Alibaba's success on Singles Day demonstrates the growing efficacy of these 'super sales days' in eCommerce. Held across the globe, they are 24-hour periods in which online sellers slash their prices to whip shoppers into a buying frenzy.
The online shopping phenomenon started in 2005 with Cyber Monday in the US, and was gradually adopted by other countries. However, these online sales promotions still experience glitches and teething issues as unprepared retail sites struggle to cope with the massive influx of shoppers in such a tight timeframe. On 11 November, 2015, high volumes of traffic caused the Target US site to crash temporarily, and even the highly reliable PayPal site experienced interruptions.2
Yet, it's clear that the benefits outweigh these interruptions. On Thanksgiving in the US, online shoppers converted at a rate 4.2 times higher than the October daily average; on Black Friday, it was 6.2 times higher.3
According to Grant Arnott, co-founder of Click Frenzy, it's not just price savings that drive people in droves to super sales days.
"These once-a-year events are exciting, and have a blockbuster feel to them. Daily deals sites, on the other hand, struggle because customers become fatigued very quickly. We save the best brands and deals for a one-off online mega-sale," he says.
If you're an eCommerce retailer with an international presence, then you can certainly make the most of these mega shopping days. First, it pays to know a little bit about each one.
When: 11 November, Singles Day
What: The biggest Chinese eCommerce event of the year and the world where, traditionally, single Chinese people celebrate not being in a relationship. Created by Alibaba, most shopping on Singles Day is done on Tmall and Tabao.
When: The day after Thanksgiving (the fourth Friday in November)
What: Since the 1950s, Black Friday has marked the beginning of the Christmas shopping season in the US, and bricks-and-mortar retailers have held big sales to celebrate. Traditionally aimed at in-store sales, 2015 was the first year that eCommerce topped bricks-and-mortar sales in the US.4 In the UK's 2015 Black Friday sales, online sales were over one billion pounds, up 35.8% on the year before.5
When: The Monday after Thanksgiving
What: Starting in 2005, this is the biggest online shopping day of the year in the US, with many other countries now participating. In 2015, many retailers commenced their sales one day early to cope with massive spikes in web traffic.
When: Mid-May and the third Tuesday of November (two weeks after the Melbourne Cup)
What: Originating in Australia, Click Frenzy is dubbed the "Internet sale that stops the nation". Starting in 2012, its first foray into market gained notoriety when the site, unable to cope with the 1.5 million shoppers logging on at the same time, kept crashing. Since then, the site has experienced huge growth after updating the infrastructure – 2015 was its best year ever with traffic up 39% on previous year.
But it's not as simple as posting a 25%-off sign on your website. Getting your website and your business ready for a super sales day is key to success.
Ben Franzi, General Manager, eCommerce Platforms and Marketplaces, Australia Post, notes the importance of planning your sales strategy – particularly if you're aiming for an overseas marketplace like Alibaba.
"Think about how you'll get your stock in sight of consumers. Research the marketplace's product listings and categories, and build a sales strategy that will cut through the clutter. You really need to create interest about your product in the lead-up to the event to generate sales," Franzi says.
1. Have an extraordinary offer. Don't just run with products from your catalogue to get through the event. Some retailers buy in new stock exclusively for the super sales day to meet consumers' expectations for something special.
2. Prepare your infrastructure. Make sure your web host can withstand a significant – at least triple – jump in traffic. Many cloud based services can cope easily with these spikes.
3. Ensure a clear link between the event and your landing page. When you go to all this trouble to join a super sales day event, make sure there is continuity between the event and your website, particularly if the sale event (like Click Frenzy) takes the shopper back to your site for checkout. The shopper will get frustrated and is likely to jump ship if they land on your homepage and can't find the deal advertised.
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