Black Friday continues to boom in emerging markets

The American-born shopping holiday keeps growing around the world. 2020 again broke records – with e-commerce playing a leading role.

In one minute between 7:44 and 7:45 a.m. on Friday November 13th, PayU’s platform recorded 4,792 transactions in Romania. On another record-setting Black Friday, Romania’s “golden minute” – representing the height of e-commerce trtansaction volume for the day – was 124% higher this year than in 2019.  Maybe 2020 isn’t so bad after all.



Black Friday takes off around the world

Overall, PayU recorded 539,000 online transactions across our Romanian platform on the country’s Black Friday holiday this year – a 95% increase over 2019.


It’s part of a general surge in Black Friday around the world, especially in emerging markets.  Born in the US long ago as the unofficial start to the Christmas shopping season, Black Friday has gained more international awareness in the 21st century with the rise of the internet spreading viral images and videos of American Black Friday crowds far and wide.


Now, different countries are developing Black Friday traditions of their own – as evidenced by Romania, which holds its designated Black Friday two weeks earlier than most other countries.


And while the pandemic has made matters more difficult for in-person retail in 2020, our data shows that across multiple regions and markets, e-commerce continued to power the growth of Black Friday this year as a whole.

Romania data

E-commerce boom fuels Black Friday in Eastern Europe

In addition to the almost-doubling of overall Black Friday transactions across our platform in Romania, the total value of Black Friday 2020 sales also increased by almost 80%, to 349 million lei ($87 million USD).


We can also see the move toward e-commerce evidenced in the purchase behavior of Romanian consumers.  This year PayU recorded a significant increase in one-click payment transactions, which were up 117% compared to 2019.  Perhaps more significantly, almost 55% of orders on our platform were paid by card online – the first time card payments have exceeded cash transactions since we began tracking Romanian Black Friday.


The trends in PayU’s platform data are further validated by eMag, one of Romania’s biggest e-commerce retailers.  This year eMag registered orders of 585.7 million lei (146 million USD), up 17% from last year, and 17 times more than ten years ago, when Black Friday first took place in Romania.


The continued growth of Black Friday even in difficult times demonstrates how e-commerce is helping emerging economies to get through the Covid crisis, with Romania’s experience representative of many markets across Central and Eastern Europe.


As shown in the chart below, nearly every CEE country is posting double digit growth rates or more in e-commerce right now, led by Romania and Ukraine (which are both among the top 10 largest countries in all of Europe by population).

Annual eCommerce growth rate in Central and Eastern Europe as of 2020
(Source: Statista)

Black Friday results by region

An uncertain year

Black Friday was a success in Romania, but what about in other emerging markets?


It’s no secret by now that Covid-19 lockdowns have accelerated the growth of e-commerce in general, but going into Black Friday 2020, we weren’t quite sure what to expect from merchants across PayU’s key countries.


On the one hand, the economic downturn might discourage people from spending as much money this holiday season.  On the other, it has been a very good year for many online sellers.


In the end, we saw the latter trend continue with significant Black Friday growth particularly across Eastern Europe and LatAm.



Black Friday in EMEA

In Poland, the largest economy among the former ‘Eastern bloc’ countries and PayU’s second-largest market globally, Black Friday saw a continuation of e-commerce growth for 2020, with 30% more transactions than Black Friday last year.


The Czech Republic, meanwhile, saw similar Black Friday success to Romania, with transactions up 73%.  This continued a trend observed throughout the month of November on the PayU platform, with some days seeing double last year’s e-commerce turnover and transaction volumes up 72% for the month overall.  For the entire “Black Week” leading up to and including Black Friday, online payments increased by more than 60 percent.


In Turkey, transactions were up by 30% overall with notable increases in the education sector (+62%) as well as in average cart size (+39%). On the busiest day of the year, PayU was proud to report 100% uptime across nearly 1.3 million total Turkish Black Friday transactions.


Africa saw more modest increases on Black Friday, with transaction volumes up 10% across PayU’s three main markets (Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa).  Our platform in South Africa registered a 14% increase in Black Friday sales on the back of a 9% increase over 2019 for the week leading up to Black Friday.  In a sign of the ongoing development of mobile commerce in emerging markets, 60% of South African e-commerce transactions on Black Friday were done with a mobile phone.

Black Friday EMEA

Black Friday in LatAm

Less than a week after the third installment of Colombia’s “Day without VAT” tax-free shopping holiday, Black Friday 2020 swept across all of Latin America on November 27th.  After the third no VAT shopping day generated nearly $100 million USD in Colombian e-commerce sales across our platform on November 21st, Black Friday resulted in another $49 million worth of sales across all of LatAm.


For PayU, most of the LatAm Black Friday activity took place in Colombia, our largest market, which saw more than $37 million USD in Black Friday e-commerce sales from almost 500,000 total transactions.


Despite the outsize numbers in Colombia, Black Friday is also clearly trending upward in the rest of LatAm.  Peru saw an 81% increase in transactions and 68% increase in total sales, which reached $4.8 million USD, more than double the average for a typical day in November.  After doubling Black Friday sales from 2018 to 2019, Mexico was up another 25% in 2020 as well.  Brazil sales on our platform grew 50% to $1.4 million USD.


Argentina and Chile, however, had by far the biggest Black Friday increases across all of LatAm.  In Argentina, Black Friday sales and transaction value both up more than 200%, placing Argentina third in terms of total sales (after Colombia and Peru) with $2.3 million USD.  Chile continued its Black Friday surge, and has gone from seeing hardly any Black Friday sales on our platform in 2018 to $1.8 million USD in 2020.


These exciting numbers from LatAm point not only to the development of Black Friday, but that of e-commerce in the region in general.  We can see this reflected in the overall growth of Black Friday in LatAm over time.  In only the half-decade from 2015 to 2020, LatAm Black Friday transactions as well as sales on the PayU platform are both approximately 20 times higher.

Black Friday LatAm over time PayU

PayU becomes a go-to Black Friday media resource

The growth of Black Friday in emerging markets has turned PayU into a key media voice in local coverage of the event.


As a leading payments and financial services partner for e-commerce merchants in emerging markets, our country managers and regional teams are in a unique position to report and analyze what is happening “on the ground” for Black Friday and other big events.


This year was no different.  PayU Country Manager Karen Nadasen stopped by MoneyWeb radio to recap Black Friday in South Africa (read the full transcript or listen to the interview here).  Quintin van der Linde, Head of Sales for South Africa, also talked about the country’s mixed Black Friday results on the Power Business radio show.


In Romania, we livestreamed Black Friday on Facebook and were joined by representatives from the credit card companies as well as key Romanian business associations, banks, and e-commerce platforms.


PayU’s engineers with our Iyzico affiliate in Turkey posted a case study over on the Iyzico blog detailing how we used machine learning to predict Black Friday loads and ensure 100% uptime.


And in LatAm, our local marketing team released reports covering both No VAT Day as well as Black Friday, which were widely picked up by Colombian media.


Around the world other news outlets also used PayU platform data for their reporting on Black Friday.  PayU’s country managers were in the news both on TV and in print across multiple markets.

Conclusions and Recap: Black Friday 2020

Although Black Friday is long established in the United States, with each year it is becoming a more important event on the business calendar throughout many other parts of the world.


What’s more, while many often associate Black Friday with in-person retail and think of Cyber Monday as the day for e-commerce, it’s clear (even before the pandemic) that e-commerce is fueling Black Friday’s growth, particularly in emerging markets.


We can see this is in PayU’s platform data from around the world – which continues to pick up a large and growing number of e-commerce transactions not only on Black Friday, but increasingly in the weeks or even in the month leading up to it.


All in all, it points to the ongoing growth opportunity when it comes to e-commerce in emerging economies.


And while the Christmas holiday shopping season of 2020 is now about to be complete, there will be continue to be massive potential for online sellers in emerging markets throughout the whole year leading up to Black Friday 2021 – and well beyond.