How Alibaba turned an obscure, made-up Chinese holiday into a $14.3 billion shopping extravaganza that's bigger than Black Friday

Alibaba turned Single’s Day, the Chinese holiday for the single-set, into a huge economic opportunity through a savvy marketing blitz.

The company raked in $US5 billion during the first 90 minutes of the sale, totaling $US14.3 billion in just 24 hours largely through its online shopping platforms, and

Students at Nanjing University first celebrated Single’s Day in 1993 as an appreciation of, you guessed it — being single. They picked November 11 (11/11) as an ode to the loneliness of the number one.

But Single’s Day was never meant to be a somber affair. Just like couples buy each other presents on Valentine’s Day, Single’s Day is an opportunity to treat yourself, and buy the things you’ve always wanted.

Yue Xue, a ‘dating consultant’ in Beijing explained to Time last year that the concept of being single in China is a recent development. “China used to be a society where there was no dating culture,” Xue said. “There was no going on dates to turn into a relationship. You see someone, if you can marry them or you never see them again.”

Singlehood only gained widespread acceptance in China because of Western films and television shows. And just as Valentine’s Day has become a juggernaut for consumption, so has Single’s Day.

Alibaba launched a massive marketing push around Single’s Day in 2009, offering special “Double 11” deals.

Their timing was perfect. E-commerce has exploded in China, leading to a 5,740% growth in Alibaba’s “Double 11” sales between 2009 and 2013, the Atlantic reports.

In the last couple years, Alibaba, once known only as an online retailer akin to Amazon, has moved aggressively into the entertainment space, launching a television production arm, and purchasing an online-streaming service that’s popular in China.

“Jack Ma (Alibaba’s CEO) is building Alibaba as the hub of all things commerce, whether it be physical goods bought and sold online, or now virtual goods and services,” Brian Buchwald, the CEO of consumer intelligence firm Bomoda told the LA Times.

And Alibaba has combined their expansion with brilliant marketing. On Wednesday, Alibaba aired a three-hour television special, “Tmall’s Double-11 Night Carnival” in order to drum up excitement for the insane “Double-11” deals.

The extravagant show included Kevin Spacey as President Frank Underwood from the show House of Cards delivering a two-minute message to would-be Chinese shoppers.

Daniel Craig, of 007 fame also made an appearance, as did singer Adam Lambert and a host of Chinese celebrities, the LA Times reports.

As the clock struck midnight, and the Double-11 deals officially opened, viewers of the broadcast at home could play along in online game show segments, where they could compete for the chance to buy Cadillacs for 15 cents, according to the LA Times.

For comparison purposes, Alibaba made only $US9.3 billion in 2014’s Single’s Day sale, $US5 billion less than this year, amounting to a 57% jump in sales.

Mobile purchases accounted for 72% of purchases in 2015, up from 43% in 2014, according to the Atlantic.

It was a good day for Alibaba.

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