Guide to Black Friday for Cross-Border Ecommerce Brands

Black Friday

Black Friday (and its follow up Cyber Monday) has been growing in scale and scope year on year with retailers traditionally seeing the day as the one where they go ‘into the black’ for the first time in the year.

As a global technology solutions provider for some of the biggest brands and retailers in the world, ESW has conducted extensive research into the weekend and compiled an in-depth guide for ecommerce retailers regarding the best-performing markets, year on year analysis, growing markets, trends and tips for retailers to improve their Black Friday conversions.

Preparation is key         

Every year, ESW processes millions of orders on behalf of its clients, but there is no doubting the spike in demand that Black Friday and Cyber Monday generate. Analyzing the data accumulated helps us help our clients to prepare better every year in order to improve the shopper journey and therefore conversions.

In 2018, Black Friday orders grew by 57% on the ESW platform (over 2017), and significant growth is expected again this year. To prepare for this, ESW begins our annual Peak Readiness Programme in February. Based on a review of the 2018 peak period, a number of performance updates are planned, with tests conducted throughout the year. We work with retailers to run stress tests from August to ensure that the influx of demand can be adequately met. We suggest retailers should similarly stress test ecommerce websites and physical infrastructures to ensure that they can flex to accommodate additional purchases without crashing or causing other failures.

2018 Market performance

Black Friday ecommerce

The five markets with the largest order volumes processed through the ESW platform last year were the UK, Australia, Canada, Mexico, and Germany, however, the top five countries with the best conversion rates were Luxembourg, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, and Austria.

Mexico and the Russian Federation are two markets that showed impressive growth from 2017 to 2018 (125% and 130% respectively) and are key markets to watch. Overall, the five fastest-growing emerging markets were Indonesia, Lithuania, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Hungary, and the five fastest-growing amongst the more established markets were the UK, Canada, Australia, Germany, and Mexico – with the Russian Federation in sixth place.

According to 2018 Black Friday data, while there is a massive spike in shopping around Black Friday, given that the average order value (AOV) across almost all markets was lower on Black Friday than other days, and there were fewer items per cart purchased, it would suggest that shoppers are targeting specific bargains, and are less likely to add more items to their cart – preferring instead to shop judiciously rather than impulsively. Looking at trends across items that have been added to carts in the runup to Black Friday, but then the purchase abandoned, can give valuable insight into which items to target for discount in specific markets.


In the run-up to Black Friday there are many moving parts that can impact success, giving retailers the opportunity to test and learn each year to improve offers, outreach, marketing and the shopper experience both for this and upcoming years.

Here are some key tips from ESW’s team to help have the best Black Friday yet:


  • Increase display and social media for 30 days or more before Black Friday to create the most engaged market to target.
  • Use affiliate or other promotional codes to push information and increase off platform reach of the offers.
  • Create urgency by using time-limited deals and adding a countdown timer showing the sale end time on the site.
  • Create a ‘holiday gift guide’ with items grouped by price – for example ‘Holiday Gifts under $35’.
  • Link Instagram Checkout with website sales page.
  • Make sure that promotional messaging is clear and easy to understand as well as accurate for each location.
  • Make sure advertising on social media platforms, email campaigns and Google matches on-site messaging with all URLs working correctly.


Black Friday ecommerce

While our data shows that return rates for items bought on Black Friday do not significantly increase – in fact, in some regions they go down – it is important to manage both shoppers’ expectations regarding items, delivery, and returns. Use messaging on site to prepare shoppers for the reality that their items are most likely going to take longer to be delivered than usual.

Communicate properly with fulfillment partners to ensure that there is enough stock in place and enable messaging on the website that can be displayed if stock runs out.

Here are some other areas to consider:

On the website:

  • Item descriptions should be as clear, accurate and detailed as possible to try to prevent shoppers buying items with the expectation of returning some. A good example is the use of a suitable sizing guide, which can reduce the temptation to buy an item in multiple sizes due to confusion over sizing.
  • Give shoppers estimations of delivery date when they purchase especially as there are likely to be delays due to managing the logistics of such an increased amount of purchase.
  • Manage expectations around delivery dates with extra messaging if necessary, to mitigate calls or emails to customer service regarding delayed packages.
  • Clear messaging around refunds and returns so shoppers are aware of extended return periods (if available) and refund process
  • Customer service doesn’t tend to be as affected on the day of Black Friday but will often be busier post the weekend, due to queries regarding returns and refunds. Having clear messaging on the site will help this preemptively but ensure there are extra staff available to deal with increased number of queries.


  • Conduct a full audit of all inventory, whether held in-house or buy a third-party partner, to ensure the website is not selling items it doesn’t have
  • Get commitment from delivery providers as to the lead times required to ship packages to the shopper given the heightened demand – err on the side of caution by adding a day or two if necessary.


Black Friday has become a truly global shopping event and is a great opportunity for ecommerce retailers – one that can be made even more successful by implementing these tips to help conversion, manage partners and customer experience. Having a plan in place for before and after the day/weekend itself is key to a successful experience for everyone.


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