Seasonal trends in global ecommerce

The countdown to Christmas is well underway, with retailers gearing up for the busiest shopping time of the year. For those that are already operating multinationally, there’s added pressure to ensure they can meet shipping deadlines to overseas markets.

The growth in ecommerce has led to new key dates in the retail calendar, such as Cyber Monday, the first Monday in December, which has become one of the most popular dates for making online orders.

While December is no doubt a “make or break” month for many stores in the UK and beyond, exporters shouldn’t neglect other dates on the international calendar.

In October, online retailers in India and around the world saw a huge boost to sales in the run-up to Diwali. An industry survey estimated that ecommerce sales in India soared by 350 per cent during the month. This coincided with a sharp drop in footfall at shopping malls compared to previous years, as more consumers chose to avoid the crowds and shop from home.

For American consumers, searching for Black Friday bargains is as much part of the Thanksgiving celebrations as turkey and pumpkin pie. And as cross-border trade becomes more popular, online stores are getting their slice of the (retail) pie by running their own sales and special offers. Last year, consumers spent a record $1.2 billion (£740 million) online, with a sizeable proportion going to overseas retailers.

Many British consumers might not have heard of Singles’ Day, a Chinese “anti-Valentine’s Day” that takes place on November 11 (or 11/11). It’s meant to be a day to celebrate friendships and being single. Just another Hallmark holiday? It became the world’s biggest online shopping event in 2013, with more than $5.75 billion (£3.56 billion) spent on Tmall, and other ecommerce sites in just one day.

Once the January sales are over, retailers can start looking ahead to Chinese New Year. For more than a billion people worldwide, it’s a time to celebrate, spend time with family – and buy gifts. With more Chinese people using the holiday to travel overseas, stores from Bond Street to Fifth Avenue are decked out with traditional red decorations to welcome them. But for those who stay at home, it’s also a key time to browse and buy from digital stores.

If you already have an online presence in foreign markets, then it’s easy to adapt your offerings to fit in with international holidays. Whether you have dedicated, localised websites, or you’re selling via marketplaces or other channels, you can tailor your products and promotions to the time of year.

More and more internet shoppers are looking abroad to find bargains. And when it comes to holiday shopping, many customers are prepared to put in that extra bit of effort to track down a unique gift.

It’s also worth considering other seasonal trends, from winter holidays to “back to school” season. For example, Swedish businesses tend to slow down in July, when most people traditionally take a summer holiday, while in Italy, August is the month to hit the beach. You might see slower sales during these times, but people will shop beforehand as they prepare for holidays.

In Japan, employers often pay summer and winter bonuses – with retailers timing promotions to cash in on this rise in spending.

A knowledge of your target cultures should help with marketing decisions and help you fine-tune your product range and special offers to suit local trends. Christmas might only come once a year, but by broadening your horizons, you can take advantage of opportunities all year round.


Sectors: Wholesale & Retail
Topics: Sales & Marketing
Export Action Plan