How Alibaba Made Billions From 'Singles Day'

PHOTO: Alibaba Group CEO Jonathan Lu, left, and Alibaba Group COO Daniel Zhang pose for a photo at the companys headquarters in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province Nov. 11, 2014. PlayAly Song/Reuters
WATCH Alibaba's $8 Billion 'Singles Day' Blowout

The mega e-commerce company Alibaba is topping $9 billion in sales on a made-up shopping holiday today.

"Singles Day" is the equivalent of Cyber Monday, but with a twist: China's bachelors note the number of single digits on the date, 11/11, which has become the country's anti-Valentine's Day.

The manufactured shopping event is now bigger than Cyber Monday and Black Friday in the U.S. combined.

Alibaba, which went public in the world's biggest IPO in September, is credited with re-inventing the holiday in 2009 after it existed for about two decades. The company offers discounts on the myriad of goods on its shopping sites, leading to $9.3 billion sales in 24 hours, a record.

PHOTO: Workers sort out packages at an express delivery company in Beijing, Nov. 12, 2013, after Singles Day e-tailer festival on Nov. 11.AFP/Getty Images
Workers sort out packages at an express delivery company in Beijing, Nov. 12, 2013, after "Singles Day" e-tailer festival on Nov. 11.

Alibaba’s Singles Day sales have grown 5,740 percent from 2009 to 2013, according to MarketWatch.

Alibaba's retail marketplaces comprised 81.6 percent of the firm's revenue in its fiscal 2014 year, which ended in March.

"In our society, there is some pressure to not be single, but this day celebrates that 'relationship status' in a tongue-in-cheek way," said Kinshuk Jerath, associate professor of business at Columbia Business School.

PHOTO: Alibaba founder Jack Ma, center, raises a ceremonial mallet before striking a bell during the companys IPO at the New York Stock Exchange, in New York, Sept. 19, 2014. Mark Lennihan/AP Photo
Alibaba founder Jack Ma, center, raises a ceremonial mallet before striking a bell during the company's IPO at the New York Stock Exchange, in New York, Sept. 19, 2014.

Can "Singles Day" spread to the U.S. and follow the popularity of Black Friday and Cyber Monday?

American consumers spent $2.9 billion online on Black Friday and Cyber Monday last year, according to ComScore.

It would be difficult for Singles Day to become a major shopping holiday in the U.S., said R. J. Hottovy, consumer equity strategist with Morningstar. He cites the close proximity to Halloween, Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions, when consumers are already allocating a large percentage of their household budgets to gifts and travel.

"Since we've seen retailers--both bricks-and-mortar and online--try to start the holiday shopping season earlier and earlier, it's possible that Singles Day could become part of the U.S. holiday shopping season, but I think it's unlikely that it becomes as significant as it is in China," he said.

Kinshuk disagrees.

"Needless to say, a lot of people are single at any given time, so the market is quite large for this," Kinshuk said. He points to other holidays from other countries or cultures that are celebrated in the U.S. with much fanfare, such as Oktoberfest and Cinco de Mayo.

Alibaba isn't the only company fanning the flame of a made-up holiday on Nov. 11. In South Korea, friends and romantic interests exchange skinny chocolate covered cookie Pepero on "11/11," a play on the stick-like digits. The snack-maker Lotte Confectionery Co. has reaped the benefits of "Pepero Day" since the 1990s.