- Singles’ Day is better equipped to reach a global audience because it is mostly an online shopping event.
- Singles’ Day exemplifies China's “trading up” trend, while Black Friday is more about big discounts and incredible markdowns.
- The use of cutting-edge technologies and innovative IT developments represents another significant difference between the two holidays.
I've often seen articles titled “Singles’ Day, China’s Black Friday” or “China’s version of Black Friday" when reading about the recently-passed Chinese shopping holiday. But the reality is that these two spending extravaganzas are far from similar, as each has distinct attributes.
For instance, Singles’ Day is a global shopping marathon, while Black Friday primarily happens in the West. In fact, now that it is the biggest and most successful shopping event worldwide, Singles’ Day attracts global shoppers from every continent.
In 2016, buyers from 235 countries completed Singles' Day purchases, according to Freightos. Since then, global awareness of the holiday has been growing steadily, and in 2020, 800 million global shoppers took part in Alibaba’s event (excluding JD.com). By contrast, the American version of Black Friday is smaller in size and mostly attracts US shoppers. An NRF annual holiday shopping survey shows that 114.6 million people intended to shop on Black Friday in 2019.
Singles’ Day reaches a global audience better because it is almost entirely an online shopping event. Accordingly, German, French, or Russian consumers can enjoy a seamless digital shopping experience by logging into their AliExpress accounts and placing orders for Chinese products. In contrast, Black Friday doesn’t offer that same convenience.
While some American retailers have drifted into the digital realm, not all of them offer international delivery. Moreover, their websites are outdated, and their online product selections are limited. Equally important, retailers reserve the biggest Black Friday deals and discounts for their physical stores; thus, international bargain hunters get left out.
With the introduction of Cyber Monday in 2005, US retailers did receive a much-needed boost from online sales. In fact, Cyber Monday online sales grew to a record of 10.8 billion by 2020. But this was only a 15-percent jump, year-on-year, a slowdown of the 19.9-percent growth of 2019. Meanwhile, the average Cyber Monday order value is still quite low last year (164).
Another big difference is that the American shopping event is decentralized, so every vendor has its particular product category and selection. Consequently, shoppers must browse different platforms and compare prices between various competitors on their own. But Singles’ Day simplifies the customer journey. And since China's shopping event is a fight between two distinguished rivals — Alibaba and JD.com — the shopper enjoys an improved e-commerce experience.
Equally important are the festivals' differences in buying behaviors and spending patterns. While Singles’ Day exemplifies China's booming “trading up” trend, American consumers identify Black Friday as a time for high discounts and incredible markdowns. In 2021, Alibaba’s luxury platform, Tmall, accounted for almost 58 percent of the total GMV during Singles’ Day, as per Statista. By contrast, Pinduoduo, the top bargain-hunting platform in China, accounted for about 6.4 percent of the total GMV.
And finally, the use of cutting-edge technologies and innovative IT developments represents another significant difference between these two holidays. While Alibaba and JD.com are integrating AR/VR features, real-time streaming, gamification elements, and machine learning services into their e-commerce, Black Friday has stayed the same old, boring shopping event. In short, novelty-loving consumers like Gen Zers and millennials should not expect anything new from the American event.
Lastly, Singles’ Day is an overwhelming shopping marathon that features concerts from globally recognized celebrities, hours-long livestreaming sessions, and a full calendar of festivities. Meanwhile, Black Friday has become associated with images of shoppers standing in line for hours in the freezing cold, waiting for stores and malls to open.