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Cyber Monday broke records in the USA this year, and resulted in a surge in online sales around the world.

While December is still a key month for UK and US retailers, many e-commerce companies are also focusing on other global shopping trends.

The holiday shopping frenzy has begun in earnest, with Cyber Monday breaking records in the USA this week. Online shoppers spent an estimated $1.5bn, up 28% on last year’s figure. Mobile shopping is helping drive up revenues, with a 10% rise in sales this year.

Originally an American phenomenon, as the first working day after Thanksgiving, Cyber Monday is now attracting a surge in online shopping around the world. Although the first Monday in December is often called Cyber Monday in the UK, many shoppers are getting online early. Global retailers such as Amazon and Apple have helped introduce the tradition in the UK, offering big discounts last weekend.

It’s also a growing phenomenon in Canada. Cross-border shopping has always been popular, and now Canadian retailers are holding their own Cyber Monday sales to compete with US ones.  A study for BMO Capital Markets found 44% of people planned to shop online on Monday.

It’s predicted to overtake Boxing Day as the busiest day for online shopping.

While December is still considered a “make-or-break” season for retailers, many e-commerce companies are also focusing on other holidays worldwide. For companies who already have an overseas presence, it makes sense to tailor products to fit seasonal trends. This can help them compete on an equal level with local businesses.

January is usually considered a slow month once the post-Christmas sales are over in the UK and USA - unless you’re selling gym memberships or diet books.  But hundreds of millions of consumers in China and around the world will be preparing for the New Year festival, which falls in early February 2013.

This is traditionally the biggest shopping period of the year, with the government urging people to spend money to boost the economy. According to the Tech Channel Index, online retail was up 56 % in the two week run-up to the celebrations this year.

Another big festival is Diwali, celebrated early in November, with online retailers once again seeing record sales this year. More people, both in India and abroad, are opting to avoid the crowds by shopping at home. 

But some of the biggest opportunities are not necessarily the best-known or longest established one. This year, Singles Day, a relatively new holiday in China, broke e-commerce records. Introduced as an alternative to Valentine’s Day in the 1990s, the aim is for people to give gifts or spend time with their single friends.

Retailers on Taobao and Tmall.com, two of the country’s largest shopping platforms, reported $3bn sales over the weekend.

Other seasonal trends might not make headlines, but are worth following if you’re doing business abroad. The back-to-school season will vary from one country to another, and can give a big boost to many retailers. While sales slow down in many countries over the summer holiday period, the time before can be good for business. And “summer bonus” season in Japan is traditionally a time when spending increases, with many Japanese retailers offering special discounts.

Researching the main trends in online (and offline) shopping can be a key to success when targeting new markets - and winning new customers year round.

Christian Arno

Published 3 December, 2012 by Christian Arno

Christian Arno is Founder and Managing Director of Lingo24 and a contributor to Econsultancy. He can also be found on Twitter

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