The online holiday shopping period used to run from Black Friday (which will be 23rd November in 2018) until the end of December (as it includes the post-Christmas product returns and sales, too). However, in view of the global take-off of Alibaba’s Global Shopping Festival, we will start this analysis with this event, which takes place on 11th November 2018.

Alibaba’s Global shopping festival

­­Alibaba’s 11.11 Global Shopping Festival (GSF), renamed from Singles Day in 2015, is an annual promotional event on Tmall to reward consumers via discounts. It is the biggest 24-hour online sale event both in China and globally.

Alibaba’s 2018 11.11 shopping event saw another record in sales, with $31bn revenue generated in one day. GSF's revenue increased 27% compared to the 2017 results (slightly lower YoY growth than the 34% growth recorded in 2017). Alibaba’s presence in South-East Asia, including during the 11.11 promotion, was strengthened by Lazada of which it holds a controlling stake since 2016.

Key highlights from the 2018 event were:

  • Total Gross merchandise value (GMV) was $30.8bn
  • Over 180,000 brands participated in the promotions
  • Over 1bn delivery orders were processed by Cainiao
  • 237 brands exceeded $14.4m in GMV
  • More than 40% of consumers made purchases from international brands
  • The 5 top countries selling to China being Japan, the US, South Korea, Australia and Germany
alibaba GSF sales 

Black Friday and Cyber Monday

According to the Black Friday report from Periscope (by McKinsey), in 2018 there was an impressive level of consumer interest in this sales event on both sides of the Atlantic. Event awareness was exceptional among UK (92%) and Canadian (91%) respondents, outstripping even that of US shoppers (88%) for whom the concept of Black Friday discounts is a long-established tradition. Black Friday is clearly a growing trend in Germany, where 78% of shoppers were aware of the event. Only in the US, Black Friday sales grew steadily from a very low base in 2010 (0.6bn$) to 5bn$ in 2017 with the largest growth occurring between 2015 and 2016 – sales grew 54% YoY in that period.

The ease and convenience of browsing retailer websites held the greatest appeal for the vast majority of consumers looking for deals on Black Friday. But browsing in-store came a close second for US (45%) and Canadian (47%) shoppers and was appealing for more than a quarter of German and UK consumers. German (48%) and UK (38%) shoppers will be the most likely to wield their search engine expertise when researching Black Friday deals. According to Periscope, this year Clothing moved ahead of all other categories to take the top spot on consumer shopping lists in all the countries we surveyed, pushing Consumer Electronics into second place. While digital remains strongly ahead as the primary method consumers plan to use when shopping for Consumer Electronics, 50% of shoppers in Canada and 54% in the US still favour offline shopping when it comes to selecting new clothes.

US Cyber Monday sales grew by over 200% between 2012 and 2017 with the highest growth occurring between 2015 and 2016 - sales grew 79% YoY in that period. Black Friday shopping in Europe isn’t only about Christmas presents. Consumers in most countries also take advantage of discounts for themselves. The most popular types of products purchased on Black Friday—and during the full holiday shopping period— include apparel, consumer electronics and toys/games.

Black Friday promotions were popularised in the UK and then in most of Europe by Amazon – it started offering deals on the day as of 2010. Not all retailers take part in the Black Friday deals programme – reportedly the UK retailer Marks and Spencer is one that is not too keen on the this shopping holiday.

The European Christmas Survey 2017 by Deloitte looked at when internet users in Europe were doing their Christmas shopping last year. The most common response was the first two weeks of December (27%), followed by the month of November (23%) and December 16-24 (21%).


Black Friday is growing throughout Europe, albeit at different speeds. In November 2017, payment provider Ingenico Group said that sales on Black Friday 2017 in the European Union would be 450% higher compared to an average Friday. Per country, this difference fluctuated from 1,240% higher in Spain, 925% in Greece and 320% in the UK. In comparison, Black Friday sales in the US would be just 160% more than an average Friday.

2018 holiday period: further growth and spotlight on mobile

In their report ‘Holiday shopping in Europe: Black Friday and beyond’, eMarketer stated that “mobile continues to be a driving force for e-commerce growth”. US retail m-commerce sales grew by more than 40% in Q4 2017, according to comScore. Total US retail m-commerce sales are expected to grow a further 32.7% in 2018 according to eMarketer. In terms of share of device type in purchasing online, smartphone will lead the list in the US for the first time in 2018 (accounting for 48% of all online orders during the holidays).

In the US e-commerce sales are expected to rise by between 17 to 22% through the 2018 holidays, according to Deloitte’s forecast. That would be higher than the 16.6 percent online retail sales growth from November 2017 to January 2018. Deloitte is predicting e-commerce sales by themselves could reach as much as $134 billion this holiday season, compared with about $110 billion a year ago.

Digital is the fastest-growing Black Friday sales channel in Europe, and it’s likely that some of that shopping also takes place on cross-border e-commerce platforms. In 2017, PayPal reported that close to half of internet users in Europe planned to make a cross-border digital purchase at some point during the holiday season.


Source:,, Holiday shopping in Europe: Black Friday and beyond, eMarketer, April 2018,