Everybody loves a good deal. Nothing beats finding out that the thing you’ve been saving up for will be 60% off, and that feeling is even better when paired with the convenience of browsing deals with just a few clicks. E-commerce companies have been leveraging the same force that motivates shoppers to clip coupons to juice their sales numbers ever since Alibaba launched Singles’ Day back in 2009, six years before the first Amazon Prime Day.
No matter where you are in the world or what time of year it is, you can bet there’s a shopping holiday going on. But while Singles’ Day has spiraled into something closer to Singles’ Month (where Chinese e-commerce companies Alibaba and JD rack up over $115 billion in sales), in other parts of the world, some e-commerce holidays are verging on more hype than substance.
Meet some of the world’s other shopping festivities: White Friday, Big Billion Day, Consumer’s Day, el Buen Fin, and… Tmall Air Conditioner Festival?
White Friday is the Gulf’s answer to Black Friday — but without the negative connotations of the color black. It’s an event that kicks off the weekend in the region and falls on a day of worship for millions. Like Black Friday elsewhere, it’s the unofficial start to year-end holiday shopping in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Emirati online retailer Souq.com started the shopping holiday back in 2014, and in its second year, sales on the site topped a million items in just 24 hours. But why stop at one day? By 2019, White Friday had expanded to span more than a week, and now targets customers in Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, and Egypt as well.
Back in the 1980s, the United Nations designated March 15 as a day to grow awareness about consumer rights protection. But in 2014, Brazilian retailers adopted it as a special day to remind consumers of their rights to shop for deals and discounts.
Consumer’s Day also balances out the spending calendar as a counter to the concentration of shopping holidays in the second half of the year. Although the day has yet to come close to drawing as much spending as Black Friday, it’s just another way for e-commerce players like MercadoLibre to entice more Brazilians to spend online. In 2020, e-commerce sales increased 66% in the country, and MercadoLibre’s e-commerce revenue grew 90%, as the company embarked on gambits like launching its own air fleet in Brazil to get orders to customers within just two days.
It’s not Brazil’s only unique shopping holiday, either: The last Friday in April is Free Shipping Day.
Big Billion Day
In India, shopping platforms promote deals throughout the year. Discounting is so ubiquitous that Google called off its Great Online Shopping Festival in 2015 amid too much competition. Now bitter rivals Walmart-owned Flipkart and Amazon India — each owning a 30% share of India’s e-commerce market — tend to deliver deeper discounts during Diwali, when Amazon holds its Great Indian Festival and Flipkart has its Big Billion Day event.
But an increase in sales at that time can’t necessarily be attributed to better deals — people tend to shop during the festive season anyways, looking to spend their holiday bonuses during an auspicious period, especially for new electronics and household items like bed linens.
As the promotions become less meaningful, the platforms try to demonstrate their success with increasingly eye-popping metrics: claiming to sell enough smartphones to stack as high as 1,000 Burj Khalifas, enough light bulbs to power five Eiffel Towers, and extend credit to shoppers to fund eleven Chandrayaan missions to the moon.
El Buen Fin
In Mexico, the Buen Fin sales event was originally cooked up by the government to coincide with the Revolution Day national holiday in November. The weekend of deals slowly caught on, but mostly in physical stores: fewer than 5% of retail sales took place online. It took the global pandemic to really push shoppers in Mexico into e-commerce, and Mexican companies reported online sales were up more than 50% in 2020, especially for electronics like smartphones.
This year, sellers have even longer to tally their sales, and shoppers have even more time to realize how much they want to spend on a new phone — far from lasting only a weekend, this year the deal period extends all the way from November to the first week of January. Now that’s a long weekend.
On Tmall, a holiday for every day of the year
There’s perhaps no bigger online shopping festival than Singles’ Day. Named after November 11, or “Double Eleven,” and thought to originally be a celebration for single university students, the discount event draws a level of consumer spending that vastly outpaces Amazon Prime Day. Twelve years since its start on e-commerce giant Alibaba’s Taobao platform, the event is now a full-blown online shopping season for all of China’s e-commerce platforms. International retailers like Nike and Estée Lauder have caught on too, and the shopping festival has instigated celebrity partnerships (Billie Eilish did a Singles’ Day capsule collection with Urban Outfitters in 2019; Katy Perry sang at the opening gala livestream in 2020). Shoppers from Singapore to Abu Dhabi are served deep discounts — and even the chance at a free million-dollar condo — in an enticement to spend more online.
Though Taobao was the first to offer Singles’ Day discounts, it’s another Alibaba site, Tmall, that has taken online shopping holidays to new heights. On Tmall, there’s a promotion for every day of the year. From home decorations to wedding deco to… uh, baby travel, everything has its discount day in the Taobao universe. And we mean everything: August 8, for instance, is the 88 Car Festival. And March 3? That’s the Tmall Air Conditioner Festival.