entertainment. It is an expression of changing aspirations and behavior.

Take-Away 2: Chinese consumers can shake the world.

There are increasing mechanisms through which Chinese consumers can impact companies and markets around the world. These include e-commerce, tourism, and duty-free (and foreign real estate purchases). So the changing behavior of Chinese consumers is now rippling out into the world. Cross-border e-commerce and Singles’ Day are a powerful version of this. If Chinese consumers start to like avacados (which they do), companies in Mexico now feel this in real-time.

It turns out when Alibaba’s +600M customers all buy on the same day it shakes the world. Last year, 180,000 merchants from around the world participated in Singles’ Day. Of those about 80,000 were international. That number will likely increase this year. I think the interconnections between Chinese consumers and the global economy will continue to grow long-term.

But it’s pretty fun to see this play out in real-time.

Take-Away 3: Trade war? What trade war?

Politics bores me. And it’s totally irrational, which makes my DNA hurt.

But underneath all the discussion of the current US-China trade dispute, there are real economic phenomena happening. Rising and changing Chinese consumers is one of them. And it is here to stay. So that makes me optimistic.

Ok. Off to visit the new Alibaba and Starbucks partnership. And then back to the media center. More details to follow.

Cheers from Shanghai, jeff


I write, speak and consult about how to win (and not lose) in digital strategy and transformation.

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