As we enter a holiday season unlike any other, Black Friday looms large as a critical economic indicator.
This annual retail bonanza holds outsized importance on the marketing calendar. Omnicom Media Group and OMD have been surveying consumers since September about how the pandemic is influencing their confidence and financial stability -- and how that will impact holiday spending and brand messaging.
In uncertain times, smart marketers (and agencies) should heed the advice of Freakonomics author Steven Levitt: “Don’t just listen to what people say; watch what they do.”
By watching people’s e-commerce behaviors globally, a clearer picture of Black Friday and the holiday retail season emerges.
Singles’ Day in China as a case study
To peer into the holiday season, we first looked at Singles’ Day, often compared to Black Friday in China. The event has expanded to cover markets across the APAC region.
This year, Singles’ Day was a record-breaking year -- due to, rather than in spite of COVID-19.
Transactions soared across categories. Personal care and home cleaning increased by 3,000% year on year; 5G mobile phones were up 1,000% year on year; luxuries and fresh food were both up 500% respectively year on year; and smart appliances from JD and Suning increased 213% over last year.
And the growth wasn't just in China. Southeast Asian ecommerce platform Shopee’s Singles’ Day sales surpassed 2019 transaction numbers in under an hour in Singapore, and grew 81% year over year in Thailand
Consumer spend reflects government response
Shoppers in Asia indicated they had waited for Singles’ Day sales in order to spend more.
Pent-up demand is an emerging feature of major pandemic shopping periods. People are looking for items that can improve their daily lives, while mitigating economic concern.
But government pandemic responses seem to heavily influence consumer shopping appetite. In much of Asia, stringent controls have led to a V-shaped economic recovery, whereas elsewhere in the world the recovery appears to be more divergent.
Belt-tightening in EMEA, happy hour in Germany
In EMEA, three quarters of adults plan to spend the same on gifts this holiday season as in previous years, but searches for Black Friday deals are up significantly in multiple European countries, including The Netherlands (295%) and France (110%).
Per category, online sales of alcoholic beverages are likely to benefit significantly based on year-over-year lifts in search volume in several major markets. Germany stands out, as searches for alcohol soard 120% year over year by mid-October.
USA: the land of cautious optimism
In the U.S, the commerce spend appears to be tightening in Q4 as cases and hospitalizations rise.
The number of people planning to spend more this year dropped by eight points between September and October, according to our previous research. We also saw an increase in searches for online gambling and investing, as the country remains under financial pressure.
But Amazon Prime Day in October was a resounding success, generating approximately $10 billion in sales over two days. This suggests U.S. consumers still have an appetite for online shopping.
If there’s one thing that 2020 has taught us it’s that even the best prediction can be turned on its head. But the signals certainly point toward a robust Black Friday.