International ecommerce

What to expect from the 2020 holiday season

What to expect from the 2020 holiday season
Merve Alsan
Written by
Merve Alsan
Merve Alsan
Written by
Merve Alsan
Merve Alsan
Reviewed by
Updated on
June 19, 2023

2020 proved to everyone how much of a difference a year can make. Many are glad that it’s finally coming to an end —especially global ecommerce owners. But for different reasons than you might think.

For ecommerce businesses, the November and December holiday season is the most critical time of the year for boosting sales. Considering that ecommerce was performing on a holiday-like level every day in 2020, one can only imagine what to expect from this year’s holiday season.

But to help you prepare for the most profitable time of the year, we did more than imagining. With valuable data and insights, in this article, we’ll walk you through the most important global ecommerce dates of 2020.

If you’re ready, let’s jump right into the holiday season!

Amazon Prime Day 2020 (October 13-14)

Amazon has come a long way since the first item was ordered online on the platform in 1995. Fast-forward to today and the company’s global ecommerce sales are expected to reach $416.48 billion in 2020. It’s not surprising considering that the socially distant world relies heavily on ecommerce.

Therefore, Amazon Prime Day — a shopping event held exclusively for Amazon’s Prime members — was highly anticipated this year. It first started in 2015 and quickly became one of the biggest internet shopping holidays. The company has been seeing massive sales each year since.

However, things are a bit different this year. For starters, the event took place on 13-14 October and not in mid-July as it typically does. This delay was necessary as holding the event in July would have been a real challenge for the company due to the coronavirus constraints. Amazon struggled with serious fulfillment and supply chain challenges this year due to the pandemic. 

Still, the company is expected to see sales of close to $10 billion on Prime Day 2020, which is a 43% increase from last year. According to Salesforce, the later that Prime Day gets pushed, the more of a threat it’s to Cyber Week (more on that later), and Prime Day 2020 can steal up to 10% of Cyber Week’s digital revenue.

Also for the first time ever this year, Amazon put special emphasis on supporting small businesses and said that anyone who spends $10 on products from selected small businesses in the weeks before Prime Day will be eligible to claim $10 credit to spend on October 13 or 14. Given the amount of traffic on Prime Day, this was a major support to small businesses.

Singles’ Day 2020 (November 11)

Although not as popular in the West, Singles’ Day is the biggest online sales event in the world, outstripping Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined. As the name suggests, it’s a celebration of a person’s singledom — an anti-Valentine’s so to speak.

It was founded in the 1990s by Chinese university students and the date 11/11 was chosen as it looks like a group of lonely sticks. Today, the holiday is one of the most important shopping events thanks to the marketing efforts of Chinese ecommerce platform Alibaba.

It’s especially a great opportunity for cross-border ecommerce stores that are selling to China as Chinese customers are known to love shopping from overseas. A study found that 78% of Chinese shoppers are buying from the US; 72% from the UK, Australia, Germany, and France; and 70% from Japan.

The research also found that 60% of shoppers from China who have bought overseas do so for quality, followed by product authenticity and brand names. Furthermore, the average order value of a cross-border purchase is 17% higher than the domestic average order value.

It’s so big in China that on Single’s Day 2015, Alibaba broke a Guinness World Record for the highest online sales revenue generated by a single company in 24 hours at $14 billion. But could we possibly see a new record this year due to the spike in divorce filings in China?

In fact, according to research firm Fung Global Retail and Technology, Alibaba is expected to generate $20 billion in sales on Singles’ Day this year — more power to singles! This naturally caught the attention of western companies and more brands are now advertising and offering deals for the event in 2020 in efforts to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus. 

Although it’s a big opportunity for western brands as well, it’s important to keep in mind that localization is crucial. For example, British retailers should be sensitive to the fact that November 11th is Remembrance Day. Although it’s not a national holiday, it’s a date etched in British society for remembering those affected by World War I. So the uninformed efforts to rebrand this as Singles’ Day might appear offensive and possibly backfire. 

Black Friday (November 27)

The day after Thanksgiving signals the beginning of the Christmas shopping season in the US since 1952. Now it’s called “Black Friday” and thanks to ecommerce, it’s an international shopping event. And it’s one that you simply can’t ignore. 

You might be thinking about the crazy crowds, people lining up in the dark, and cringe-worthy fights for products on sale, but it seems unlikely that there will be in-store events on Black Friday this year. Retailers like Walmart, Target, Best Buy, and others have already announced that they will be closed on Thanksgiving. So, it looks like Black Friday will be mostly an online shopping event for now.

It should be a smooth transition though as online Black Friday sales have already been on the rise since 2016. Last year — those good old times when there was no global pandemic —  more Americans shopped online during Thanksgiving weekend than in physical stores. 

However, it’s no longer a shopping holiday exclusive to America. The expansion of big commercial chains such as Walmart around the world has led more countries adopting Black Friday.

For example, Black Friday sales grew more than 376% in the past five years in Argentina and South Africa was on the top of the list of most online searches for Black Friday this year according to Google Data.

Other than the USA, the biggest spenders come from Canada, the UK, Ireland, and the UAE. In the United Kingdom, the increase in sales on Black Friday compared to an ordinary day is as high as 1708%, in the RSA it’s 1952%, and finally, in Germany, it’s 2418%!

Cyber Monday (November 30)

Cyber Monday, also known as Blue Monday, is yet another made-up shopping holiday that takes place on the Monday after the Thanksgiving holiday. The term “Cyber Monday” was found in 2005 by, the online arm of the National Retail Federation (NRF).

They realized that online sales usually spike on the Monday after Thanksgiving in prior years. This was attributed to the fact that people see items in stores over the weekend, but they prefer to avoid the crowds and wait until Monday to buy them at work where they had computers with faster internet connections. You might be confused to hear that but let me remind you that this was back in the early 2000s. 

So the marketing geniuses behind the idea promoted it as the online version of Black Friday and it quickly got popular. It’s now surpassing even Black Friday in terms of revenue and sales.

Cyber Monday — as the name suggests, has traditionally been more focused on new technology, electronics, and gaming. And guess what industry thrived during the pandemic? You guessed it — gaming.

In a study by the Startup Genome, gaming companies were among the few industries expecting to come out of the crisis stronger with a revenue increase of 10 percent or more. So it’s safe to expect new record sales this year.

Last year, Amazon said that Cyber Monday was the company’s single biggest shopping day in history, based on the number of items it sold globally. But Amazon isn’t the only one taking advantage of Blue Monday.

According to Adobe Analytics data, Cyber Monday’s online sales across all retailers reached $9.4 billion, making it the biggest US online shopping day in history. And it’s expected that Cyber Monday ecommerce sales will hit 10 billion this year. 

Just like Black Friday, Cyber Monday is also no longer a USA-only shopping holiday. Cyber Monday has been adopted by countries like Canada, France, Japan, Australia, Colombia, and the UK. Therefore it’s a great opportunity for ecommerce businesses to reach new markets and increase revenue.

Our top tips to prepare for the holiday season

Although expectations are high for the 2020 holiday season, a boost in sales is not guaranteed. You still have to do your homework and work for it. It will be even more challenging this year due to additional considerations.

So we gathered up our top tips to help you be at your best for the 2020 holiday season!

1. Provide an excellent user experience

More opportunities also mean more competition. Customers now expect online stores to provide a seamless shopping experience. And a very needed element to do so is personalization. By talking directly to individual customers, you can stand out from the holiday crowd.

And it definitely pays off. According to Instapage, personalized homepage promotions influence 85% of consumers to buy, while personalized shopping cart recommendations influence 92% of shoppers online. So take a look at your data and focus on providing a unique shopping experience to each customer.

You should also be aware of the fact that there is a strong variation in the way consumers in different countries pay online. Not being able to pay in their preferred method might be the reason a customer abandons their cart.

In fact, Barillance studied more than 18 million ecommerce sessions from Black Friday through Cyber Monday and found that the average overall abandonment rate for all countries was 72.5%. According to Skrill, this is a direct result of factors such as lack of payment options or a long and complex payment process.

To decrease the abandonment rate, make sure to offer a variety of payment options and currencies that your international customers might prefer. For example, digital buyers in Canada preferred credit cards, UK buyers chose debit cards and those in Italy opted for digital wallets like PayPal when shopping online during the outbreak.

Finally, an important point to consider is your ecommerce store infrastructure. Your website should be able to handle the massive holiday traffic. There is no point preparing great offers if your website will crash in the middle of it all. So do a round of load testing and make sure that everything will work smoothly before the big day comes.

2. Understand the new customer behavior

Customers’ needs and behaviors are changing — can you blame them? With lockdown orders, social distancing and the looming economic recession, there are now different considerations on customers’ minds. Adapting to these changes can mean the difference between a sale and an abandoned cart for ecommerce businesses. 

One of the biggest problems online customers experienced this year was shipping delays. With supply chain disruptions and higher-than-ever demands, meeting the promised delivery dates became harder than ever.

Although it might not be possible to always deliver on time, customers will still want to know when (or if) they’re going to receive their orders. By keeping them updated on their order status and pickup instructions, you can ensure customer satisfaction despite delays over the holiday season.

Even though people are ready to spend money at this time of the year, financial concerns are still a big consideration. People became more mindful of their spending habits this year due to economic challenges. 50% of consumers now rank financial security as one of their top three concerns which is a rise of 36% since March 2020.

A good way to overcome this concern is using promos and coupons as it makes consumers feel like they’ve got a “deal.” In fact, promos and coupon codes are found to be the number one factor influencing holiday purchases.

And this year, consumers will value them even more. According to Marketing Dive, marketers increased the overall digital distribution of coupons by 27% to match consumers’ shift toward mobile and online.

Personalization comes in handy for coupons as well. Successful coupon strategies rely on insights into consumers’ shopping and spending habits. To secure a boom in your sales during the holiday season, do your research and offer personalized promos and coupons.

3. Get ready for international customers

Thanks to ecommerce, you can have shoppers from all over the world visiting your store. But it doesn’t mean that they will purchase your products. Especially if you don’t make the effort to attain them.

Your first step should be translating your website because 72% of consumers spend most or all of their time on websites in their own language. With more businesses going multilingual, there is no reason for a customer to waste their time trying to understand an English-only website. 

But it doesn’t just end with translation. Apart from language, every country has its own holidays and ways of celebrating them. In China, for example, the most important holiday of the year isn’t Christmas, but rather Lunar New Year. And while Thanksgiving is very important in the USA, there are only 5 other countries in the world that also celebrate it.

By being aware of these important cultural nuances, you can win over your international customers during the holiday season. Because when you localize your content, you no longer look like a foreign website. 

And customers are more likely to shop from a website that feels familiar to them. In fact, Localization Industry Standards Association (LISA) found that on average every €1 spent on localizing your website yields €25 in return.  

If you think that going multilingual is a painful process, you must not have tried Weglot yet. And right before the holiday season might be the right time to give it a go!


With the world becoming more digital every day, there are no boundaries between stores and customers anymore. Therefore, being aware of important international ecommerce dates will allow merchants to benefit from a massive surge of sales from all over the world.

Whether it be ‘Pink Sunday’ or ‘Yellow Wednesday’, these commercialized holidays are not to be sniffed at.  Businesses that are ready to cater to a global online audience will always be one step ahead. So start today by offering a seamless multilingual experience to customers all over the world to get the best of the holiday season!

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