Cyber Monday and the world's biggest e-commerce events
With Cyber Monday just passed, we’re taking a deep dive into the e-commerce ecosystem, and the biggest sales events in the online world.
What is Cyber Monday?
Cyber Monday’s origins go back to 2005, when the term was coined by Shop.org, part of the National Retail Federation (NRF). They noticed that the Monday following Thanksgiving often saw an increase in e-commerce sales. No-one was entirely sure why, but one theory is that, in an era when smartphones didn’t exist and many households didn’t have a home PC, this was the best time to pounce on Thanksgiving deals without having to brave the crowds at shopping malls.
Whatever the reasons, Shop.org leant into this and started encouraging deals and bargains on online shopping on this day. 2005 saw sales of $484 million, more than doubling to hit the $1 billion mark five years later.
Today, Cyber Monday takes place every year on the Monday following Thanksgiving. In 2022, that’s 28th November. Last year, Cyber Monday saw online sales of $10.7 billion (although this was slightly down on 2020’s record total).
What are some other e-commerce sales events?
Black Friday takes place on the Friday immediately following Thanksgiving - i.e., three days before Cyber Monday. This year, that was the 25th November. Black Friday unofficially kicks off the holiday shopping season.
The official story behind the name is that Black Friday marks the day in which shop-owners’ accounts would switch from showing losses (i.e., “in the red”) to running a profit (“in the black”). However, this might not be the true story.
According to history.com, Black Friday’s origins go back to the 1950s and lie in the challenges that Philadelphia’s law enforcement department faced the day after Thanksgiving, when the city was inundated with shoppers ahead of the Saturday’s Army vs. Navy football game. So stretched were the beleaguered police that shoplifters had a field day, making off with armfuls of swag while the cops’ backs were turned.
Later - probably in the late 1980s - marketers discovered and reframed the phrase, positioning Black Friday as a day of discounted shopping. While traditionally associated with bricks-and-mortar stores, Black Friday is obviously also a major e-commerce event today. In 2021, it saw online sales of £9.42 billion in the UK and $8.9 billion in the US.
Amazon Prime Day
Amazon Prime Day is an online sales event pioneered by the e-commerce titan. It has modest origins, beginning life as a celebration of Prime members on 15th July 2015, to mark Amazon’s 20th birthday.
It is now a two-day shopping holiday, which for the first time happened twice in 2022; the first on 12th and 13th July, the second on 11th and 12th October. During the first of these, Amazon sold more than 100,000 items per minute to Prime members.
Other businesses, including direct competitors, often run competing sales events, making Prime Day effectively a shopping holiday not just for Prime members. For example, Best Buy’s “Black Friday in July” event ran from 11th to 13th July this year, directly coinciding with Prime day. According to Adobe data, total US e-commerce spend at all retailers across the first Prime Day event this year totalled $11.9 billion.
Prime Day, as well as being adopted by other e-commerce companies, is also now a major event for small and medium-sized businesses selling through Amazon. This year, such businesses’ sales growth outpaced Amazon’s itself.
How might this Cyber Monday be different?
According to Dublin-based e-commerce financier Wayflyer, 2022’s Cyber Monday could be impacted by various global factors, such as ongoing shipping delays from the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Additionally, postal service strikes could impact Cyber Monday in the UK.
Nevertheless, this year was still set to be a big one, and should have seen e-commerce sales getting back on-track after slipping in 2021. Adobe Analytics data predicted this year’s Cyber Monday sales to grow to $11.2 billion in the US alone, keeping it the biggest single selling day of the year.
Does that mean Cyber Monday is the biggest sales event in the world?
Actually, no. While Cyber Monday is the largest sales event in the US, it is dwarfed by Singles’ Day.
Singles’ Day (AKA ‘Double 11’) is a Chinese holiday, celebrated on 11th November (because the date, 11.11, looks like four single people). It originated in Nanjing University in 1993, as an alternative holiday to Valentine’s Day, and originally saw single people treating themselves to gifts. The festival has spread widely since, and now accounts for more revenue than Prime Day and Black Friday combined.
Singles’ Day’s growth as an e-commerce event was driven by the Chinese e-commerce giant, Alibaba. In 2009, Alibaba made Singles’ Day its flagship event, and enlisted a string of celebrities including David Beckham and Taylor Swift to pioneer “shoppingtainment” content on Chinese national TV.
2021’s Singles Day saw Alibaba and e-commerce rival JD.com take in a massive $139 billion sales combined. While neither company had released its figures for 2022 at time of writing, early indications were that this year’s event was in line with last year performance-wise.
Wherever you are in the world, Q4 truly is the most wonderful time of the year to be in e-commerce, and to be a buyer in search of a bargain. Happy hunting to all those reading: go out and bag those deals!