Singles’ Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are online and/or omni-channel retail events, designed to encourage consumers’ year-end shopping with a slew of deals, promotions and voucher codes. While these retail events have their origins beyond Southeast Asia and Taiwan, their global impact can be felt closer to our shores. The industry’s rapid growth potential in the region was documented in a 2016 study by Google and investment firm Temasek Holdings, revealing a predicted market size of at least USD88 billion by 2025.

What is Singles’ Day?

Singles’ Day (11 November) was not created by Alibaba. It has its origins in China back in mid 1990s as a school event specially organised by singles, for singles. However, Alibaba did elevate the day to global fame, starting from an online sale in 2009, beating Cyber Monday’s sales figures in 2012 and is on track to setting its next record in five days’ time, after last year’s USD17.8 billion in sales in a single day.

What is Black Friday Sales?

The roots of Black Friday have nothing to do with shopping. Its first recorded use was during the financial crisis in 1869 which bankrupted everyone in the United States (US), from Wall Street barons to farmers. The more widespread origin story is that in late 1980s, retailers coined Black Friday as the day when they could finally earn a profit after Thanksgiving Day (the fourth Thursday of November), hence getting out of the red and into the black.

The popularised version of Black Friday was initiated as a brick-and-mortar retail event, characterised by snaking queues and huge crowds. However in recent years, Black Friday has morphed into an omnichannel retail event, with traditional brick-and-mortar stores adopting online marketing strategies as well as boosting their ecommerce offerings. In fact, the US National Retail Federation found that more Americans shopped online than in stores last year, resulting in USD3.34 billion in online sales.

What is Cyber Monday Sales?

Cyber Monday has a simpler history than Singles’ Day and Black Friday. The term was coined by Shop.org, a division of the US National Retail Federation, in a research study showing that the Monday following Thanksgiving Day was one of the most popular online shopping days of the year. Researchers believed that the phenomenon was due to people making use of their employers’ high-speed Internet for online shopping once they returned to work from the holiday weekend. Hence the birth of Cyber Monday in 2005, which yielded USD3.45 billion in online sales last year.

To investigate the impact of these global retail events in the region, ShopBack did a deeper dive using Google Adwords Keyword Planner to find out what consumers have searched for in relation to Singles’ Day and Black Friday & Cyber Monday across six countries – Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Taiwan.

Singles’ Day: Top 10 Keywords in November 2016

Singapore Malaysia The Philippines Indonesia Thailand Taiwan
1 taobao 1111 taobao 1111 sale lazada 11 11 sale lazada online revolution aliexpress 11.11 淘 寶 雙 11
2 asos singles day asos singles day alibaba singles day promo lazada 11.11 lazada 11.11 雙 11 淘 寶
3 taobao singles day taobao singles day zalora singles day lazada 11.11 lazada 11.11 光棍 節 淘 寶
4 taobao 1111 sale zalora singles day lazada singles day lazada 11.11 sale lazada 11 11 天 貓 雙 11
5 11 11 taobao lazada 11 11 sale aliexpress 11 11 sale lazada 11 11 aliexpress 11 11 sale 淘 寶 1111
6 taobao 1111 sale 2016 lazada singles day zalora 11 11 sale lazada online revolution sale 11.11 lazada 1111 淘 寶
7 taobao singles day 2016 aliexpress 11 11 sale alibaba 11.11 lazada indonesia online revolution aliexpress 11 11 momo 1111
8 taobao 11.11 sales 2016 amazon singles day taobao 1111 sale lazada online revolution 2016 aliexpress 11 11 momo 雙 11
9 amazon singles day aliexpress singles day asos singles day lazada 11 november taobao 1111 淘 寶 光棍 節
10 asos singles day sale amazon 11 11 sale aliexpress singles day lazada promo 11 11 lazada 11.11 sale 天 貓 1111

As the group which brought fame to the day, Alibaba has evidently left its footprint, with Taobao and AliExpress coming out tops across all six markets. Lazada was highly searched for in Malaysia, The Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand. Its popularity justified Alibaba’s doubling down its stakes in this fast-expanding region. Interestingly, Tmall (天貓) only appeared in Taiwan’s top 10 keywords ranking.

Other findings from the table include:

  • For Taiwan, online marketplace momo is the only non-Alibaba merchant which surfaced in the top 10 keywords list.
  • In Indonesia, Lazada permeated through the top 10 keywords. However, it was not searched in relation to Singles’ Day, but together with “online revolution” and “11.11”.
  • ASOS’ edition of Singles’ Day appeared to have performed well for Singapore, Malaysia and The Philippines, appearing as the top most searched term in the respective countries’ lists.
  • ZALORA seemed to have done well for its association with Singles’ Day in Malaysia and The Philippines.
  • If you search for “Amazon Singles Day”, as what Singaporeans and Malaysians did, you will find a large volume of articles comparing Amazon Prime Day with Singles’ Day as opposed to deals from Amazon for the day.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday: Top 10 Keywords in November 2016

Singapore Malaysia The Philippines Indonesia Thailand Taiwan
1 amazon black friday amazon black friday amazon black friday lazada black friday sephora black friday nike black friday
2 iherb black friday lazada black friday walmart black friday black friday lazada amazon black friday asos black friday
3 forever 21 black friday sephora black friday lazada black friday home depot black friday lazada black friday DW黑色星期五
4 gap black friday zalora black friday sephora black friday black friday blibli nike black friday dell black friday
5 dell black friday nike black friday ebay black friday amazon cyber monday adidas black friday asos黑色星期五
6 lego black friday uniqlo black friday walmart black friday sale godaddy black friday ebay black friday GAP黑色星期五
7 urban outfitters black friday walmart black friday zalora black friday black friday tokopedia apple store black friday shopbop black friday
8 fossil black friday adidas black friday newegg black friday fossil black friday asos black friday gap 黑色星期五
9 gopro black friday 2016 amazon cyber monday forever 21 black friday tokopedia black friday aliexpress black friday newegg black friday
10 newegg black friday asos black friday app store black friday sephora indonesia black friday godaddy black friday newegg black friday

The reason why Cyber Monday was combined with Black Friday in a single table was due to its relatively low search volume across six markets, which were insufficient to make any meaningful findings. Looking at the top 10 keywords for both days, Cyber Monday only appeared twice together with Amazon – once in Malaysia and another in Indonesia. At ShopBack, sales generated for merchants on Black Friday is more than two times larger than that on Cyber Monday last year.

The above observations reflected the disparity in popularity of these two retail events in Southeast Asia and Taiwan. Back in the US, Cyber Monday actually generated USD110 million more than Black Friday in terms of last year’s online sales.

Other findings from the table include:

  • Local online marketplaces Blibli and Tokopedia have established strong associations with Black Friday in Indonesia, making to the top 10 keywords list on a day traditionally dominated by international merchants.
  • Black Friday seemed to be more popular than Singles’ Day in the Philippines. Search volume for the top keyword related to Black Friday is more than 11 times higher than the top keyword related to Singles’ Day. This could be due to Filipinos’ high interest in the US brands as found in this article.
  • “Amazon Black Friday” in Singapore had the highest search volume across six markets at 14,800 searches. “Taobao 1111”, which is the top searched keyword for Singles’ Day in Singapore, stands only at 590 searches.
  • International merchants such as Amazon, Sephora and Forever 21 are highly searched for across the board.
  • In all six countries, laptops emerged as the top product that people searched for. This is consistent with the trend observed for Black Friday back in the US.

Overview of Singles’ Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday in Southeast Asia and Taiwan

From the top 10 keyword searches done for the retail events using Google Adwords Keyword Planner, we noticed that travel merchants did not make the list, which is surprising as flights and hotel bookings are also popular on ShopBack. With the burgeoning e-commerce growth and increasing popularity of retail events in Southeast Asia and Taiwan, we might see travel merchants jumping on the bandwagon soon. Hotels.com currently takes the lead in this effort with their Singles’ Day Shopping Carnival.

The research is limited to desktop searches. As the region becomes increasingly mobile-first, consumers could be participating in retail events directly on shopping apps. In Asia Pacific, research has found that 44% of consumers use mobile shopping apps. While it did mention that conversion on mobile is lower than that on desktop, the influence of mobile on consumer shopping behaviour is undeniable. After all, what else do you carry 24/7 which marketers can tap on to generate top-of-mind recall and potentially incite swipes and taps?

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