Black Friday and Cyber Monday

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The spending frenzy phenomenon that now has Australian consumers starting to spend big.

What is Black Friday?

Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving and, like the holiday, it originated where the consumer is always right – the United States of America. It dates all the way back to the early 1950s, when retail stores would kick off the Christmas shopping season with big sales. So big, in fact, that annual store profits would often tip into “the black” (hence Black Friday) once all the receipts were tallied. Shoppers came in droves because the day after Thanksgiving was typically a day off, making it the perfect day to shop. At the beginning, all the shopping was done in stores. Then the internet happened, and Black Friday quickly spread on-line and around the world. In fact, it is now the worlds unofficial start to the Christmas shopping season, and is recognised as the biggest single shopping day of the year.

What is Cyber Monday?

It’s called Cyber Monday as back when the internet was relatively new and online shopping was in its infancy, the internet was referred to as ‘cyberspace’. It’s hard to believe in this now on-line shopping world, but Cyber Monday dates back to just 2005. Back then; before it was normal to order anything and everything online, shoppers still needed encouragement to purchase over the Internet. Online stores began running their own big sales to compete with the brick-and-mortar juggernaut that was Black Friday. It was also held on Monday (and not Saturday or Sunday) as on-line consumer behaviour suggested that people like to shop while they’re at the office, using fast computers and high-speed connections, instead of the slow (and loud) dial up modems used at home in the early on-line days!

In a now on-line shopping world – are these days really the same thing?

The answer to this is both yes and no. The differences are still found in their origins. Black Friday was born in bricks-and-mortar retail; Cyber Monday was later coming and originally purely for the online business retail world. In the beginning, you’d hit the stores on Friday, then hit cyberspace on Monday.

With the astronomical rise of on-line shopping, all this has changed! Now, Black Friday is as much an online event as it is a brick-and-mortar one – perhaps even more so. Although plenty of stores still run “doorbuster” sales that require shoppers to actually show up, the online world has fully embraced Black Friday and that’s where the cash is.

However, it doesn’t go the other way and in-store sales generally only run on Friday, and really only in America. Cyber Monday is almost exclusively an online sale event.

Are these sales events relevant to Australian retail businesses?

Although massive in the States, and growing in momentum elsewhere around the world, it seems that Australia is taking their time to join the post Thanksgiving sales juggernaut.

Research conducted in 2017 found that Black Friday is currently not a big event in Australia and showed that less than 1 in 20 Australians (4.7%) were expecting sales, and more than 1 in 4 (27%) had never even heard of either day. Furthermore 40% of Australians said that Black Friday doesn’t really happen in Australia and most Australians (54%) don’t know whether Black Friday is online only or also in Australian based stores.

This same study also found that Cyber Monday had even lower awareness in Australia. Considering we are in a global marketplace and used to adopting retail trends from the US, the current low awareness of these sale super-days in Australia is surprising. However, the mass engagement with Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the US is really only a decade old, and so the years ahead, and the phenomenon of social media and direct email marketing, will see these days achieve a higher profile, and therefore a higher rate of participation, in Australia.

Things are beginning to change…

The above research was conducted in 2017, and it is relevant to note that as Australian retailers and consumers awareness grows  many more have decided to take part in the sales events. In fact a spokesperson for Amazon said Black Friday in 2019 was the biggest sales day in Amazon Australia’s history and  according to research from Finder, 71% of Australians planned to pick up deals on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Australian consumers are some of the savviest Internet shoppers in the world, due to the tyranny of distance and the influence of US popular media. Many are signed up to US based online and physical shopping destinations, receiving regular emails and social media communication from them. On the approach to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, these databases were bombarded with upcoming announcements. Therefore, more and more Australians are becoming aware of these sales and participating as a consumer in them.

In addition to this, some Australian online retailers have also started to offer their own Black Friday and Cyber Monday sale offerings – to their global consumer databases.

The future

As the world becomes more comfortable with online shopping, less defined by country boundaries and more of a global marketplace, the greater the participation in once country specific sale events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, will become.

If you are an online shopper, sale events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday will become a calendar event and Australian consumers will be one of the first to adopt and adapt.

If you are a retailer, especially on-line, it will pay to join the bandwagon, no matter where you are based – Australia included.

As Thanksgiving is not a holiday celebrated in Australia, an in-store response to a sale day is unlikely to achieve great results, so for countries like Australia, it will most likely be an on-line focussed sale opportunity.

The complexity of time differences must also be addressed for online retailers based outside of the states. However, this will be guided in the years to come by trial and error and customer behaviour.

The verdict

Should Australian online retailers participate? Yes, if they are prepared to go on sale in the lead up to Christmas. It is a perfect time to boost some sales and has a definite start and end time that will not affect a brands perception as being always on-sale.

Should Australian consumers participate – absolutely! But novices beware of exchange rates, international transaction fees and custom duties if shopping on US based sites!

Blogs, articles, website and journals that have been referenced when researching and writing this blog:

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Margot Stolle

Margot Stolle is a marketing professional with over 15 years experience within several different industries including: sports and events sponsorship; business and financial planning; and fashion. She also owns and manages her own brand of children's sleepwear which is e-retailed and has experience in designing and editing websites and managing social media platforms.

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