Why Tomorrow Will Be The World’s Biggest Shopping Day

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(This post originally appeared on Forbes)

Tomorrow, Tuesday, is November 11th. Or 11-11. Or one-one-one-one. Ones. Singles. It’s Singles Day. And it’s the biggest shopping day of the year. Bigger than Black Friday. Bigger than Cyber Monday. Tomorrow is the day when single people in China and the rest of Asia will be out shopping in full force. That’s an estimated 270 million shoppers whose sales “obliterated” last year’s Cyber Monday. Are you taking advantage of this?

According to Wikipedia, Singles Day “…was initially celebrated at various universities in Nanjing during the 1990s, and originated from Nanjing University in 1993. Singles’ Day has been largely popularized in the internet era and is now a special day for all fashionable youths.” Is this a form of anti-Valentine’s Day? A reaction to China’s older, “one-child” policy? Perhaps. Singles Day proves that protests are a waste of time and that violence is not the answer. The best way to truly demonstrate one’s power, particular in communist China, is to…shop!

As Singles Day grew in popularity over the years, certain businesses began taking notice.

Alibaba, the enormous, publicly-held, online marketplace has used the day to fuel its own growth. The company began embracing the annual event back in 2009 and stepped up its involvement each year. By 2012, according to one report, “Alibaba’s marketplaces did about US$3 billion in sales on November 11th. In 2013 that number nearly doubled, and Chinese shoppers had obliterated America’s Cyber Monday spending records in just the first few hours of the sale. And it’s only getting bigger. This year’s Singles Day online shopping bonanza is likely to break all the records set last year. If Alibaba can keep its pace, it may do more than US$10 billion in sales in 24 hours.”

American companies are now taking notice. Amazon has significantly increased its promotional push around tomorrow’s big day. Not to be outdone, payment services giant PayPal “has created the website Wu Jing Gou “Borderless Shopping” which enables global merchants from outside China to showcase discounts and deals to Chinese consumers eager to buy something special.” PayPal has collaborated with over 30 small-medium sized businesses to bring unique offers to the Chinese consumer and also partnered with China UnionPay, who has over two billion cards in circulation, to promote PayPal’s global merchants on China UnionPay’s overseas shopping platform. “With UnionPay cards being accepted in the PayPal wallet, Chinese consumers can securely and seamlessly pay with their preferred local paying system,” explained Melissa O’Malley, the company’s Director of Global Merchant and Cross Border Trade Initatives.

Do you care about this? You should. Smart business people who are looking to grow their companies look overseas. With a population approaching 1.5 billion and a GDP that will likely surpass the U.S. within the next decade, China is quickly becoming the world’s number one market. We can lament for the good old days. Or like, Walmart, Apple, Microsoft, KFC, General Motors and many other American brand names we can take advantage of this opportunity, no matter the size of our companies. And Singles Day gives us this opportunity. It’s a day that highlights Chinese consumerism, recognizes its substantial buying power and welcomes our Chinese friends to the free world of capitalism and a better life. It’s a day known to many Chinese. It’s a chance for American companies, both small and large, to sell to China. How? Here are three ideas.

Offer your own discounts. Run a special “Singles Day” promotion on your website. Send out emails and reach out to your Chinese friends through social media. Educate your American audience. But, more importantly, use the occasion to wish your Chinese prospects and customers a happy “Singles Day.” It’s fun and they’ll smile. How many other American companies are doing that? Who else is taking the time to acknowledge a pop culture event that’s being celebrated by a billion people on the other side of the planet and virtually ignored here? Use this day to differentiate you and your company as someone that is aware and interested in events that interest your customers outside of America’s borders.

Don’t stop there. Singles Day is just a consumer-oriented marketing thing that’s been fueled by giant sellers like Alibaba and the like. There are other, more solemn Chinese holidays to notice too. For example, the Chinese New Year is the first day of the first lunar month and is celebrated with parties, dinners and an annual custom of house cleaning in order to sweep away any ill-fortune. April’s Qingming Festival is an annual national holiday that is meant to be a memorial for one’s ancestors. The Dragon Boat Festival is another national holiday that’s celebrated near the summer solstice. Find out more about these holidays. Use these occasions to reach out to your Chinese community of customers, prospects, partners and vendors. Wish them well. Show that you appreciate what’s important to them. They will notice and they’ll be touched. How many American companies are doing this? Exactly.

Finally, use Singles Day as a way to educate yourself on doing business overseas.Experiment on Alibaba. Dig deeper into PayPal’s offerings. Try to sell a few things through Amazon China. Find other American companies who are interested in testing these potentially lucrative waters and make your plans to partner and profit in 2015. Don’t stand still. Use this day to reinforce your commitment for growing into overseas markets, reaching more foreign customers and solving their problems. “Despite the growing popularity of shopping at foreign sites, Chinese consumers still have to put up with long processing times for their orders,” says one report. Call me crazy, but this seems like a big opportunity, no?

Black Friday? Cyber Monday? Yeah, they’re important for your business. But not as big as an opportunity as Singles Day.

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