Black Friday & Christmas are coming: How to get ready for the shopping spree of the year

Black Friday & Christmas are coming:

How to get ready for the shopping spree of the year



Everyone loves a bargain. COVID-19 has accelerated the transition to digital lifestyles and forced even the most conservative shoppers  to buy online. However, there are some major differences in how these shopping events and holidays are celebrated. This means the copy-paste approach from your home market may not work abroad. Learn how to avoid some major pitfalls in our guide!

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2021 Round-Up: Online shopping is still rising in CEE


The COVID-19 gave a forced boost to e-commerce last year and even the most conservative customers had to embrace online shopping. While this year the growth has not been as rapid, customers embraced online shopping once they learned how easy and convenient it is.

In Central Europe, 89% of the population has access to the Internet and 78% of users bought goods or services online compared to 69% in pre-pandemic 2019. In Eastern Europe, 78% of the population has access to the Internet, but only 44% of users bought goods or services online compared to 37% in 2019. While Central Europeans are avid online shoppers, the competition there is fierce. On the other hand, Eastern Europe is a growing market where fighting for market share is an easier battle.

“Facebook is the main channel used across the CEE region, averaging in 75% of users active on the platform in Central Europe and 86% in Eastern Europe (Russia excluded). The rest of the social media platforms pale in comparison, Pinterest averages on 14%, Twitter on 5%, Instagram on 2,7%, and YouTube only on 1,6% in Central Europe. The situation is similar in Eastern Europe (Russia excluded) with Pinterest averaging on 6%, Twitter on 2,9%, Instagram on 2%, and YouTube on 1,9%. Data shows that Facebook can provide the largest user base with the most diverse demographics of all platforms,” says László Szabó, Co-founder, Head of Growth at Growww Digital.


Black Friday & Cyber Monday across CEE


Both Black Friday and Cyber Monday are new concepts in the CEE region, but the shopping events are quickly becoming popular. This shopping event has its roots in the 1930s USA – though the name wasn’t used until the 1960s. As the world took notice, more and more countries started to implement this event to boost sales before the Christmas season. Black Friday’s sister event Cyber Monday was originally designated for online shopping, but the lines began to blur. Nowadays, we see Black Friday discounts that last the whole month of November, some countries adopted Cyber Week or the sales in the name of Black Friday happen at another time during the year in some countries. In this article, you’ll learn how to navigate the differences across the CEE area, so you can make the most of this event at every market your company has expanded to.

In Czechia, Black Friday sales started the week before the official day. The Czech Post Office processed 1 082 657 packages by the end of this shopping event. Unexpectedly, Czech shoppers continued the purchasing frenzy through December and the postal service had to process 1 128 805 just a week after Black Friday. The shopping event and Christmas sales seem to morph into one, as Czechs didn’t want to risk purchasing presents last minute.

In Romania, eMag introduced the concept of Black Friday in the country. Interestingly, the Romanian Black Friday happens one week before the American shopping event. Another difference is that in this market, Black Friday is associated with big sales and therefore takes place several times throughout the year. The eMag goes all-in with their tactics, they always have an extensive teasing campaign weeks before the event and they use all the channels (online, offline, TV, ATL) to prime the customers. This works really well in this market as products like Sony PlayStation or Xbox get sold out within seconds. In order to manage the increased traffic, eMag tends to switch their website to mobile-first landing pages with lesser functionalities that are optimized both for the traffic and the fact that most people shop on their phones off of social media because it allows them to act quickly.

“Overall, consumers in CEE start postponing their orders weeks before Black Friday and start budgeting for the sales season. As soon as Black Friday sales start, consumers act quickly. Cyber Monday has not caught on very well given that Black Friday largely happens online. In other CEE countries like Hungary, there’s very little penetration of this holiday. The Black Friday shopping event seems to take center stage across CEE countries,” explains Zoltán Flekács, Head of Performance at Growww Digital.


Overview: Black Friday in CEE countries


Czech RepublicNovember 26th
SlovakiaNovember 26th
PolandNovember 26th
HungaryNovember 26th
SloveniaNovember 26th
CroatiaNovember 26th
SerbiaNovember 26th
MontenegroNovember 26th
North MacedoniaNovember 26th
Bosnia and HerzegovinaNovember 26th
RomaniaNovember 13th*

(often happens multiple times per year)

BulgariaNovember 26th
UkraineNovember 26th


*In Romania, Black Friday is one week before the US Black Friday.


Graph image – overview of CEE countries and the dates of Black Friday in each


Black Friday doesn’t equal easy money


Even though customers are ready to buy, the competition for their money is fierce. Come Q3, the e-commerce world turns into a wild western shootout. It’s not enough to discount your goods and pray for some sales, you need a killer offer. The customer’s threshold is pretty high during this period. The toughest country is Romania, but other CEE countries are not far behind.


Overview: Christmas in CEE countries


Czech RepublicDecember 24th
SlovakiaDecember 24th
PolandDecember 24th
HungaryDecember 24th
SloveniaDecember 24th
CroatiaDecember 25th
SerbiaJanuary 7th
MontenegroJanuary 7th
North MacedoniaJanuary 7th
Bosnia and HerzegovinaDecember 25th
RomaniaDecember 25th
BulgariaDecember 25th
UkraineDecember 25th & January 7th

Source: Wikipedia


Czechia & Hungary: How do the biggest CEE players prepare for the season?


Czechs shop early, as they expect both the online stores and delivery services to be overloaded with purchases. In the first two weeks of December, the revenue of online sales reached 7 billion CZK (approx. 275,000 EUR) – an amount similar to Black Friday revenues. The Czechs spent 68 billion CZK (approx. 2.6 million EUR) in the main shopping season (November and December). Overall, online shopping grew by 25% in 2020. At least 40% of customers buy toys online, 34.6% purchase books, 32.6% shop for clothes and shoes, and 32.3% order beauty and health products, according to APEK

Online stores invested in digitalization, better processes, and seasonal workers in order to improve services. Many added pick-up points and depos, so they are not reliant on delivery companies alone and Czechs grew accustomed to the new options. At the same time, the whole pandemic situation made Czech customers nervous and impatient, which forced online stores to improve the quality of their services.


Christmas sales are just the beginning


The shopping spree continues after the Holidays as customers are ready to take advantage of post-Christmas sales with cash they received instead of presents, which is customary in many countries in CEE.


  • Be ready for a huge stock sale to sell leftovers
  • When setting your deals for the season, don’t forget to collect email addresses
  • Your strategy should connect stores as well as webshops. If a customer buys in your store, they are more likely to buy in your online store in the future. 


What shopping behavior can we expect this year?


After experiencing the never-ending second wave that crushed Europe last year, it will certainly pay to plan for both lockdown and no-lockdown scenarios. 

GfK reported, there were three main trends that drove sales in 2020:


  • Home Office – technology and office products were high on people’s wish lists as we were forced to work from home for which many people were unprepared. There  are approximately 60 million computing  devices sold in Europe each year and this market expanded by roughly 20% in 2020. We might see this trend continue in 2021 should we expect more lockdowns over the winter months.
  • Eating at home – the sales of kitchen appliances more than doubled as people were forced to prepare their meals at home due to the lockdown restrictions. For many, cooking became a hobby that they seek to keep.
  • Health, well-being, and hygiene – 49% of global respondents said they actively look for services and products that help them lead healthier lifestyles. Many customers looked for home exercise equipment, clothes, smart watches, and fitness trackers.


With countries opening their borders to vaccinated travelers, we might see products and services related to travel trending during Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Christmas. Fashion has seen a huge dip last year, while this year has gone back to normal.


Changes and Innovations in the CEE region


Czechia caught up to Western Europe in card payments. About 3-4 years ago, cash-on-delivery was the most popular payment option. Pick-up points are becoming popular even among small online stores. Automatic boxes and marketplaces are also a growing trend in this country.


Hungarian customers remained flocked towards online shopping when restrictions were in place but went back to shopping in-store once restrictions were lifted. The number of prepaid orders increased in favor of cash-on-delivery by 34% vs. 27% in 2019. Also, payment at delivery by credit card has become more common (28% vs. 22% in 2019).


Polish consumers have become more price-sensitive as a result of the pandemic. There is a visible increase in the use of price comparison websites on this market. Another dynamic growth happened in the e-grocery segment. Polish seniors (a.k.a. the silver generation) are the fastest-growing new customer group.


Bulgaria experienced significant habit changes in consumption. More customers were buying food products online and preparing their own food rather than ordering ready-made food at home during the pandemic. On this market, cash-on-delivery also decreased due to the fear of virus transmission through the banknotes. Many traditionally offline businesses embraced the new normal and came up with new online business models.


Croatian businesses outside of the travel and tourism industries reportedly did not suffer during the pandemic. Having only one online store in the FMCG segment, their sales increased 100 times. The biggest innovation on this market was among family farms that embraced the online environment and set up small online shops to sell produce and animal products. The largest Croatian bank came up with an electronic wallet which they integrated with the largest online store, allowing customers to easily transfer money to the seller.


North Macedonia introduced a new law that will open the landscape for fintech companies. While PayPal is available for making payments, it’s not for receiving and that presents a problem. More laws and policies are being updated as a result of the pandemic as this EE country embraces that the future is digital.


Romanian market is also undergoing digital transformation, however, digital literacy is low among the customers which is something businesses need to take into consideration. Change is happening slowly but surely. In this market, there is a huge hunger for diversity as more customers become used to shopping online. Similar to other markets, online payments vs. cash-on-delivery have grown as well as the popularity of click-and-collect boxes.


CEE market growth


From our data about online stores from the CEE region, we have seen a record 45% growth in the Hungarian e-commerce market – in the previous years, the growth has been 16-18%. “The Hungarian companies are hungry to expand to other markets, especially to Croatia and Slovenia. On the other hand, Czech online stores are most frequently expanding to Hungary, Romania, and Slovenia. In Romania, we expected the e-commerce market to reach 5 billion EUR, but it exceeded our expectations and grew to 7 billion EUR. In the last few months of 2021, we are about to experience an interesting Christmas season with possible COVID-19 restrictions,” says László Szabó.


Key areas to improve


We are expecting a big fight for customers this year. Businesses are better prepared and planning to push their campaigns and performance marketing to unprecedented heights. Companies that expanded abroad are going to have a significant competitive advantage as we expect international markets to grow.


  • Website – expect increased traffic and make sure your hosting can handle it. Work on improving the website speed as nervous shoppers tend to leave if your page doesn’t load in 3 seconds.
  • PPC Ads – make sure your ad strategy and KPIs take into consideration that ads get more expensive during Black Friday and Christmas time. Budget for it accordingly or have experts help you. Better yet, have an extra budget available should you need to quickly react to enormous competition. We have seen accounts easily spend 5-10x their normal daily budget and still stay highly profitable.
  • Customer Support – prepare your team for an increased number of inquiries. Have systems in place that are efficient and create a great customer experience. Satisfied shoppers might come back during the year.
  • Shipping & Delivery – stay on top of the situation of your chosen services and be prepared to offer coupons with discounts to customers that experienced severe delays. This may set you apart from the competition and earn the hearts of customers.
  • Payment System – make sure your systems are able to process a higher amount of transactions. Some systems have built-in limits that businesses don’t know about until there is a problem, which is when it’s already too late.
  • Seasonal Workers – many webshops hire seasonal workers to be able to handle the increased amount of orders. 
  • Price Comparisons – due to shipment latencies, you can expect bad reviews that harm your position and reputation.
  • Shopping Discount – activate it NOW or never. If not activated, you’ll pay a high price later on.


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Download Your Free Ultimate CEE Ecommerce Export Guide!

75 pages packed with all you need to know as an ecommerce business before you expand to Czechia, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Croatia and Slovenia.