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2020 has been a year like no other for e-commerce, with the pandemic causing a sharp increase in the number of people shopping online – many for the first time. So, it's no surprise that 2020's online holiday events, including Singles' Day and Black Friday, set new record sales figures across the world.
In China, the country's two biggest e-commerce platforms enjoyed a frenzy of sales between November 1 to 11. Alibaba Group1 hit US$75 billion in sales, a 26% year-on-year increase over 2019, whilst JD.com2 achieved over US$41 billion, a 32% increase3. As for Black Friday, consumers in the USA spent US$9 billion – a 21.6% increase on 2019's sales4.
If these figures are any indication, it's going to be a very merry holiday sales period for e-commerce businesses. With the big day just weeks away, it's worth looking at some of the key consumer trends seen during Singles' Day and Black Friday to understand what customers are looking for this festive season, and pivot your business to meet these demands.
It's good news for small and medium businesses (SMBs). The pandemic's devastating effect on smaller businesses has influenced many consumers to consciously spend their money with them over the peak period. Small retailers increased their online sales on Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday by 403% over their October daily average; in 2019, this was 173%5.
This shift towards smaller businesses may bring you brand new customers this Christmas so be sure to give them a truly personalized shopping experience. Enclosing a thank you note with orders or offering to gift wrap customers’ purchases is a simple way to leave a lasting impression.
Smaller businesses can struggle to be found by customers online, but if your SMB offers niche or handmade products, a marketplace platform such as Etsy will connect it with a huge customer base this busy season. Check out our guide to find the right online marketplace for your business.
Across the sales events, the most popular product categories have mirrored those traditionally leading the e-commerce sector, with electronics performing particularly strongly. SEO specialist SEMrush6 have analyzed the most popular online searches globally on Black Friday and found the top three product groups searched with "Black Friday" were "Laptop", "TV/Smart TV" and "Microwave"7.
In China, the most popular import products sold on Singles' Day were food supplements, followed by makeup, diapers and face wash, Reuters reports8.
Consumers are also becoming more conscious of the sustainability of their purchases. Globally, online searches for "shop sustainability" and "sustainable consumerism" have grown by 235% and 76% respectively, compared to 20199. This trend pushed some brands – such as footwear specialist Allbirds10 – to roll out alternative, eco-friendly Black Friday campaigns this year.
If you want to offer customers a greener service this festive season, switching to environmentally friendly and sustainable packaging is a great place to start. Check out the benefits it can bring your business here.
Despite bumper sales on Singles' Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, there's no doubt that the pandemic has had an effect on consumers' purchasing decisions, with many specifically holding back on buying higher-value products until the events started.
"What's happened is that you've had a lot of consumers this year being a little bit more careful about their purchasing because the economy is slowing down," explains Ben Cavender, managing director of consultancy China Market Research Group11. "This year especially, people were waiting for Singles' Day to make some of those medium-sized purchases that they didn't want to pay full price for."
eBay's Spend Trends Report revealed that 28% of consumers said that sales, promotions and offers will be a top factor in influencing what they decide to buy this year due to financial uncertainties caused by the pandemic12.
With consumers more cautious about their spending, consider what festive discounts and deals you can offer. Running an email marketing campaign to send your customers limited-time discounts will incentivize them to buy. If you're planning on holding a Boxing Day sale, add a countdown clock on your homepage so that visitors browsing your website in the days before are more inclined to come back.
Data shows that many consumers started their online holiday shopping earlier this year13, proampting many of the larger e-tailers to begin their Black Friday sales events earlier than usual. Amazon's Prime Day's move from July to October this year reinforced this shift further.
Consider running your holiday discounts earlier this month to entice customers – it's also a great way to shift excess stock. As for those customers who have left things until the last minute, offering next day delivery (and stating it clearly on your website's homepage), is a sure way to attract their business.
Chinese shoppers who have been unable to travel abroad this year due to the pandemic instead turned to Singles' Day to get their hands on foreign products.
Alibaba said, of the 250,000 brands who participated in its Singles' Day event this year, 31,000 were from overseas, prompting the platform's president, Michael Evans, to note: "[For e-commerce businesses,] a China strategy is going to be critical in the post-pandemic world."14
Beyond Singles’Day, cross-border sales on Black Friday were thriving too, driven by the event's adoption by countries beyond the US in recent years. Nosto15, a leading global e-commerce personalization platform, released data from millions of Nosto-powered shopping operations which revealed that, compared to last year, Europe's Black Friday orders were up +14%; APAC (Asia-Pacific) by +16%; and LATAM (Latin America) by +19%16.
Is your e-commerce website mobile friendly? Analysis from Adobe Analytics17 found that smartphones generated nearly 40% of online spending amongst US consumers from November 1-2718.
Similarly, mobile commerce thrived amongst Chinese consumers on Singles’Day with nearly half using two or more shopping apps on the day19. Chinese consumers are particularly keen on mobile live streams, something which many brands capitalized on this year to tap into the market. Integrating this feature into your e-commerce platform or posting demo videos of your products will resonate well with consumers there.
It's important to note that mobile e-commerce traditionally has a higher cart abandonment rate and lower conversion rate than desktop20. Barilliance21, which provides apps to help e-commerce websites offer personalized features, analyzed data from the e-commerce platforms it powers and saw this pattern globally on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday. On both dates, the cart abandonment rate across all devices was an increase on 2019, too22.
A big challenge for mobile e-commerce is the payment step, where a smaller screen can make the process more time consuming and frustrating. This is where it pays to invest in features that simplify the data entry process for your customers. Good visual design, clear labels, using autofill to populate form fields, and defaulting to the most appropriate touchscreen keyboard for each field will all help to give a better user experience. Remember too, that offering a range of payment options that offer shortcuts – such as PayPal23 – makes paying as simple as entering a username and password.
Beyond trends, there are of course lots of practical considerations for your e-commerce business this festive season. From upselling to packaging and delivery, make sure you can manage the Christmas rush with our dedicated checklist.
From everyone at DHL, we wish you a very merry – and busy – Christmas.
1 - Alibaba Group
2 - JD.com
3 - Singles' Day sales figures, CGTN, November 2020
4 - Black Friday sales figures, Tech Crunch, November 2020
5 - Adobe research, Digital Commerce 360, November 2020
6 - SEMrush
7 - SEMrush statistics, SEMrush blog, November 2020
8 - Reuters, November 2020
9 - Sustainability statistics, SEMrush blog, November 2020
10 - Allbirds
11 - Ben Cavender, Reuters, November 2020
12 - Christmas spend trends, eBay report, June 2020
13 - Forbes, October 2020
14 - Michael Evans, CNBC, November 2020
15 - Nosto
16 - Nosto Black Friday statistics, Nosto blog, November 2020
17 - Adobe Analytics
18 - Adobe Analytics research, Forbes, November 2020
19 - Mobile shopping apps statistic, Statista, November 2020
20 - Mobile conversion rates, Sale Cycle, February 2020
21 - Barilliance
22 - Barilliance cart abandonment statistics, Barilliance, December 2020
23 - PayPal