As leaves begin to fall, Starbucks launches the pumpkin spice latte and you start to get nervous about all the “Why are you still single?” questions you’ll get on Thanksgiving, there is only one thing on ecommerce merchants’ minds: Black Friday.
Being one of the biggest shopping holidays in history, Black Friday is awaited months ahead every year — not only by retailers but by customers all over the world. And the global pandemic has only contributed to the online shopping tendency and therefore to Black Friday, making it more online and international than ever.
Wait, wasn’t Black Friday just a US holiday?
Although it originated in the US, going back as early as the 1950s, Black Friday became a global phenomenon marking the start of the holiday season. Most people aren’t even aware of the fact that it takes place on the Friday following Thanksgiving each year as it’s a big hit even in countries that don’t celebrate the holiday.
To be more precise, 195 countries in the world currently participate in Black Friday in some form or another. Aside from the USA, the biggest spenders come from Canada, the UK, Ireland, and the UAE. And the notorious shopping holiday never disappoints to break yet another sales record every year, almost in every country that celebrates it!
Although most international customers don’t have the day off like US citizens, the fact that most of the Black Friday shopping is done right after midnight in countries like Turkey, Finland, Greece, Singapore, or Hong Kong proves that the day is highly anticipated.
Therefore, the importance of Black Friday can’t be overstated for international ecommerce merchants. Apart from increased sales, Black Friday helps international ecommerce stores to get discovered by overseas customers which makes the event more valuable than just a one-day success.
Which countries don’t participate in Black Friday and why
Although more and more countries are starting to adopt the Black Friday tradition, there are still some countries that prefer to stay out of it — for various cultural reasons.
As one can expect, many countries that are openly opposed to capitalism like North Korea, Venezuela, Iran, and Afghanistan don’t indulge in shopping holidays.
Whereas some countries such as Bangladesh don’t celebrate Black Friday as a protest. Being one of the main countries to provide manufacturing capabilities for many of the large US retailers, the high demands around November becomes quite overwhelming for the workers. Therefore the country doesn’t participate in the shopping holiday to protest the high demands.
Finally, for some other countries, the date marks more important, and sometimes dark events in their histories. For example in Burma, Black Friday is associated with a political crime, therefore it doesn’t have the same joyful connotation as it may have in some other countries.
Although the meaning behind Black Friday doesn’t vary as extremely in every country, this highlights the importance of localizing promotional messages for different audiences and not assuming that every customer will have the same reaction to Black Friday offers.
How will COVID affect Black Friday sales this year
The online shopping trend was growing exponentially even before the global pandemic but the closure of the brick and mortar stores and safety measures became a huge catalyst for the pivot to online.
Especially in countries that haven’t adopted online shopping as much as others, many customers entered the ecommerce scene for the first time. For example, in Thailand, downloads of shopping apps jumped 60% in just one week during March 2020.
This also impacted the way customers shop on Black Friday and we started hearing more about websites crashing than stores being ransacked. This new online tendency doesn’t only make it safer and more pleasant for customers to benefit from Black Friday promotions, but it also provides immense opportunities for ecommerce stores — particularly for those that sell cross-border.
However, when the gains are so big, everyone wants a slice of the cake. Therefore competition gets stiffer in the online world with stores taking every extra step to attract more customers. To help you stand out from the crowd on Black Friday, we gathered 5 key tips that will make a difference when it comes to making the best of the big day.
5 tips for international ecommerce stores
1. Translate your website
Black Friday provides the best chance for your store to be discovered by international shoppers. But the language barrier is one of the main hurdles that will stand between you and your next customer. With more and more stores going multilingual, global visitors don’t even think twice about leaving a website that they can’t read in their native language.
In addition to providing the benefit of making your store accessible and understandable, website translation gives credibility to your brand and reinforces its international reputation. And the best part is that it only takes minutes to translate your website and convert international customers.
Just in time for Black Friday 2021, you can start your 10-day Weglot trial and have your store ready to accommodate global visitors. In order to benefit the most from it, take a look at your website traffic from the previous years, especially around Black Friday time. Identify where your visitors are coming from and what languages they speak. Translate your website in minutes and see the impact!
If you’re already ahead of the game and have a multilingual store, it might be a good idea to check your translations and make sure that recently added content is translated too. Elements like promotional pop-ups and banners can sometimes go unnoticed but these are the most important messages that you want to have all your customers understand.
It’s also a good time to consider adding an additional language or two to benefit most from the busiest day of the year! If you’re especially interested in a specific market, consider using the custom languages feature to talk directly to your target audience.
2. Localize your promotions
Although Black Friday is celebrated by the majority of the world in 2021, it’s not perceived the same by everyone. As I mentioned before, even a simple message can put off your international customers based on the meaning they associate with Black Friday.
Likewise, a little effort to localize different aspects of your store and promotional efforts can go a long way. To make it efficient and manageable, determine which international audiences you’re going to target and research their behavior around Black Friday time.
Proven practices like multilingual web design, media translations, and multilingual SEO are likely to be more effective than usual so check our resources to learn more about them and how you can use these strategies to attract more international visitors to your store.
3. Internationalize your marketing campaigns
If there is a day where every business will go the extra mile to get customers’ attention, it’s definitely Black Friday. So although having a localized store is essential to cater to global audiences, the rest of your marketing efforts need to be in line with your international strategy too.
Email marketing is one of the most important tools for businesses during the holiday season so you should benefit from it when it comes to foreign customers too. From cold emails to after-sales support, localized content can mean the difference between a sale and a lost customer.
Social media is also an influential medium where customers expect brands to be active and vocal about their Black Friday promotions. With the new translation capabilities that social media platforms offer, it’s easier than ever to talk to global audiences from various channels.
Things like local hashtags and social media trends can allow you to get discovered by target markets and pave the way for record international sales on Black Friday. Finally, it’s worth considering forming strategic partnerships and trying out new platforms to gain visibility and attract customers in different markets.
4. Offer payment methods that international customers prefer
It’s truly a bummer when you find the perfect item on your Black Friday shopping list and as you’re about to check out, you realize that you can’t pay with PayPal, iDeal, or Swish. Although these may not be your preferred payment methods, for customers from different countries it might be the only way that they are used to paying online.
And since this is a crucial consideration for many visitors, it may lead to a concerning amount of abandoned shopping carts on Black Friday. To make sure that you won’t lose sales over this, learn ahead of time which payment methods your customers prefer to use when shopping online.
It’s also crucial to provide a seamless and secure checkout. A very important way of doing so is by translating your checkout pages. Customers are more likely to hesitate their purchase decisions if they can’t understand the payment terms and conditions clearly. In order to secure international sales throughout the customer journey, provide a checkout experience that reinforces familiarity and trust to your customers.
5. Optimize your shipping process
Shipping is another important consideration in international customers’ minds — especially around busy times like Black Friday when things are likely to move slower than usual. For the most optimized shipment process, it might be a good idea to work with local delivery companies and practice different shipping alternatives that might be preferred by foreign customers.
For example, methods like local pickup became more and more popular during the pandemic — making it a considerable option for ecommerce merchants to partner with brick and mortar stores. However, whichever method you choose to offer, it goes without saying that you should make sure it’s clearly explained and translated on your website.
The same goes for other crucial information like the shipping rates and policies. This clear communication should continue until the customer receives their package. The best way to help customers be patient with the busy delivery periods and shipment inconveniences that are likely to occur post-Black Friday is to be completely transparent about the status of their parcel.
Most of the time, clear communication from businesses can help prevent angry emails and unsatisfied customers. However, things don’t just end once the packages are delivered.
The return processes require the same attention especially as customers are more likely to return their Black Friday purchases that were made “in the heat of the moment.”
The way you handle the return process is actually very important when it comes to creating a trustworthy brand image. A seamless return experience can encourage customers to shop without hesitation and lead to increased sales. So even though you might prefer not to have any return requests, you can turn things around by providing a hassle-free experience.
As an ecommerce business that has a multilingual website (or planning to have one soon), you’re already one step ahead of the competition in the Black Friday race. Furthermore, if you play your cards right, you have more to gain than most of the other stores that don’t take advantage of localization.
And if you’re wondering what we’ll be doing for Black Friday, well, that’s a whole other story! Instead of offering discounts, we decided to donate 50% of all sales made on Black Friday and Cyber Monday to various charities, just like we did last year. So if you’d like to increase your sales by translating your website and also help us give back to those in need, you can purchase a Weglot plan or upgrade on BFCM.