It’s happening. Christmas is getting closer and we’re starting to think about gifts. We’ll do the usual panic shopping, hours slipping past in a blur of shop windows, unless you prefer to do your shopping from a comfy spot on your sofa? Compared to last year, we’re seeing higher numbers of online purchases–about 8 times higher — compared to in-store purchases. This comprises the days that traditionally kick off the winter shopping season — Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Black friday and Cyber Monday: the differences
Both of them are what we’d call true Americanisms, but they’ve been gaining traction in Italy for the last few years too.
The origin of the name Black Friday isn’t completely clear, but the predominant theory is that this Friday is ‘black’ because when it first started, accounts were kept by hand, and while red ink signified losses, black ink meant profitable accounts. The term caught on and continues to describe the most intense shopping days of the year. Cyber Monday, on the other hand, is more recent. It only dates back to 2005 and was created to urge more people to shop online.
This year, they fall on the 24th and 27th of November respectively.
How we’ll shop in Italy
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are no longer an exclusively American thing. Every year they’re taking over larger segments of the Italian and European markets. According to Riccardo Mangiarancia from the Digital Innovation Observatories of the Politecnico di Milano, online sales will reach €800 million in the 4 days between the 24th and the 27th of November.
In 2016, the majority of online purchases were made by men, who shopped from their smartphones in the evening hours. The average Italian’s budget is often spent mainly on high-tech products, although a significant percentage is also concentrated in other sectors like beauty and fashion. In addition, although there’s growing hype around Cyber Monday, Black Friday is still the more popular of the two for our consumers.
Amazon, Dalani, Ikea: all with discounts online!
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are increasingly extending beyond a single day, and sales are being offered over a longer period.
Amazon, for example, dedicates about 2 weeks to promotions: just a few days ago they started a countdown to Black Friday Week — so basically there are discounts added on top of discounts, until they peak on Friday. The Seattle giant announced that this year, 70% of reductions also involve the smaller companies that sell on the Amazon marketplace.
EPrice, an online platform for home appliances, came up with a Black Hour campaign, where for one hour a day from the 6th to the 23rd of November, 60 products will be sold for just 99 cents. The hour isn’t specified and changes daily, and in that time the site is often mysteriously down. IKEA on the other hand is letting its shoppers choose their favorite products with the highest number of votes, and those will receive further discounts during Black Friday week. Dalani, Maison du Monde, Microsoft (who are focusing their promotions on the Xbox One X which was released in early November) and many other e-stores have activated promotional campaigns online.
The importance of being optimized for mobile
According to Forbes, 40% of US sales last year in the period after Thanksgiving were made through mobile devices. They further confirmed that the brands who were most successful during this hectic shopping period were the ones whose websites were optimized for mobile. The majority of consumers search, compare prices and pay from their smartphone. And it’s predicted that this trend will only grow in 2017.
Shopping in China with WeChat
As a sort of anti-Valentine’s day, people celebrate ‘Singles’ Day’ in China on the 11th of November. The holiday was started at the end of the 1990s by a group of university students, but quickly became an excuse for parties and events where, of course, no couples are allowed. It was just an offbeat festival like many others, until the Chinese giant Alibaba decided to make it a day dedicated to online sales in 2009. It’s basically the eastern counterpart of Black Friday. In the last few years, Jack Ma, founder of the eCommerce giant, has been collecting one success after another, and his latest one occurred this November: transactions totaled 25.3 billion dollars in 24 hours. This figure is up 40% from 2016, and it makes American Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales pale in comparison.
In China too, smartphone payments were the undisputed top, so the sheer number of Chinese users isn’t the only reason for the boom. The key factor is the expansion of mobile online payments: apps like WeChat now represent the main tool for promoting sales, and it also gives Chinese customers the ability to pay with a simple tap of their phone.