Singles’ Day in China, Black Friday, Cyber Monday: DePaul University experts discuss facets of global consumer holidays

DePaul University faculty experts are available to discuss consumer holidays: Singles’ Day in China and Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the United States. Experts can talk about consumer behavior, business marketing plans and procrastination of holiday shopping. (iStock image)
DePaul University faculty experts are available to discuss consumer holidays: Singles’ Day in China and Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the United States. Experts can talk about consumer behavior, business marketing plans and procrastination of holiday shopping. (iStock image)

CHICAGO DePaul University faculty experts are available to provide insight and commentary on approaching consumer holidays: Singles’ Day in China and Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the United States. Experts can discuss consumer behavior, business marketing plans and procrastination on getting started with holiday shopping.

Experts can provide information on Singles’ Day, the Chinese holiday celebrated on Nov. 11 because the date contains four ones (11-11). Singles’ Day serves as an occasion for single friends to party with each other. It is being billed as the largest online shopping day in the world, beating out both Cyber Monday and Black Friday. This growth was largely spurred by e-commerce behemoth Alibaba, which hosts annual Singles’ Day sales. Although Chinese in origin, the holiday is starting to expand internationally, which could have implications for the global economy.

Additionally, experts can address such questions as: Why do consumers act the way they do on Black Friday? Will consumers be spending less money on Cyber Monday because of security breaches? What new marketing or advertising techniques are being incorporated during the month of November?

DePaul’s experts on consumer holidays include:

Li Jin, Associate Professor, College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.
Jin is director of the Chinese Studies Program and can talk about the cultural aspects of Singles’ Day and why the holiday is so popular in China.

There are two main reasons why Singles’ Day is so popular. The first is the social condition where more Gen-Y Chinese remain single due to work-related stress and the increasing male-female disparity in Chinese society,” said Jin. She explained that data shows that there will be 30 million more adult men than women in 2020 in China. “People also tend to end being bachelors on this day. Thus this day is celebrated by both people who are single and those who want to find their other half,” she said.

“The second reason is the commercial push. Online retailers have aggressively promoted Singles’ Day as a new holiday for shopping. In 2009, the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba marketed Nov. 11 as Singles’ Day and promoted various discounts to stimulate sales. Since then, it has become more popular each year. Alibaba says they are bringing this holiday to Hong Kong and Taiwan in 2016 and have plans to expand to other countries in the near future,” she said.

“The holiday’s origins come from the number ‘one,’ which in Chinese connotes to be single instead of a couple which is ‘two.’ There is a humorous rumor that students at Nanjing University started this holiday in 1993 as a counter-Valentine’s Day so they could buy presents for themselves,” said Jin.

“Marriage and family are celebrated in traditional Chinese culture. Adult people who are not married are traditionally perceived as non-grownup or even immature in terms of personality. One reason the Singles’ Day was initially launched was to raise awareness and gain social respect for single people,” said Jin. “The popularity of the Singles’ Day not only shows the demographic change in modern Chinese society but also the social acceptance for being adult and single. It is the progressive side of contemporary Chinese society.” Jin can be reached at
ljin2@depaul.edu or 773-325-1882.

Patrick J. Murphy, Professor, Driehaus College of Business.
Murphy, who specializes in entrepreneurship and speaks Mandarin Chinese, can comment on the Chinese phenomenon known as Singles’ Day and how entrepreneurial businesses keep pace with and drive social trends in the United States or in China. Murphy was also a foreign student in Beijing decades ago. Today, he travels there frequently and leads DePaul's internationalization strategy in China.

“Singles’ Day is something of a Hallmark holiday, like the ones we have in the U.S. But it has evolved into a very popular shopping day, on par with our Black Friday. It has also some interesting cultural aspects. For example, the date Nov. 11 has four ones. We may not think too much about that, but numbers often have more deeply meaningful aspects through a Chinese cultural lens. The term used to describe being single, in Chinese, literally means ‘single stick’ (
光棍儿),” said Murphy. “To an acculturated Chinese mind, the numeral ‘one’ can resemble a stick. The date Nov. 11 can quite meaningfully be thought of as Singles’ Day (光棍). In 2011, this day took on an intense celebratory nature because that date has six ones in it and only comes once in a typical lifetime. Singles’ Day was given a special name that year (神棍), which translates into something like Holy Singles’ Day."

“Like elsewhere in the world, entrepreneurially-minded businesses recognize opportunities in these kinds of social trends, and they respond to them in strategic ways that not only align with the native culture but amplify the meaning of the trend,” said Murphy.

“From an entrepreneurial perspective, Singles’ Day in China exemplifies the overlap that exists between the sociocultural and business domains. Compared to the relatively individualistic U.S. culture, being single or alone in the more collectivist Chinese culture can have a different kind of meaning. It is regarded a bit less positively in general. On Singles’ Day, businesses respond appropriately. Whereas couples going out for a nice dinner on the town may become objects of envy to their single counterparts, businesses respond to this social inefficiency with a special kind of ‘love’ for those who are single. Originally, that love came in the form of discounts and excellent deals just for singles on desirable products. Today, the holiday has evolved into a veritable industry, and now many couples as well as singles all go shopping for deals,” he noted. Murphy can be reached at
profpjm@gmail.com or 312-362-8487.

Ken Krimstein, Professional Lecturer, College of Communication.
Krimstein is an award-winning creative director and marketing strategist with extensive experience in national and global brands, including American Express, Coca-Cola, Lands' End and General Motors. He is also a professional lecturer in advertising creativity and marketing strategy at DePaul.

“As Amazon-challenged ‘brick and mortar’ retailers face the critical weeks between Thanksgiving and the holidays, Black Friday has become the official ‘frenzy kick off,’ and, starting last year, many stores are cutting into Turkey-time, opening earlier and earlier on Thanksgiving day itself,” said Krimstein. “Some important stores have held the line on recent forays into Thanksgiving, but other prominent retailers like K-Mart, Kohl's and Macy's are risking brand love to savings lust by opening on Thanksgiving,” he said.

“Interestingly, REI is continuing to buck the entire trend by not only closing on Thanksgiving, but paying its over 12,000 employees to take the day off on Black Friday and go out to hike and enjoy nature. The PR goodwill generated by this move appears to be more than making up for the lost volume,” said Krimstein. “Online sales just keep pumping along, turkey or no, and look to continue to grow as consumers get more and more comfortable and Amazon and others continue to extend their brand messages and offerings. How will retailers entice traffic weary, tryptophan bloated consumers to brave the malls? Has ‘time’ become an even more valuable gift than something in a box with a shiny ribbon?” Krimstein can be reached at
kkrimste@depaul.edu.

James Alvarez Mourey, Assistant Professor, Driehaus College of Business.
Mourey is a consumer scientist who can discuss how holiday shopping experiences often lead consumers to engage in irrational behavior. He can talk about how some companies are avoiding the holiday to focus on their employees’ happiness.

“We are actually seeing more stores this year foregoing the Black Friday trend, which, in and of itself, is generating media attention for them,” said Mourey. “It seems as though companies are drawing the line in the sand when it comes to respecting the holiday and family time versus rampant consumerism. We can probably expect this back and forth oscillation to continue well into the future.”

“Experiences like Black Friday often result in 'misattribution of arousal,' in which the hype and excitement of an experience influences shopping decisions, often resulting in poor choices and lowered satisfaction,” said Mourey. “Although companies and consumers ‘complain’ about store hours extending into the Thanksgiving holiday, the crowds will still show up,” he said. “It's a blend of competitiveness, social influence and entertainment — when else do people shop like they're running from bulls in Pamplona?" Mourey can be reached at
jmourey@depaul.edu or 312-362-7663.

Jacob Furst, Professor, College of Computing and Digital Media.
Furst, an expert in computer security, is director of the DePaul Information Assurance Center. He teaches courses in information security, secure electronic commerce, and networking and security.

Buying online is risky, but so is life. Every moment of every day, we are called on to balance risk and reward — unfortunately we typically have flawed or incomplete information and have to make an educated guess,” said Furst. “It is also a very individual decision. For me the rewards of shopping online outweigh the risks, and I will continue to shop online. We can’t do much more to protect ourselves than the credit card industry and our legal system have already done,” he said.

The credit card industry has good fraud detection and prevention mechanisms in place and there are laws in place to protect consumers,” he added. Furst can be reached at jfurst@cdm.depaul.edu or 312-362-5158.

Joe Ferrari, Professor, College of Science and Health.
Ferrari, a psychologist and an expert in chronic procrastination, can speak about the mental effects of waiting to do holiday shopping until the last minute.

“People should be starting their shopping much earlier than Black Friday to avoid the stress of buying around Thanksgiving,” said Ferrari. “There is a myth that you get the best deals on Black Friday, but the deals get better as you get closer to Christmas. Retailers are encouraging us to shop later; they are rewarding us when we procrastinate,” he said.

“People tend to generate more excuses when they are under a deadline, such as getting all Christmas shopping done before Dec. 25. Procrastinators are great excuse makers who don’t assume responsibility for their behaviors. It is never their fault it is always somebody else,” he said. Ferrari can be reached at
jferrari@depaul.edu or 773-325-4244.

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Media Contacts:

Carol Hughes
Carol.Hughes@depaul.edu
312-362-8592

Jon Cecero
jcecero@depaul.edu
312-362-7640

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