The rise and rise of online super sales

While the US formulated online super sales, such as this week’s Black Friday, Asia has adopted the concept with a vengeance.

In fact, China has increasingly been exporting Alibaba’s Singles Day (11.11) event, which this month racked up a massive US$35 billion in sales. November is the favoured month for this new consumer mania, offering the Singles Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.

Both Black Friday and Cyber Monday themselves have been catching on in the Asia Pacific, growing by 29 per cent last year, according to global payments company WorldPay.

It says that despite forking out $17.8 billion on Singles Day last year, Chinese consumers still went hunting Black Friday bargains, with overall spending on the day up by 37 per cent from the previous year. In Hong Kong, the rate of growth was 32 per cent, and in Singapore 21 per cent.

While retailers are among the biggest Black Friday winners, new WorldPay data suggests this year could also be a great opportunity for savvy APAC businesses in the travel and digital sectors. In Hong Kong, spending with travel and airlines saw a 30 per cent surge last year, with Singapore figures up 20 per cent as travellers jumped online to search for flight and hotel deals.

Not just retailers

Shoppers are also increasingly seeking out bargains for digital content such as subscriptions, e-books and on-demand box sets. Black Friday spending in this sector last year grew 62 per cent in Hong Kong and 14 per cent in Singapore.

Not just retailers can benefit from Black Friday, but also a range of e-commerce businesses, says WorldPay Asia Pacific GM Phil Pomford.

“While Black Friday and Cyber Monday have typically been the realm of retailers, a more diverse range of businesses are now recognising they can also take can take advantage of this special online opportunity.

Shoppers during this time are highly engaged, proactive and looking for a wide range of online deals, so the potential to reach new customers and strengthen brand loyalty is huge, regardless of sector.

“E-commerce businesses should set themselves up for success by ensuring their websites are prepared for heavy traffic, and offer simple payment options to drive shopping-cart conversions. They might also consider following the example of Amazon and kickstart Black Friday deals a week early.”

Black Friday online sales surpassed $3 billion last year and are expected to rise this week, says Adobe Digital Insights, as buyers seek to avoid long queues and lost hours in retail stores.

In Southeast Asia, Google searches for “Black Friday” have surged over the past five years, and 12 months ago major offline/online retailers like Robinsons, Sephora and Zalora offered generous discounts for the event.

“Many industries rely on this event to make up a large portion of their fourth-quarter sales, in particular toys and games,” says Euromonitor International senior toys and games analyst Matthew Hudak.

‘Sure to jump on’

Digital campaign company RTB House says Black Friday last year attracted 106 per cent more people to online stores, with 204 per cent more transactions.

“We anticipate conversion rates surging this time,” says RTB House Southeast Asia country director Chandra Kuncara. “Customers who missed out on Singles Day will be sure to jump on this event.”

He says personalised retargeting is an important selling tool during Black Friday. With AI technology and deep-learning algorithms, marketers can highlight most-desired products for each individual customer.

More purchases mean more packages being shipped, and international courier service FedEx is again expecting to handle a record number of packages over the peak holiday shopping period, which starts on Monday and runs to December 24. This year it is expecting 380 to 400 million packages.

The growth of cross-border e-commerce is turning the peak shipping season into a global phenomenon, says FedEx. For instance, 37 per cent of Singles Day purchases in China last year were from international brands or merchants. Cross-border shopping is expected to make up 20 per cent of e-commerce sales by 2022, led by Asia Pacific.

“While an online purchase takes just a few clicks, logistics providers are working hard behind the scenes powering every moment,” says FedEx Express AsiaPacific president Karen Reddington. “Our business is the backbone of the e-commerce market.”

Meanwhile, while shoppers scramble for Black Friday bargains this week, outdoor retailer REI is closing its 154 US stores for the third consecutive year, offering its nearly 12,000 employees a paid holiday. It is truly going against the tide by also putting a hold on online orders.

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