Com­plex pro­mos over­shadow on­line shop­ping fes­ti­val

Global Times - Weekend - - OPINION - By Cui Bowen The au­thor is a post­grad­u­ate stu­dent of trans­la­tion stud­ies at Beijing Lan­guage and Cul­ture Univer­sity. opin­ion@ glob­al­times.com.cn

Novem­ber 11, known as “Double 11” in China, is the coun­try’s – make that the world’s – largest shop­ping spree, and it’s just about one week away. China’s e-com­merce plat­forms like Alibaba and JD.com, on­line ven­dors, de­liv­ery ser­vices and shop­pers are now busy pre­par­ing for it.

As a die-hard fan of the on­line shop­ping ex­trav­a­ganza, I used to add fa­vorites in shop­ping cart in ad­vance, and when the time came, all I needed to do was hit the pur­chase but­ton and get a beau­ti­ful dis­count, of 50 per­cent or more.

How­ever, some shop­ping plat­forms like Taobao.com and Tmall.com and their con­tracted on­line re­tail­ers have re­leased overly com­pli­cated pro­mo­tion meth­ods this year, such as prelaunch, dis­counts and price pro­tec­tion poli­cies.

For ex­am­ple, cus­tomers are not able to com­bine their or­ders to ob­tain the max­i­mum dis­count when buy­ing prelaunch mer­chan­dise.

In ad­di­tion, on­line ven­dors have set a plethora of re­stric­tions on coupons. Some are ex­clu­sive to prelaunch items, while oth­ers are only used for spe­cific prod­ucts, mod­els and even col­ors.

Hong­bao, or red pack­ets, are also in­cluded in this year’s sales pro­mo­tion. On­line mer­chants is­sue the mone­tary gifts to cus­tomers as a means to boost con­sump­tion, but it has been classified into dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories and has con­fused con­sumers.

Some of my friends and I are hes­i­tat­ing about join­ing the shop­ping spree this year af­ter read­ing the com­pli­cated pro­mo­tion ideas be­cause you need to be a math tal­ent and spend a few hours study­ing the con­fus­ing pro­mo­tion meth­ods.

Do the com­plex pro­mo­tion cam­paigns re­veal a se­cret that the on­line shop­ping fury is just a shop­ping fraud as di­rect per­cent-off dis­counts are rarely seen this time? If not, why don’t e-com­merce giants and on­line mer­chants frame sim­ple rules, so that cus­tomers are able to fol­low them more eas­ily and en­hance their de­sire to pur­chase goods?

It seems that the “Double 11” shop­ping event, also called Sin­gles’ Day, be­comes showy and de­vi­ates from its orig­i­nal pur­pose.

Sin­gles’ Day was first cel­e­brated in the 1990s by young Chi­nese sin­gle­tons as an anti-Valen­tine’s Day. In 2009, Alibaba Group Hold­ing be­gan launch­ing the made-up “hol­i­day” to help mer­chants on its busi­ness-to­cus­tomer mar­ket­place. Taobao and Tmall pro­mote their sales, as a way to lift rev­enue in the tra­di­tion­ally quiet sales pe­riod be­tween Na­tional Day hol­i­days and the Chi­nese New Year. On­line ven­dors will be slash­ing their prices and cus­tomers can find a wider range of prod­ucts at lower cost, caus­ing a phe­nom­e­nal shop­ping spree at home and abroad. The Sin­gles’ Day sales event has been an as­ton­ish­ing suc­cess. Last year, re­tail­ers recorded sales worth 120.748 bil­lion yuan ($18.17 bil­lion) within 24 hours on Alibaba’s plat­forms, a record in global re­tail for any sin­gle day. More than 10 mil­lion kinds of goods from over 100,000 busi­nesses world­wide and con­sumers from 235 coun­tries joined Alibaba’s global shop­ping fes­ti­val. It is es­ti­mated that about 1 bil­lion parcels will hit China’s lo­gis­tics sys­tem on the shop­ping spree this year. Apart from var­i­ous pro­mo­tion stunts, the on­line shop­ping frenzy is also mired in some other chal­lenges and prob­lems such as false ad­ver­tis­ing and un­true pro­mo­tions, in­clud­ing dis­count re­stric­tions, un­ful­filled prom­ises and price pro­tec­tion fail­ures. Some dis­counted goods are said to be knock-offs or poor qual­ity brand-name mer­chan­dise. The on­line shop­ping car­ni­val has reached as­tro­nom­i­cal fig­ures in its trans­ac­tion vol­ume and be­come a widely-ac­knowl­edged shop­ping event. But it needs to be fur­ther reg­u­lated through the joint ef­forts of gov­ern­ments, e-com­merce plat­forms, lo­gis­tics com­pa­nies and con­sumers. By do­ing so, the on­line shop­ping fes­ti­val can head in a well-reg­u­lated di­rec­tion and be­come a real party that ev­ery­one is hap­pily in­volved in.

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