SINGAPORE - From offering fuss-free returns to extending shopping windows, e-commerce platforms are wooing shoppers with a more seamless buying experience at this year’s Singles’ Day sale on Friday.
The 24-hour sale – which is held every Nov 11 and more commonly referred to as 11.11 – was originally a celebration for lonely hearts in China. Today, it is a multi-billion-dollar online sales event.
In 2021, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding had a record 540.3 billion yuan (S$105 billion) in orders, or gross merchandise value, over its 11-day Singles’ Day sales event.
To enhance the buying experience for shoppers this year, Lazada Singapore recently introduced a Priority Delivery service for more than 300 sellers, including Nike and Apple.
Under this service, consumers can receive their purchases within two days at no additional cost, instead of the normal two- to four-day delivery window.
Also, customers of Alibaba’s e-commerce platforms Taobao and Tmall in Singapore can check out and pay for their purchases earlier this year – from 8pm onwards from Oct 31 to Nov 3, and Nov 10 and 11, instead of midnight.
Shoppers who receive wrong or defective items with a “local returns” tag on the Taobao app can return their purchases to a local warehouse in-app and reduce the reimbursement time, as they no longer need to arrange for the shipping of the products back to sellers in China.
Some platforms are also turning to omnichannel – or multichannel – strategies to reach out to shoppers to drum up awareness for their sales event.
For example, Shopee partnered with its offline merchants through ShopeePay on Wednesday, to enable shoppers using the e-wallet to earn Shopee coins, which can offset future online and offline purchases.
Taobao launched an offline consumer engagement campaign in Orchard Road in October, by partnering an ice-cream seller to drive awareness about the 11.11 sales as well as new local promotions and services.
These marketing strategies come as the online space becomes more competitive amid a slowing global economy and as more retailers move into the e-commerce space after the Covid-19 pandemic.
“E-commerce has become a way of life and this will continue to drive sales for 11.11,” noted Mr Jackson Ng, assistant director of Temasek Polytechnic’s School of Business.
“As traditional retailers begin to run their own e-commerce operations, or leverage e-marketplaces, transactions that would have otherwise been booked at physical stores may move online, bumping up sales during 11.11.”
Assistant Professor Eunsoo Kim from the marketing division at Nanyang Business School said that while number day sales like 11.11 and 12.12 are a short-term strategy to attract customers, there is also a bigger opportunity for brands to both attract and retain customers beyond just the sales day.
“Consumers today want engaging and exciting experiences,” she said. “It would be helpful for brands to capitalise on this special sales day’s consumer interest and build long-term relationships, rather than just focusing on discounting prices.”
As in previous years, the platforms and experts alike expect big-ticket items such as luxury goods, electronics and furniture to be popular during the 11.11 sales event.
“11.11 is now a well-oiled machine and bargain hunters know that offers, discounts and promotion mechanisms will be unleashed during this period... In fact, bargain hunters sometimes hold off their purchases until 11.11 to enjoy these promotions,” said Temasek Polytechnic’s Mr Ng.
Zalora has seen its luxury category grow rapidly, said its brand director Neha Bhasin.
“We have seen good numbers from our 10.10 sale,” she said. “Riding on the momentum of the increasing demand for luxury goods on our platform, we are expecting the same for 11.11.”
Amazon Singapore country manager Leo Laforgia said that during the 11.11 sales period in 2021, there was strong demand on its platform for personal computers and electronics, beauty products and groceries.
He expects continued demand for similar categories this year.
“With the upcoming GST increase and taxes on overseas orders from 2023, we anticipate that shoppers are aware of the potential savings should they opt to purchase big-ticket items before the end of the year,” said Lazada Singapore’s chief executive officer Loh Wee Lee, referring to the one percentage point hike of the goods and services tax to 8 per cent from Jan 1.
However, Prof Kim cautioned that takings at the till may be dampened this year, given factors such as global inflation that has driven up prices, and a softened economy.
Adtech company Criteo said its sales index analysis showed that this year’s 10.10 sales in South-east Asia decreased by 12 per cent year on year, compared with 2021.
In Singapore, year-on-year sales for the 10.10 sales event decreased by 21 per cent, compared with 2021.