As a minimalist, it is only natural that I be more interested in Giving Tuesday than in Black Friday or Cyber Monday. But I am only human, so when there is something that I do want/need to purchase I like to save a buck like every other person -and thus keep track of deals and offers just in case.

Although the three aforementioned dates are native to the U.S., they have found their way to (most of) the rest of the Western world, and have thus become global phenomena -keeping the English nomenclature, even if poorly understood in non-English speaking countries.

Probably, though, the most popular of the three is (still) Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year in the United States for many years -and for many reasons:

  • as the first day after the last major holiday before Christmas, it marks the unofficial beginning of the Christmas shopping season
  • many employers give their employees the day off as part of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend
  • most retailers extend beyond normal hours (opening as early as 12:00am or remaining open overnight on Thanksgiving Day) in order to maintain an edge or to simply keep up with the competition

In fact, some stores are opening so early in the evening of Thanksgiving Day that some people began to call it -even if in jest- Black Thursday. What is funny though, is that decisions such as that did not benefit Black Friday at all: more to the contrary, it created a certain amount of backlash, which in part explains the diminishing popularity of this once huge commercial event.

That and the unstoppable growth of e-tailers and e-commerce (expected to grow 56% from 2015-2020, while traditional markets are only expected 2% growth during the same time), which allows customers to overcome geographical barriers and to purchase products anytime and from anywhere. The sales figures for 2017 (U.S.) leave little margin for doubt:

  • a record $5.03 billion was spent online on Black Friday, an increase of 16.9 percent over last year and a new record for the day (but note that a good deal of that shopping took place on the websites of physical retailers)
  • a record $6.59 billion was spent online on Cyber Monday, an increase of 16.8 percent over 2016, making it the largest online shopping day in history and nearly a billion dollars more than last year at $5.6 billion

That trend is especially made clear by the growth of purchases that occur from a couch or dining room table, siphoning sales from Black Friday. Yes, I am referring to the shopping done using smartphones and/or tablets -which this year already accounted for 36.9 percent of all online sales: on Cyber Monday, mobile commerce set a new record, with its first $2 billion day, a 39.2 percent growth over 2016.

Billions and billions of dollars, astronomical amounts and staggering growth, and yet… take a look at this chart:

See that huge green bar? Yes, that bar is way bigger than the other two (Black Friday and Cyber Monday) combined. That green bar represents sales for China’s Alibaba corporation, a digital powerhouse that made $25.3 billion in sales this year on a single day, November 11.

Amazing, considering that the Chinese Singles’ Day started only in 2009 as a “quirky” anti-Valentines Day shopping event. Huge growth and a quick expansion to many other countries -where merchants seem avid to find an excuse (any excuse, for that matter) to push their merchandise and reduce stocks.

But what I find most amazing is the even bigger growth of e-commerce on mobile devices that day: in 2013, only 21% of Singles’ Day sales came from mobile devices. But that percentage point grew quickly; 42.60% in 2014, 68% in 2015, 82% in 2016, and 90% in 2017. Impressive.

A growth that -no doubt- represents a clear indication of the direction shopping is moving towards. And China is setting the pace, even though only about half their population are connected to the internet (95% of them from their phones). Now, just imagine the future of shopping when the other half also go online. Brick-and-mortar retailers can start trembling. I would.