Holidays are a massive opportunity for retailers — and an equally large challenge. From running marketing campaigns to managing inventory, the biggest shopping days of the year require careful planning and preparation. 

With a record-smashing $188.2 billion in US online sales during the 2020 holiday season — a whopping 32.2% increase over the previous year — big shopping days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM) are an opportunity  you can’t afford to miss.

But given that 48% of BFCM sales come from existing customers, it’s critical that you build and nurture those relationships well ahead of the holiday season if you want to cash in. 

So which holidays are actually worth participating in for ecommerce sellers? Well, it depends on your brand, your audience, and your goals. 

In this article, we’ll share some of the biggest shopping days of the year — from the ones you absolutely can’t miss to a few you might not expect (but don’t want to miss out on). Plus, we’ll share some must-know tips on how to use holidays to strategically build your brand and boost revenue. 

The scoop on the biggest shopping days of the year

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The biggest shopping days of all: Black Friday thru Cyber Monday 🎁

Let’s be honest: BFCM (also referred to as Cyber Week) is the most significant, well-known shopping event of the year. 

As Black Friday grows in popularity, consumers have come to expect major deals on popular items. Retailers have risen to the challenge, and as a result, the scope of BFCM seems to grow each year.

Despite the pandemic, 2020 delivered the biggest online shopping day in history with $10.8 billion in sales on Cyber Monday alone — and $34.4 billion over the full five-day period. That level of consumer spending represents a whopping 20.7% year-over-year increase on BFCM 2019. 🤯

Black Friday

Traditionally, Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving (celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November in the US). 

In recent years, some retailers have initiated their Black Friday sales earlier in the month of November — but most still tend to save the biggest and best deals for the big day itself. 

Small Business Saturday

First celebrated as a national holiday in the US in 2010, Small Business Saturday was created to take advantage of the weekend between BF and CM to drive traffic to small businesses — whether it’s the one-of-a-kind shop on your local Main Street or a niche online store. 

For small ecommerce businesses, this holiday is a great opportunity to connect with social media followers on a personal level, let them see how hard you work as a small business owner, and encourage them to #ShopSmall on your online store.

Cyber Monday

While brick-and-mortar retailers typically see the highest traffic on Black Friday, Cyber Monday is the heavy hitter for ecommerce brands. Instead of long-lines and shopper stampedes, Cyber Monday is known for having deep discounts, time-sensitive promotions, and (unfortunately) a few too many site crashes. 

Because it’s such a big day, Cyber Monday should be an all-hands-on-deck event for online retailers. 

Here are some top tips to smash Cyber Monday: 

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The busiest days for the rest of the winter holiday shopping season ❄️

Once BFCM is over, retailers can take a breather — kind of. While the weeks leading up to Christmas and New Year aren’t quite as busy as BFCM, they’re still fairly hectic. 

As the urgency of last-minute shopping grows, there are a few days you need to know about: 

Free Shipping Day

Free Shipping Day is all about offering consumers one last chance to guarantee their orders get delivered by Christmas Eve. Online retailers have participated in Free Shipping Day since 2008 — and while many consumers have come to expect much shorter shipping times, that peace of mind can be a powerful incentive. 

Super Saturday

The last Saturday before Christmas is also the last full day for many consumers to get their shopping completed, especially for in-store purchases. Expedited shipping and BOPIS (‘Buy Online, Pick Up In Store’) are top opportunities for online retailers from Super Saturday through Christmas. 

Boxing Day 🥊 

Historically, the day after Christmas was observed as a day to give gifts to the poor… but in modern times, it’s become another big shopping holiday, especially in the UK and countries once held by the British Empire. So, if you have inventory you want to clear out before the end of the year, try some Boxing Day deals — or as we call it in the States, an after Christmas sale. 

Going global: The biggest shopping days of the year around the world

Of course, the winter period isn’t the only busy time on an ecommerce seller’s calendar. Throughout the year there are numerous gift-giving holidays, planned spending periods, and even a few days dedicated to shopping and special deals just because.

Amazon Prime Day

This two-day event rivals Black Friday when it comes to consumer spending. The aptly-nicknamed ‘Everything Store’ sold $10.4 billion worth of goods during Prime Day(s) 2020, up 45.2% from their 2019 performance. 

(It should be noted that the event had been pushed from July to October due to the pandemic, so it may have gotten a pre-Black Friday boost. 😉)

End of Summer / Back to School

The close of the summer holidays may induce tears from school children and college students, but it’s a big time for retailers. Typically starting in August and running through Labor Day, the back-to-school cycle is a time when many parents expect to spend a lot of money on clothing, school supplies, and electronics. 

With the increase of at-home learning, back-to-class spending may have reached an all-time high in 2020 at $33.9 billion in anticipated spending, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation. 

Diwali

One of India’s most popular holidays, Diwali — also known as the Festival of Lights — is a Hindu holiday that celebrates the victory of light over dark and good over evil. Preparation for this holiday includes cleaning, decorating, and shopping for new clothes and accessories. 

Diwali is an opportunity to join in the celebration with Hindu customers, and perhaps even provide a special offer.

Single’s Day / Double 11

If you thought BFCM was big, you might be surprised to learn that this Chinese shopping event blows Black Friday out of the water by a long way

What started as a simple student tradition in the mid-90s became a major deal when ecommerce giant Alibaba ran their first Singles Day sale in 2009. Since then, this major commercial holiday has grown massively. In 2020, promotions expanded to cover 11 days from November 1 to November 12, and as a result, Alibaba and JD.com achieved a staggering $115 billion in sales across their platforms — that’s nearly 4X the sales of BFCM.

Eager to get in on the Singles Day action? You’ll have a few things to account for: 

Chinese New Year 🧧

The Spring Festival or Lunar New Year is China’s grandest festival, starting on New Year’s Eve and continuing for the next 7-15 days, with vibrant decorations, shopping, family gatherings, fireworks, and other events like folk shows and parades. 

In addition to mainland China, places like Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Vietnam, and Chinatowns in major cities observe the Chinese New Year, making it one of the most widely-celebrated holidays around the world. 2022 will be the Year of the Tiger — so plan your marketing campaigns accordingly. 🐯 

Valentine’s Day 💘 

Love it or hate it, Valentine’s Day (February 14) is a popular holiday around the world. Typically, romantic partners exchange gifts, which makes it a great opportunity for ecommerce brands to offer special deals or sales on things like jewelry, personal care products, clothing, accessories, and other luxury items.

Another fun holiday to consider: Galentine’s Day on February 13. Although it started as a bit on the television series, Parks and Recreation, Galentine’s Day offers an opportunity for women to celebrate female friendships. 

Consumer Day

If you want to connect with customers in Latin America, look no further than Brazil’s Consumer Day, celebrated on March 15. Similar to Black Friday or Prime Day, Consumer’s Day is a day of can’t-miss deals and free shipping. Although it’s still a relative newcomer on the retail holiday list, Consumer Day has posted double digit annual growth in recent years.  

Mother’s Day

Believe it or not, Mother’s Day is actually the third biggest retail holiday in the US. Jewelry, special outings, and flowers are top gifts for mothers. 💐 

While a majority of countries around the world celebrate on the second Sunday in May, dates can vary.

And don’t forget Father’s Day, most often celebrated on the third Sunday in June. This is a great time for deals on products targeted towards men. 

Connect with customers on other key holidays

Of course, this list barely scratches the surface of holidays, events, and celebrations that you or your customers around the world may observe, such as: 

Not to mention the dozens of off-beat, semi-official holidays like Ice Cream Day (July 18), Best Friends Day (June 8), or Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19). 

But as you incorporate holidays into marketing campaigns, sales, special offers, and product launches, take care in how you approach them with your audience.

Certain holidays like Memorial Day or Remembrance Day can carry weighty or even somber meaning. Although some retailers have exploited holidays in the past with big sales events, today’s consumers are growing more sensitive to brands that trivialize meaningful holidays. 

In a similar fashion, holidays associated with specific religions, ethnic groups, cultures, etc, shouldn’t be caricatured or appropriated for commercial gain. Of course, there are many ways to tastefully honor diverse cultures and traditions, but it’s important to take the time to learn about different holidays and the groups that celebrate them before incorporating them into your marketing plan. If you have any doubts about your planned content, it may be best to sit it out. 

Alongside the biggest shopping days of the year, smaller holidays also offer great opportunities for ecommerce brands to create unique content, celebrate diverse cultures, showcase important causes or values, and have fun — while also building a stronger brand, strengthening customer relationships, and driving more sales. It’s win-win. 

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