Black Friday remains the most significant pre-Christmas shopping occasion in Europe, and as more shopping activity moves online, stores can learn from how retailers in China have responded to the evolution of Singles Day.

While China’s huge sales day (which takes place next Monday, read more here) is becoming increasingly global, it has yet to have much of an impact in the UK. But “applying similar principles could help retailers to boost in-store sales during the Golden Quarter,” according to John Gillan, managing director/Northern Europe at advertising platform Criteo.

He observes how British consumers no longer expect to bag a bargain on Black Friday alone as they become wise to retailers’ efforts to entice them from as early as October with a range of devices such as pre-sale discounts, weekend deals, and early-bird offers – “in effect extending the sales period so in many ways a ‘Golden Quarter’ of shopping is now the norm”.

According to Criteo’s research, shopping days in the UK have peaked as early as the 7th and 15th of November, well before the Black Friday weekend, which in some minds continues to have associations with the “retail carnage” regularly witnessed in US stores a few years ago.

An understandable desire to avoid the crowds means that stores are seeing lower footfall. Alongside that there is now an expectation of an omnichannel shopping experience; Criteo data suggests that that last year over half of consumers (56%) were shopping for deals on their mobile – meaning that if retailers do want a spike on Black Friday, a seamless mobile experience is a must.

“To combat low footfall, UK retailers could take some lessons from Singles Day in China,” says Gillan.

“Its success in recent years has shown how well the ‘treat yourself’ shopping concept works, especially with younger shoppers. Our research found that almost half of UK shoppers self-gift.”

Criteo’s Festive Season Report includes a daily sales index for EMEA, based on average sales during the first four weeks of October 2018, which illustrates how shopping behaviour is changing: Black Friday spikes at 345, well ahead of any other specific occasion, with Cyber Monday at 195, Singles Day at 143, Boxing Day at 120 and New Year at just 71. 

Sourced from Criteo; additional content by WARC staff