Looks like everyone’s hoping to cash in on pre-holiday sales. What was once a uniquely American phenomenon is now reaching the furthest corners of the globe. Black Friday and Cyber Monday have inspired a series of shopping festivals in several countries, many of which are already proving to be both popular and highly profitable for online retailers.
So pack your bags (and your wallets) and let’s take a look at who’s profiting from this quintessentially capitalist celebration.
Red is the New Black: China’s “Singles Day” is the New Black Friday
By far the biggest online shopping festival outside of the U.S was China’s Singles Day on November 11th. Established in 2009 as an “anti-Valentine’s Day” for singles by the now-infamous Alibaba Group, this facsimile Black Friday festival of sorts has been hugely successful. This year Alibaba announced Singles Day record sales at a whopping $9.3 billion, dwarfing America’s 2013 Black Friday and Cyber Monday Sales of $2.9 billion. Using SimilarWeb’s website analytics, we can chart the site traffic of Alibaba’s big retailers.
The biggest surge on Alibaba retail sites took place on Taobao spinoff Tmall.com – a Chinese marketplace for domestic sales of branded high-quality products. Tmall began with just 27 merchants and has now grown to include some 27,000 in the past five years – an impressive feat by any measure.
During Singles Day, traffic to Tmall increased more than 200% (compared to October’s average), reaching a staggering 7.3 million visits – a 21% increase from last year.
The largest domestic retailer in China – Taobao – also did very well on Singles Day, though with less of an increase in visit quantity. Traffic to the site peaked at 10.4 million, which is 81% more than October’s average and 29% more than last year’s Singles Day.
Alibaba’s largest retail site, Aliexpress, received quite a generous gift for the holidays: more than 26 million desktop visits. Although the increase was not that substantial when compared with traffic for October, it’s still the largest traffic spike the site has ever seen.
Perhaps the success of Singles Day is due in part to Alibaba’s effort to give the festival a global reach. A crucial focus of this year’s event is exposing Chinese consumers to foreign brands and retailers. Over 200 merchants from more than 20 countries participated in the recent buying bonanza, which undoubtedly helped the company’s gross merchandise value grow by 60% from last year.
To understand just how seriously Alibaba is about global expansion, check out the share of display ads within the sites. Websites focusing on the local market had hardly any display ads, while sites with a stronger international lean spent a substantial sum on display in the hopes of gaining global recognition. Their efforts were clearly successful. During the last 28 days display ads were responsible for almost 40% of traffic to Aliexpress, and a whopping 70% of site traffic to Alibaba.com.
Fun Find: Apparently the Chinese are more effective shoppers than their American contemporaries (or maybe they just have a shorter attention span). Chinese consumers prefer to do all their shopping within one day, losing interest in online shopping after a mere 24 hours. Americans, on the other hand, continue to shop till they drop throughout the holiday season.
India: Flipkart Big Billion Day Flips, Fails
India also tried to cash in on the Black Friday-esque festivities, the operative word here being tried. Flipkart Big Billion Day (brought to you by the Asian mega retailer Flipkart) took place on Ocotber 6, and failed spectacularly. Why? The giant retailer was simply ill-prepared for the unprecedented buying enthusiasm that ensued, as the site crashed a number of times shortly after Big Billion Day began.
During Big Billion Day Flipkart.com site traffic soared to more than 400%, Reaching 16.4 million desktop visits. But since the site crashed numerous times due to this traffic spike, the day can hardly be called a massive success for Flipkart.
FlipKart’s rival, Snapdeal, also opened with a big sale on October 6th. The popular site claimed they achieved sales of over Rs. 1 crore a minute (about $160k) – a figure roughly similar to Flipkart’s. Traffic-wise Snapdeal didn’t do as well – but at least their website remained stable throughout the day.
It wasn’t just site crashing that put a damper on the Big Billion Day Festivities. Purported discounts for many products turned out not to be quite as large as originally advertised, leaving many shoppers feeling cheated. Despite these setbacks, Flipkart claims they reached $100 million in sales within 10 hours.
Australia: Was Click Frenzy a #ClickFail (again)?
Another sale, another near-fail: Flipkart wasn’t the only disappointment. Australia’s pseudo “Black Friday” is unique in that it’s promoted not by a big retailer, but by the organizers themselves. Perhaps that’s a recipe for failure. Click Frenzy already had a less-than-stellar reputation as a result of repeated server crashes in 2012 and 2013. Last year, the site failed almost immediately after the sale started. Thus Click Frenzy went viral…as a joke. Rapid backlash from the Australian public came in the form of the #clickfail hashtag on Twitter and a variety of memes mocking the event. Click Frenzy organizers hoped that the third time would be a charm. They were wrong.
According to SimilarWeb site analytics, compared to last year Click Frenzy saw a traffic spike of 9.6% at 286 million desktop visits. But in the mega sale’s first year – 2012 – traffic surged to a 1.2 million visits, which is a whopping 340% higher than this year’s stats. This kind of drop can surely be attributed to the #clickfail of years past. There’s something to be said for a first impression (and a second), and Click Frenzy did not make a good one – either time.
Visitor engagement on site decreased closer to the event date, but this could be because people were in a shopping frenzy to get the deals as quickly as possible. Another theory is that shoppers were in a rush to buy before the site failed.
There were no noteworthy changes in terms of traffic flow to the major retailers, so to find out where traffic was going we took a look at the outgoing links on clickfrenzy.com.au. For some retailers, it really was a big day for sales.
Adobe cheerily predicted that this year’s Click Frenzy shopping extravaganza would bring in a substantial $189M in sales to Australia, but this figure turned out to be a little too optimistic. For all intents and purposes, Click Frenzy was still something of a click flop.
Final Thoughts: Australia and India get an A for effort, but an F for planning. Site crashes and false advertising do not a happy customer make. China, on the other hand, is truly capturing the Black Friday holiday spirit. Americans are experts at cultivating their inner consumer, and the Chinese are learning how to nurture theirs. But they’re fast learners, and the online shopping business is booming. Last year the Chinese spent more in 24 hours than Americans spent the entire holiday season. So watch out, America…China is trailing you in the race for best consumer, and it looks like they might be coming in for the win.