Retail in Asia

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7 major differences between Black Friday and Singles Day

The comparison between America’s Black Friday and Alibaba’s Singles Day is a little misleading. Typically, the comparisons only include online sales, which are huge for Singles Day and anaemic for Black Friday. In fact, the entirety of Black Friday weekend usually logs around $50 billion in sales, much more than Singles Day.

However, Black Friday is historically distinct and comes from a quite different place. Traditionally the day after Thanksgiving, the term ‘Black Friday’ originated as a complaint by Philadelphia police officers about the headaches caused by traffic jams on that day due to massive discounts by retailers.

SEE ALSO: Alibaba rakes up US$17.6 bn on Singles Day sales

To understand the two sales events better, here are seven ways Singles Day is different from Black Friday:

It is a real (if not official) holiday.

Singles Day has its origins as an unofficial holiday in which single people were supposed to treat themselves. In 2009, Alibaba took that concept and ran with it, eventually making it into a “treat yourself” day for everyone, couples included.

It is an event, not just a sale.

In a way, Singles Day updates the holiday parade and brings some spectacle back. Alibaba, for example, hosts a four-hour gala the day before, headlined by A-list Asian singers and other talent (last year’s version featured a cameo by Daniel Craig). Alibaba’s competitors, such as, do much the same.

It builds excitement.

As Jack Ma, CEO of Alibaba, has said, “[Singles Day} has evolved far beyond a 24-hours sales event. [In the weeks leading up to the day] consumers will discover, explore, play, watch, comment, share, recommend, and shop across our entire ecosystem with our merchants both online and offline.” As a result, brands are forced to ramp up massive promotional programs in the month before, in hopes of enticing people to put things in their carts.

It’s mobile.

Black Friday primarily sticks to its brick-and-mortar roots. It’s about going to a physical store, to shop through chaos and long lines. Most of the commerce on Singles Day is in mobile malls. As a result, telecoms have hopped onto the bandwagon (partially subsidised by Alibaba) and now provide free mobile bandwidth in the window-shopping phase of the event.

It’s global.

Singles Day may have started in China, but it’s rapidly moving around the world. Big celebrations now take place in countries such as Russia. A smattering of US companies already take part, and if consumers like, they can shop directly on 11/11 using the Aliexpress app.

It’s about deep discounts.

Singles Day discounts are huge, topping 60 percent in some cases. Black Friday discounts average around 25 percent—making it a much less compelling day to shop, especially given the long lines. Then again, as you might expect, Singles Day retailers often use the event to dump old stock, so buyer beware.

It is a logistical nightmare.

Some brands see 70 percent of their yearly revenue on this one day. As a result, the sheer volume of activity leads to a logistics and planning burden that requires months of preparation. Overnight offices become warehouses, every employee becomes a delivery person, and product can still take months to arrive.

(Source: Campaign Asia)