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Chinese Consumers Break Online Sales Record on Bachelors’ Day

November 11 is Bachelor's Day in mainland China. How do people celebrate this special day? Apparently by spending money online – this year in a record breaking manner.

On November 11, 2012, China's top electronic commerce company Taobao reported sales of 19.1 billion yuan (3.06 billion US dollars) in its 24-hour Double Eleven online shopping festival [zh], which is more than twice of America's entire Cyber Monday sales of USD 1.25 billion in 2011.

Bachelors’ Day Sales

Taobao fan ‘Poet with tears’ (诗人泪xp) shared [zh] his Bachelor's Day's schedule on the Sina Weibo forum:

零点-两点之间淘宝,两点-十点之间睡觉,十点-十二点起床洗漱+吃饭,十二点-两点睡觉,两点-四点打游戏,四点-六点调戏光棍,六点-零点狂欢…. //@镇江校园:你们大学的女生光棍节都忙着干啥呢?织围脖?还是淘宝?还是淘宝?还是淘宝呢?

诗人泪xp:00:00 – 2:00 am shopped at Taobao. 2:00 – 10:00 slept. 10:00 to 12:00 got up, washed face and brush teeth. 12:00 to 14:00 slept again. 14:00 to 16:00 video games. 16:00 to 18:00 joked around with bachelors. 18:00 to 00:00 reveling… //@镇江校园: What do you college girls do on Bachelor's Day? Weibo? Taobao, Taobao, and Taobao?

Taobao's Double Eleven Sales started last year and consumers now know that the company will release big discount items at midnight, that's why users like Poet with tears will get up at midnight to shop. But college girls, who are mostly super Taobao fans, usually shop at Taobao all day long. That's why Poet with tears’ question is amusing.

Screen capture of a frozen screen in Taobao Tmall at around midnight.

Screen capture of a frozen screen in Taobao Tmall at around midnight.

Poet with tears could be one of 10 million people who rushed into Tmall [zh], the retail arm of Taobao, in the first minute of the event. In only half an hour, sales had hit USD 100 million.

The unexpected amount of transactions overloaded the payment system and people found their screens froze. They then got very anxious when they had to keep refreshing the frozen screens, as discussed in a thread [zh] from a Xiaoshan local forum:

90后辣妈:关键时间掉链子就有点让你苦逼了。
荣二十佑三:页面都刷不出,十分钟就两亿五千万的成交额,真不是一般的强。
哭泣的依恋:偶再也不相信什么双11活动了“`

@90后辣妈: The crashing is really annoying at this moment.
@荣二十佑三: I can not even get to my page. 250 million yuan (USD 40 million) in ten minutes, that's awesome.
@哭泣的依恋: I don't believe in Double Eleven anymore…

Not only consumers are affected, sellers were under network traffic pressure, too. One seller, Mo Zi Kun (墨子坤), said [zh] on Sina Weibo:

…从昨晚凌晨的秒杀开始,就状况频发,先是支付宝堵塞,后是淘宝系统崩溃,然后准备的450件的秒杀,最后被拍了600件衣服!我以为只要大家高兴就好,没想到却被很多朋友骂的很惨,还去淘宝投诉了我们2次。

…things started to get wrong since the midnight seckilling [see below] event. Alipay [zh] [Chinese version of Paypal] was jammed then Taobao crashed. The 450 advertised seckilling items received 600 orders! I just wanted to make people happy but was harshly critized. They reported two complaints to Taobao

As a result of the payment system's downtime, Mo Zi Kun did not have enough stock to satisfy customers’ need and had to refund their payment. If he received too many complaints, he would lose his trust credit and it may result in the suspension of his seller account by the online platform.

Online retail tactics

Seckilling is a term from video games, while in the online shopping world it vividly describes fighting among buyers: you win or lose all in a matter of seconds. One click and the deals are gone. Sellers advertise seckilling to attract page views and visits.

For example one Taobao seller came up with the idea of asking her 72-year-old grandfather to model ladies’ dresses in her store. It quickly became a hit. Some found it hilarious, some a little weird.

Sina blogger Yunke Jia (贾运可) believed [zh] the recording breaking sales in the Bachelor's Day is related to the “Diaosi culture”, a culture similar to the Japanese’ “Otaku“:

我们可以将之称为“中国式嘻哈”,或者将这位老人的行为视为时下正火的“屌丝文化”的一个具体个例。笔者不知道这种文化会盛行多久,因为整体上“屌丝”这个词的内涵还处于一个不断丰富扩大的过程当中…..主流式样刻板固化的宣传模式也越来越为大众所反感。笔者以为,正是在这种情形之下,“屌丝文化”才能在如此短的时间之内风靡神州大陆

Probably we can call it “Chinese hip hop”, or an example of the popular “Diaosi culture” [zh] right now. I am not sure how long the culture will last. Because basically the term “Diaosi” is still developing….. People are more and more tired of the mainstream propaganda. I think it is in this situation that the “Diaosi culture” is sweeping the country.

Diaosi are a group of people who deprecate themselves as “poor, incompetent and ugly” in comparison to the “tall, rich and handsome”. They believe that they will remain singles and the Bachelor's Day is their festival. There is a strong sense of self-irony in the identification, in particular under the context of China, the young rich is usually inherited from their family and hence being a “Daosi” can be cool and honorable. That's why Jia believes that Diaosi culture and Bachelor's Day are different sides of the same coin and that Chinese merchants have been smart enough to convert their frustration with the reality into business success.

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