Black Friday vs. Singles Day: How they measure up
Franklin Chu
December 7, 2017

While American shoppers celebrate Black Friday, another shopping event dwarfs this annual retail event. Singles Day, celebrated in China on November 11, triggers more spending than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined -- and it’s creating new opportunities for US retailers.

Let’s compare Singles Day and Black Friday to spot emerging global retail trends -- particularly online sales growth on Black Friday in both the US and China:

  • What are these events?
    Singles Day: Biggest online shopping festival in the world
    Black Friday: One of the biggest shopping festivals in the US, along with Cyber Monday and Super Saturday (which falls on the Saturday immediately before Christmas).
  • Where are these events popular?
    Singles Day is already a pervasive, social phenomenon in China. It’s also becoming a globally-renowned event. In 2017, the campaign opened up to involve more global markets and retailers increased shipments to other countries.
    Black Friday is celebrated in the US and other Western nations have adopted this event. In addition, Black Friday is growing in importance among Chinese consumers shopping for overseas products.
  • When do these sales occur?
    Singles Day: Every Nov. 11, hence the nickname “11.11.”
    Black Friday: The day after Thanksgiving; in 2017 it fell on Friday, Nov. 24.
  • What’s the appeal?
    Singles Day initially allowed shoppers who are not currently in a relationship to celebrate their single status by buying heavily discounted products for themselves that day. However, now this shopping festival is for everyone. Retailers care about Singles Day because, “If you win China, you win the world.”
    Black Friday shoppers purchase gifts at a discount ahead of the year-end holidays, including Christmas. In China, Black Friday shoppers focus on buying overseas products at reduced prices.
  • 2017 sales results
    Singles Day sales totaled $38 billion. Singles Day initiator Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba sold $25.3 billion, up 39% from last year’s event. Its Beijing-based rival JD.com earned $19 billion.
    Black Friday earned $5.03 billion in online sales (and the day before, Thanksgiving Day, earned $2.87 billion , for a total of $7.9 billion), according to Adobe. While Amazon has yet to announce total Black Friday sales results, the event pushed CEO Jeff Bezos’ net worth to $100 billion. In China, Azoya saw a 26% increase in average basket value on the first day of the Black Friday campaign (Nov. 20, 2017) compared to Singles’ Day (Nov. 11, 2017) for websites from over 25 international retailers. Chinese consumers bought more high-end products and the sales campaign in China extended from Black Friday to the whole week.
  • Omnichannel results
    Singles Day: Mobile accounted for an astounding 90% of Singles Day sales this year, up from 69% in 2015.
    Black Friday: American shoppers spent a record $5 billion online in 24 hours, up 17% compared to 2016. Mobile sales accounted for 42% of total online revenue, up from 35% in 2015.
  • Most popular categories
    Singles Day: Best-selling categories overall include apparel and footwear, cosmetics and consumer technology. However, these results contrast with cross-border e-commerce top categories like mom and baby, healthcare and nutrition. The main competition is still among Chinese brands and retailers instead of overseas products.
    Black Friday: Shoppers prioritized electronics, toys and apparel, according to USA Today. Competition takes place among foreign retailers and brands selling online in China.
  • Opportunities for US and foreign retailers
    Singles Day: Although sales by international retailers accounted for 5% of total sales, this market share continues to grow.
    Black Friday: International retailers face significantly less competition from domestic retailers compared to Singles Day. Chinese shoppers embrace Black Friday to buy foreign products at more affordable prices.

For both events, retailers need robust logistics, competitive pricing and mobile payment for omnichannel convenience -- whether they sell in the US, China or elsewhere in the world.

Foreign retailers won on Black Friday

The following infographic shows foreign retailers selling in China through cross-border e-commerce sold more on Black Friday than on Singles Day. Chinese consumers are more likely to wait until Black Friday to buy international products at reduced rates.

Franklin Chu is the managing director of Azoya USA, a provider of turnkey cross-border e-commerce solutions to assist retailers looking to expand into China through a cost-effective and lower risk method.