Black Friday: More Important than Singles Day?

As brands and retailers tally up their sales figures from this year’s Singles Day, cross-border e-commerce players are preparing for another big holiday: Black Friday.

by Azoya Consulting

As brands and retailers tally up their sales figures from this year’s Singles Day, cross-border e-commerce players are preparing for another big holiday: Black Friday.

Black Friday is the largest sales event of the year for cross-border e-commerce, and incumbent players such as Tmall Global, JD Worldwide, and Netease Kaola are all preparing for the big day. Tmall Global even started launching Black Friday promotions on November 19, four days before the actual date[1].  

We discuss why Black Friday is so important for cross-border e-commerce players and how brands and retailers should prepare.

Black Friday campaigns in China are more targeted and focused on cross-border e-commerce

Black Friday is very different from Singles Day. Because of the large number of people and brands involved on Singles Day, the competition for traffic is fiercer and it is difficult for brands to stand out.

Consumers buy on Singles Day for low prices and are less likely to be loyal to your brand in the future. Since brands are pressured by marketplaces to heavily discount their goods on Singles Day, many come away with little or no profits.

Black Friday is a different story. Campaigns are focused on cross-border e-commerce, where customers purchase imported products such as cosmetics, health supplements, and mom & baby goods such as milk powder.


Tmall Global’s front page displays A2 milk powder promotion for Black Friday

Black Friday consumers in China are more loyal to brands when compared to Singles Day and are looking for quality

The customer base for Black Friday is much more targeted - they tend to be wealthier, better educated consumers based in Tier 1 & 2 cities, according to the 2018 Customers Come First report we published last year. They look for quality goods and are more likely to be loyal to a brand because of its perceived quality. Black Friday data from last year shows that 91% of consumers made purchases because of quality reasons, whereas just 63% cited discounts as a major reason.

why black friday last year.png

Brands and retailers should not discount their goods too heavily or risk hurting customers’ perception of their brand. Lower prices are only one factor why Chinese consumers purchase through cross-border e-commerce.

International Brands Get More Bang for Their Buck on Black Friday in the China Market

Since there are less brands competing for traffic on Black Friday, there is less pressure to discount goods. This means that transactions on Black Friday are likely to be more profitable than those on Singles Day.

Additionally, marketing costs for brands and retailers are lower on Black Friday, compared to Singles Day. Ad bidding and KOL marketing costs skyrocket in the weeks leading up to Singles Day; data shows that KOL marketing costs for WeChat beauty influencers jumped 360% for 2016’s Singles Day campaigns[2].

Azoya’s own retail network consists of global retailers selling to Chinese consumers through cross-border e-commerce. While 2017 Singles Day transactions grew by 44% in value over the previous year last year, Black Friday transactions jumped in value by 88%, with the average basket value being 26% higher than that of Singles Day.

Altogether, Azoya’s Black Friday campaigns last year generated 320% more GMV than Singles Day, demonstrating that Black Friday provided much better results for Azoya’s retail partners.

Fake Goods and Slow Logistics Were Top Complaints During Last Year's Black Friday

How should international brands and retailers prepare for Black Friday? One can look to last year’s results to see what did and didn’t work. Fake goods and slow logistics were top reasons for complaints on cross-border e-commerce platforms last year.

Nearly 47% of complaints on Black Friday last year came from customers shopping on social commerce platform Little Red Book, citing problems with fake goods, slow fulfillment, and difficult return procedures. Little Red Book has had issues with scaling its cross-border e-commerce business, though its recent partnership with Alibaba may improve things for the better. Amazon and Tmall Global also ran into the same issues, albeit to a lesser extent.

why complain black friday.png

This year, Tmall Global is upgrading its track-and-trace authentication services, which enable customers to trace the origin of their purchased products by scanning a code with their smartphones[3]. Earlier this year announced that it would begin to incorporate blockchain technology into its procurement processes in order to authenticate items imported from abroad[4]. These new services may become more commonplace over time and brands and retailers should consider adopting them in the future.

Brands and retailers should also stock inventory well ahead of time to ensure that they don’t run out of products during the high-volume holiday season. Some marketplaces penalize merchants heavily if they run out of products or can’t ship on time.

Some of Azoya’s retail partners are stocking top-selling products in Hong Kong warehouses so that orders can be fulfilled more quickly during peak times. This is a good idea for retailers with more experience and data, as it enables them to predict demand for certain products ahead of time. Keep in mind that the e-commerce industry in China holds sales promotions for Double 12 (12/12) and Christmas, so any leftover inventory can be sold then as well.

Key Takeaways

1.     Black Friday provides a better opportunity for more targeted campaigns focused on cross-border e-commerce customers. The customer base is more brand-loyal and looking for quality goods. Avoid heavy discounting or else it could hurt consumers’ perception of your brand.

2.     Black Friday marketing costs are lower than those of Singles Day. There is less pressure to discount goods on marketplace platforms and KOL marketing costs are also lower. Those looking for higher ROI on their marketing spending should consider shifting more resources from Singles Day to Black Friday.

3.     Fake goods and slow logistics are a major pain point for cross-border customers. Brands and retailers should assure consumers that their products are authentic and of the highest quality. They should also consider stocking top-selling goods in Hong Kong to ensure that logistics doesn’t pose a problem during peak periods. Any leftover inventory can be sold during promotions for Double 12 (12/12) and Christmas.


[1] “天猫国际黑五来袭 活动规则及玩法在这里.” 19 Nov 2018. Ebrun. 21 Nov 2018 <>

[2] “KOLs in China: Tips and Trends for WeChat and Weibo.” 26 Aug 2017. Jing Daily. 26 Oct 2018 <>.

[3] “阿里云IoT全球追踪技术全球首发,亮相双十一.” 24 Oct 2018. Yuekefu. 26 Oct 2018 <>.

[4] “京东实现跨境全追溯.” 30 Mar 2018. Sohu. 26 Oct 2018 <>.

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