How Singles’ Day went from celebrating singlehood to becoming the mother of all e-commerce sales

Wallet getting lighter again.

| Guan Zhen Tan | Sponsored | November 09, 2021, 08:21 PM

In several days, the 11.11 sales will arrive.

Like its predecessors in the previous months, both physical and online retailers compete to get every consumer to spend their last dollar on their products.

By now we’re used to countless jingles, advertisements and special guests leading up to monthly sales on double-digit dates - but 11.11 is extra special because it was the shopping festival that started it all and continues to be responsible for the demise of our wallets each time.

How 11.11 started

This goes way back to the origins of 11.11 as Singles’ Day. As the name suggests, it originally wasn’t a date for people to remember to buy goods at discounted prices, but rather, it was a day to commemorate and celebrate singlehood in China.

There are several possible origin stories behind the date chosen for Singles’ Day, but the commonly accepted explanation was that Singles’ Day came about after several Nanjing University students in 1993 had gotten together to discuss how to celebrate being single in a light-hearted way.

They decided that November 11 would be an appropriate day to hold activities for singles to mingle and partake in activities; the date was chosen for its resemblance to Guang gun, or “bare branches”, a Chinese expression for singles.

It wasn’t until more than 10 years later that Single’s Day became the shopping festival we know and love.

Emulating Black Friday sales in the US

In 2008, Taobao launched Taobao Mall (now known as Tmall), but its slow development saw the resignation of the person-in-charge of the project, leaving slightly more than 20 employees around.

A year later, Daniel Zhang, the now-CEO and then-CFO of Taobao took over Taobao Mall. Zhang and his team proposed that during the fall season, they could emulate the widescale discounts and sales that were conducted over the Thanksgiving holiday in the US - namely, the Black Friday sales.

They aimed to have an event that let consumers remember Taobao Mall as a go-to platform for shopping, via an activity or event.

After some discussion, they decided to conduct sales on Nov. 11.

There were several reasons. Firstly, November was traditionally an off-peak buying period as it was between China’s Golden Week (a week-long holiday to commemorate China’s National Day) and Christmas sales. Secondly, the transition from fall to winter meant that people needed to make more purchases to prepare for the seasonal change.

Initially, merchants were not so optimistic about the supposed advantages of having a sale on that date.

Despite not needing to pay to promote themselves, a mere 27 merchants participated in the first 11.11 sales event, with many more rejecting Taobao Mall’s invitations.

11.11, surprisingly, became a mega-hit, with sales hitting 52 million yuan (S$10 million), 10 times the average transaction amount.

The concept soon took off to other e-commerce platforms, and found tremendous success;

11.11 is no longer just a festival tied to one platform, with more merchants, bigger stars and sales records being smashed every year.

Last year, Alibaba, Taobao and Tmall’s parent company, set a new sales record of 372.3 billion yuan (S$78 billion).

The quest for self-love via 11.11

The success of the 11.11 sales has been key to the change in direction in how Singles’ Day is seen today.

They always say ‘you have to love yourself before you can love others’. So, when was the last time you really treated yourself?

It’s easy to forget to take care of ourselves sometimes as we get caught up with all the hustle and bustle of life. Especially with the stresses from 2021, when better than now to take this time to yourself and end the year on an extra special note?

With DBS Extra Bonus Day, it’s now easier than ever to show yourself some love and care as you reward yourself, feed yourself and treat yourself to a good time. This 11.11, you can rest easy knowing that you are getting extra value for your money with tons of discounts and cashback courtesy of DBS.

Check out these deals that you can utilise:

11.11 Extra Bonus Day Deals


8 per cent cashback on offline shopping and travel (No minimum spend, capped at S$8 per customer)

DBS PayLah!

58 per cent cashback on your first hawker^ or WhyQ transaction

Simply scan to pay at the hawkers or order hawker deliveries via WhyQ on DBS PayLah! (No min spend, capped at S$3 per customer for the first 100,000 customers)

Click here for list of participating hawker centres and stalls.


S$12 cashback for any value transactions on Travel & Leisure, Education, Utilities Marketplace

(Capped at S$12 per customer, Pre-registration required. Promotion ends after 10,000 unique claims)

Travel Insurance**

Up to 60% off TravellerShield Plus

(Discount will be applied during application)

11.11 Extra Bonus Day Staycation deals

For an extra special Nov. 11, you could even make use of these sweet staycation deals available on the DBS Travel & Leisure Marketplace:

Stay at the Capitol Kempinski at an exclusive rate

For an extra special Nov. 11, you could even make use of these sweet staycation deals available on the DBS Travel & Leisure Marketplace:

Book a luxurious stay for S$311++ in the Deluxe Room and S$511++ in the Executive Suite, when you book your stay on Nov. 11 here.

The first 20 bookings will receive S$88 F&B Credit and a mystery gift for bookings made with the exclusive booking link as well.

Do remember to pay with your DBS/POSB Card for the S$12 Extra Bonus Day cashback, plus 8 per cent extra cashback!

10 per cent off selected hotels on Agoda

Agoda will also be offering an additional 10 per cent off selected hotels when booking on DBS Travel Marketplace from Nov. 1 to Nov. 11.

These includes the following:

  • Resorts World Sentosa - Beach Villas
  • Resorts World Sentosa - Equarius Hotel
  • Resorts World Sentosa - Hotel Michael
  • One Farrer Hotel
  • Hotel G Singapore
  • Mandarin Orchard Singapore
  • Resorts World Sentosa - Crockfords Tower
  • Park 22 Hotel Little India
  • Ji Hotel Orchard Singapore
  • Summer View Hotel

This is also stackable with the DBS bonus miles campaign for local staycations.

Do remember to pay with your DBS/POSB Card for the S$12 Extra Bonus Day cashback!

For full details on featured deals and other exclusive offers, head on down to DBS’ website here.

This article is brought to you by DBS, which has given this writer a great reason to book a staycation.

** Disclaimers**

TravellerShield Plus is underwritten by Chubb Insurance Singapore Limited (“Chubb”) and distributed by DBS Bank Ltd (“DBS”). It is not an obligation of, deposit in or guaranteed by DBS. This is not a contract of insurance. Full details of the terms, conditions and exclusions of the insurance are provided in the policy wordings and will be sent to you upon acceptance of your application by Chubb.

This policy is protected under the Policy Owners’ Protection Scheme which is administered by the Singapore Deposit Insurance Corporation ("SDIC"). Coverage for your policy is automatic and no further action is required from you. For more information on the types of benefits that are covered under the scheme as well as the limits of coverage, where applicable, please contact Chubb or visit the General Insurance Association or SDIC websites.