Cross-Border E-Commerce: Leveraging sales peaks around the globe
Winter sale, summer sale, mid-season sale – it seems like local shop windows and online shop websites are plastered with new sales offers the whole year round. Yet, the most intense peak sale season is just around the corner and preparations are in full swing. You have probably seen videos of eager bargain hunters trampling each other to near death in shopping malls during Black Friday.
And although as of late it has become a global phenomenon, Black Friday is far from the only shopping festival around. As an e-commerce retailer, the world is your oyster, and you will be able to take advantage of enough great sales events worldwide to keep you busy all year round. Let’s take a look at the most popular ones!
Black Friday & Cyber Monday (US & Worldwide)
Let’s start with the US-American post-thanksgiving shopping frenzy that probably popped into your mind at first. It has also swept across the pond to other continents in recent years and many international brands and retailers now offer discounts in store, but most importantly also online. Whilst on Black Friday most bargain-hunting used to happen in brick-and-mortar stores, it has also made it into most retailers’ online shops to catch those who prefer shopping from the comfort of their own couch, a development which allows you to compete with local retailers even without a physical presence in the country. And as if that were not enough, there is also a day devoted entirely to online shopping: Cyber Monday!
These shopping events take place around the weekend following Thanksgiving Day (the 4th Thursday of November) and kick off the highly lucrative winter holiday shopping season. Your preparations should start months in advance: figure out early on which products to promote and what discounts to offer. Shoppers start researching products, reviews and recommendations as early as October,so make sure to advertise your best bargains on time to snatch a spot on their shopping lists. Whole websites are dedicated to helping people find the best deals, so it is worth investigating how to get on them. Consider changing your discounts over the course of the weekend, and make sure to keep people in the loop via newsletters and retargeting. It is a whole weekend where many potential customers will be in ‘shopping mode’ and allow themselves to splurge. Changing up your deals day by day will not only create a sense of urgency but also allow you to catch shoppers who might not have found what they were looking for the first time around!
Single’s Day / Double 11 (China)
If China is one of your markets, then you will definitely know about Single’s Day, which originated from a sort of ‘Anti-Valentine’s day’ on November 11th (thus also nicknamed Double 11 or 11.11.). In 2018, it again dwarfed all other events on this list, with sales of 30.8 billion USD online (compared to around 10.6 billion USD on Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the US combined).
If, on the other hand, this is the first time you hear about this event, I have bad news for you: It’s probably the worst time of year to just be ‘testing the waters’ when it comes to selling to China. Many of the peculiarities and challenges the Chinese market holds for foreign retailers should be researched meticulously, prepared for and overcome, long before you can expect to win big at this biggest of all online shopping events.
But once you have established your brand in the Chinese market, or are already well on your way, expect November to never be the same again. Whilst Single’s Day originally was an event exclusive to merchants on Alibaba’s marketplaces, others have jumped on the bandwagon by now and register record sales during this time. As with all sales events, preparation is key. You cannot start planning your offers early enough, as this helps you make sure you have the right stock at the right time, work out the best marketing strategies and ensure you do not get stuck when it comes to shipping your products. But most importantly, Single’s Day starts a lot earlier than November 11th: many of the merchants on Alibaba’s Tmall sites will launch pre-sales days or even weeks in advance, allowing shoppers to browse offers before the actual event, add them to their cart and pay a deposit to secure them until completing the purchase on November 11th. Getting in on this early action will allow you to make last-minute adjustments and when done right, will make sure that you do not get buried by the noise of the event day. Starting your marketing campaigns on time will also help you evade the inflated prices charged by marketing services and influencers during those days (that said, you should still invest in not disappearing completely close to the event). But what if you cannot sell the full volumes you had planned for the day? Don’t fret, as Alibaba has been adding more promotional eventsto its calendar, like the 12.12. event on, you guessed it, December 12th.
Boxing Day (UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand)
Yes, more winter sales. Only this time, bargain hunters are not looking to slice the price of their Christmas gifts, but mostly want to treat themselves after the busy holiday season. Boxing Day is celebrated mainly throughout the British Commonwealth states, usually on the 26th of December, the day following Christmas Day. On this day, many retailers kick off their winter sales with special Boxing Day promotions. They often open their shops early in the morning, and eager bargain hunters will already be queuing to snatch some of the deep discounts on offer. As an online merchant, of course, you’re not restricted to opening times to start your sales. In fact, many retailers on- and offline have extended the period to a ‘Boxing Week’ in recent years, so make sure you set up a pricing strategy that can keep pace until about New Year’s Eve. As mentioned before, updating stock and discounts during the sales period is also great for catching shoppers you might not have convinced during the first day, and especially when you have a whole week or more to play with, well-planned marketing can make your sales surge during those last days of the year!
Amazon Prime Day (US & Worldwide)
While it has not yet reached Alibaba’s Single’s Day frenzy, US giant Amazon annually celebrates a sheer 48-hour sales feast. First established in 2015, the rapid discount battle is exclusive for all their Prime members, boosting their membership rates. And they do well of pampering their annual subscribers. While regular, non-Prime customers spend $600 on average each year at Amazon, Prime members spend as much as $1,400 in products. Last year, Amazon also included external merchants’ online shops. Besides Black Friday and the Cyber week, this shopping event is to keep in mind when reaching for your European customers.
Be prepared: plan your stock and markdowns
The key to making the most out of sales events is preparation. You should have an idea of what items will sell best and stock up on these in advance if you can so that you will be able to meet rising demand. Plan your sales strategy by scheduling when and by how much to mark down which items, and when to end certain promotions. You can play with markdowns, too: if towards the end of the sale you still have items left that you want to ‘get rid of’, why not mark them down further? At some fashion retailers for example, where products only last for one season, markdowns will increase over the sales period, to make sure all (or most) stock is sold. It’s also an opportunity to add leftover stock from previous seasons at heavily discounted prices, especially if you do not have the opportunity to sell your products in outlet stores. Your customer service department should be prepared for an increase in enquiries. From day to day business you may already be familiar with the particularities of international customer support, such as language differences and the time difference. So, when your sales will hopefully peak during these events, you should make sure that you schedule the availability of your agents accordingly.
Be prepared: organise your logistics
Last but not least, you should organize well in advance exactly how your products will reach their new owner. This may seem like an especially daunting challenge if your customers are half the world away. But fret not, if you make sure of a few simple points in advance to the sales event, everything should be running smoothly. First of all, it is important that your customers are aware of possible duties and taxes, as well as international shipping fees, when making a purchase. Since during the sales period items will often be substantially marked down, this can have an impact on the duties and taxes applicable to the product. It is also likely that customers will seize the opportunity to buy discounted products in larger quantities to only pay for international shipping once. Your shipping rates should, if possible, reflect volume discounts to encourage these buyers to add another one or two items to the cart. It is also important to advise your respective shipping providers that you will be shipping increased volumes during the sales period so that they can plan in advance and make sure everything runs smoothly when the day comes.