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  • It's the world's biggest shopping event day of the year.

  • It generates more than the online sales of Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.

  • I'm talking about Singles' Day.

  • [What is Singles Day?]

  • Singles' Day is an annual 24-hour shopping event in China.

  • It brings in billions of dollars in sales and uses celebrities to promote the countdown in the hours leading up to midnight.

  • It takes place on November 11th, a.k.a 11-11.

  • And it emerged as a day to celebrate, well, being single, hence all the "ones."

  • It first became a popular day for young people in China to buy something for themselves.

  • But now, it doesn't discriminate, with consumers from all age groups and relationship statuses getting in on the sales.

  • Singles' Day takes place across Alibaba's platforms and includes Taobao and Tmall.

  • In 2009, Alibaba Group's now-CEO Daniel Zhang launched what would eventually become the world's largest annual online and offline shopping event.

  • But Zhang didn't exactly think of Singles' Day himself though.

  • It's commonly believed that Singles' Day was actually started in 1993 at Nanjing University for students as a way to celebrate being single, and doing so, by buying gifts for themselves.

  • Fast forward from a university campus in the 90s to today, where in 2017, Alibaba generated a whopping $25 billion dollars from the 24-hour Singles' Day event.

  • Meanwhile, Cyber Monday brought in $6.6 billion and Black Friday online sales were at $5 billion.

  • Just take a look at how the sales have grown since first launching back in 2009.

  • Given China's massive population of nearly 1.4 billion people, and rising middle class that's increasingly using smartphones, it's helped catapult Alibaba's Singles' Day revenues from just about $8 million in 2009 to today's $25 billion.

  • Let's break down the numbers of what happened in a single 24-hour period in 2017.

  • Alipay, the payment platform of Alibaba, processed 1.48 billion payment transactions.

  • At its peak, it was handling 256,000 transactions per second.

  • Meanwhile, more than 775 million parcels were shipped from that day's orders.

  • That's more than double the number of people in the U.S.

  • And to promote Singles' Day, it's less about advertisements and more about events.

  • It takes advantage of China's mobile-first market by hosting live streams events featuring celebrities, and puts on fashion shows and broadcasts them on numerous social media platforms as well as several Chinese TV networks.

  • It's even brought in celebrities including Nicole Kidman and Pharrell Williams as part of these events.

  • Alibaba now has more than 617 million monthly mobile users, but even though the national consumer frenzy on Singles' Day was originally started by Alibaba, other Chinese platforms like have joined the trend.

  • is one of China's biggest e-commerce players, which competes with Alibaba.

  • It's also partially-owned by Tencent and joining the Singles' Day trend has paid off for

  • In 2017, the company reported more than $19 billion in sales in an 11-day period centered on Singles' Day.

  • Alibaba now calls the annual event, a Global Shopping Festival, in an effort to expand it to consumers beyond China.

  • It's doing this by promoting it on Alibaba-backed Lazada, a Southeast Asian e-commerce platform, as well as promoting it on AliExpress, the platform that sells products to international online buyers.

  • Single or not, the event has become a popular and hyped-up day for Chinese consumers which has propelled its massive growth.

  • But whether Singles' Day can break out beyond China's borders, well, that remains to be seen.

  • Hey, guys, it's Uptin.

  • Thanks for watching.

  • For more of our videos, check out how Alibaba became so massive here, and check out my tour inside one of its new retail stores in Shanghai here.

  • We're also taking suggestions for future CNBC explains, so leave your comments in the section below, and while you're at it, subscribe to our channel, see you next time!

It's the world's biggest shopping event day of the year.

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