Origin of Singles' Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday
Singles’ Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are online and/or omnichannel retail events, designed to encourage consumers’ year-end shopping with a slew of deals, promotions and voucher codes. While these retail events have their origins beyond Southeast Asia and Taiwan, their global impact can be felt closer to shores. The industry’s rapid growth potential in the region is famously documented in last year’s research by Google and investment firm Temasek Holdings, with a predicted market size of at least USD88 billion by 2025.
Singles’ Day (11 November) is not created by Alibaba. It has its origins in China back in mid 1990s as a school event specially organised by singles, for singles. However, Alibaba did elevate the day to global fame, starting from an online sale in 2009, beating Cyber Monday’s sales figures in 2012 and on track to setting its next record in three days, after last year’s edition which concluded with USD17.8 billion in sales – all in a single day.
The roots of Black Friday had nothing to do with shopping. Its first recorded use was applied to the financial crisis in 1869 which bankrupted everyone from Wall Street barons to farmers in the United States (US). The more widespread origin story is that in late 1980s, retailers coined Black Friday as the day when they can finally earn a profit after Thanksgiving Day (the fourth Thursday of November), hence getting in the black. The popularised version of Black Friday was initiated as a brick-and-mortar retail event, characterised by snaking queues and huge crowds. However in recent years, Black Friday has morphed into an omnichannel retail event, with traditional brick-and-mortar stores adopting online marketing strategies as well as boosting their ecommerce offerings. In fact, the US National Retail Federation found that more Americans shopped online than in stores last year, resulting in USD3.34 billion in online sales.
Cyber Monday has a simpler history than Singles’ Day and Black Friday. The term was coined by Shop.org, a division of the US National Retail Federation, in a research study showing that the Monday following Thanksgiving Day was one of the most popular online shopping days of the year. Researchers believed that the phenomenon was due to people making use of their employers’ high-speed Internet for online shopping once they returned to work from the holiday weekend. Hence the birth of Cyber Monday in 2005, which yielded USD3.45 billion in online sales last year.
To investigate the impact of these global retail events in the region, ShopBack did a deeper dive using Google Adwords Keyword Planner to find out what consumers have searched for in relation to Singles’ Day and Black Friday & Cyber Monday in six countries – Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Taiwan.
Singles' Day: Top 10 Keywords in November 2016
As the group which brought fame to the day, Alibaba has evidently left its footprint in the form of Taobao and AliExpress across all six markets. Lazada was highly searched for in Malaysia, The Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand. Its popularity supported Alibaba’s doubling down of stakes to secure a place in this fast-expanding region. Interestingly, Tmall (天貓) only appeared in Taiwan’s top 10 keywords ranking.
Other findings from the table include:
- For Taiwan, online marketplace momo is the only non-Alibaba merchant which surfaced in the top 10 keywords list.
- In Indonesia, Lazada permeated through the top 10 keywords. However, it was not searched in relation to Singles’ Day, but together with “online revolution” and “11.11”.
- ASOS’ edition of Singles’ Day appeared to have performed well for Singapore, Malaysia and The Philippines, turning up as the top most searched term in the respective countries’ lists.
- ZALORA seemed to have done well for its association with Singles’ Day in Malaysia and The Philippines.
- If you search for “Amazon Singles Day”, as what Singaporeans and Malaysians did, you will find a large volume of articles comparing Amazon Prime Day with Singles’ Day as opposed to deals from Amazon for the day.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday: Top 10 Keywords in November 2016
The reason why Cyber Monday was combined with Black Friday in a single table was due to its relatively low search volume across six markets, which were insufficient to make any meaningful findings. Looking at the top 10 keywords for both days, Cyber Monday only appeared twice together with Amazon – once in Malaysia and another in Indonesia. At ShopBack, sales generated for merchants on Black Friday is more than two times larger than that on Cyber Monday last year.
The above observations reflected the disparity in popularity of these two retail events in Southeast Asia and Taiwan. Back in the US, Cyber Monday actually generated USD110 million more than Black Friday in terms of last year’s online sales.
Other findings from the table include:
- Local online marketplaces Blibli and Tokopedia have established strong associations with Black Friday in Indonesia, making to the top 10 keywords list on a day traditionally dominated by international merchants.
- Black Friday seemed to be more popular than Singles’ Day in the Philippines. Search volume for the top keyword related to Black Friday is more than 11 times higher than the top keyword related to Singles’ Day. This could be due to Filipinos’ high interest in the US brands as found in this article.
- “Amazon Black Friday” in Singapore had the highest search volume across six markets at 14,800 searches. “Taobao 1111”, which is the top searched keyword for Singles’ Day in Singapore, stands only at 590 searches.
- International merchants such as Amazon, Sephora and Forever 21 are highly searched for across the board.
- In all six countries, laptops emerged as the top product that people searched for. This is consistent with the trend observed for Black Friday back in the US.
OVERVIEW OF SINGLES’ DAY, BLACK FRIDAY AND CYBER MONDAY IN SOUTHEAST ASIA AND TAIWAN
From the top 10 keyword searches done for the retail events using Google Adwords Keyword Planner, we noticed that travel merchants did not make the list, which is surprising as flights and hotel bookings are also popular on ShopBack. With the burgeoning ecommerce growth and increasing popularity of retail events in Southeast Asia and Taiwan, we might see travel merchants jumping on the bandwagon soon. Hotels.com currently takes the lead in this effort with their Singles’ Day Shopping Carnival.
The research is limited to desktop searches. As the region becomes increasingly mobile-first, consumers could be participating in retail events directly on shopping apps. In Asia Pacific, research has found that 44% of consumers use mobile shopping apps. While it did mention that conversion on mobile is lower than that on desktop, the influence of mobile on consumer shopping behaviour is undeniable.
After all, what else do you carry 24/7 which marketers can tap on to generate top-of-mind recall and potentially incite swipes and taps?