Global Shopping Data and the Black Friday Weekend

Were you one of the 130 millions of Americans who went shopping this past weekend, whether in store or online after eating your Thanksgiving feast?

What you may not know is that online U.S. shoppers were joined by consumers in over 140 countries and territories who also were buying from U.S. retailers. Despite the strongest dollar in years, the world still likes to shop the iconic U.S. brands. When we asked global consumers in thirteen countries why they shop cross-border, the top reasons were listed as price (40%), quality (27%), and better selection (26%). What’s holding some of them back?  Shipping (60%) and return policies (40%) are still cause for concern when it comes to cross-border shopping.

This past weekend, we watched real-time global consumer shopping data during the traditionally busiest U.S. holiday shopping weekend, and some of the trends we noticed include:

  • Has Black Friday become Black November? Black Friday shopping actually began earlier in the week. With a steady week-over-week build starting on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Black Friday still had the most orders of the week, with over 75%  increase in orders over Thanksgiving. Last year the spike between Thanksgiving and Black Friday was much more dramatic with an over 150% increase in orders between the two days.

What this means…Either by design or a little luck, retailers were able to ensure a smooth transition to the busiest shopping day of the year. Some of this was because retailers were starting some promotions earlier in the week including shipping offers that captured global shoppers’ attentions. It also meant that retailers’ IT infrastructures were not forced to deal with a surge of shoppers and systems remained for the most part ready for the volume.

  • Who made the top 10? The top ten countries for our U.S. retailers on Black Friday in alphabetical order were Australia, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Mexico, Republic of Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the UK. Some new markets showed fantastic year-on-year (YOY) growth for this year’s shopping season. The top countries in YOY growth during the Cyber Weekend were India (+173%), Japan (+73%), Kuwait (+99%), and Australia (+35%).

What this means…When U.S. retailers think about creating a cross-border plan, limiting the outreach to a few markets could limit success. The more reach across more countries and territories could mean pleasant surprises when managed properly.

  • What products created the success stories?   Promote the right product in the right market and magic can happen. While this is a truism any time of year, it is very pronounced across the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend. A few of our retailers over this weekend offered promotions on specific items and created increased interest from consumers in many countries. For example, over the weekend jewelry charms caught the attention of shoppers in China, the Republic of Korea and Australia. Flat-screen TVs were favorites among shoppers in India and Israel.

What this means…Specific items can spark interest in addition to general promotions. This can make the difference in ok sales to triple-digit growth over the previous year or even week.

When retailers start looking at plans for 2017 and next year’s holiday season, here are some additional takeaways from this holiday season:

  • Shipping promotions can be a stronger driver for cross-border conversion. As I mentioned earlier, shipping costs is the number one deterrent for cross-border consumers. When retailers offer free or flat-rate shipping, it can be the tipping point for consumers to hit the submit button.
  • Just offering cross-border on your web site is not enough. The execution of the end-to-end consumer experience is critical. It starts with creating awareness through a transparent ordering experience and including optimized shipping and clear and convenient returns policies.
  • Look at what will drive consumers to your site and find ways to promote whether through holiday gift guides, social media or even optimized search. And once you have their attention make sure that you optimize their experience and ensure that there are no surprises. You will be making many holidays brighter this way.

We still have a few more weeks to capture cross-border shoppers. We do expect continued buzz as shoppers look for unique gifts for loved ones this holiday season.

 Mike Ganci is Senior Vice President Client Management for Pitney Bowes

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