Why to­day is a shop­per’s dream

World’s big­gest on­line shop­ping event is gain­ing mo­men­tum here too

Weekend Herald - - Front Page - Aimee Shaw aimee.shaw@nzher­ald.co.nz

Sin­gles’ Day, China’s an­nual on­line shop­ping fes­ti­val, has be­gun and for many re­tail­ers it means one thing — bil­lions of dol­lars in sales. The eu­pho­ria of the re­tail event, which en­cour­ages those who are sin­gle to treat them­selves, is gain­ing mo­men­tum Down Un­der but this is noth­ing com­pared to the bo­nanza in China.

Chris Wilkin­son, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of First Re­tail Group, says Sin­gles’ Day has be­come a “re­li­gion” over­seas, with e-com­merce com­pa­nies such as Alibaba and Tmall en­list­ing celebri­ties and pop cul­ture icons to drive the hype.

Sin­gles’ Day, or 11.11, started as an ob­scure “anti-Valen­tine’s” cel­e­bra­tion for sin­gle peo­ple in China in the 1990s, es­tab­lished by uni­ver­sity stu­dents in Nan­jing.

Since then it has turned into the world’s big­gest on­line shop­ping day, sur­pass­ing the com­mer­cial suc­cess of Black Fri­day and Cy­ber Mon­day, which of­ten causes pan­de­mo­nium in the US. E-com­merce gi­ant Alibaba made US$17 bil­lion ($24.5b) in sales in just 24 hours from Sin­gles’ Day last year, and pre­dicts it will hit US$21b this year.

On Black Fri­day last year on­line sales to­talled more than US$3 bil­lion.

The av­er­age discount on Sin­gles’ Day in China last year was 33 per cent, but many sites are ad­ver­tis­ing dis­counts of 50 or 60 per cent, and coupons can be pur­chased to bag an ad­di­tional discount.

New Zealand price com­par­i­son web­site PriceSpy has pre­dicted elec­tron­ics, gad­gets and gam­ing prod­ucts will be the big­gest sell­ers on Sin­gles’ Day in New Zealand.

Last year it found mo­bile phones, TVs, game con­soles and head­phones to be the most pop­u­lar pur­chases on the day, with PB Tech­nolo­gies, Noel Leem­ing, Auck­land’s Mo­bile Sta­tion and Ex­pert In­fotech be­ing rated the most pop­u­lar stores.

Greg Har­ford, gen­eral man­ager of pub­lic af­fairs for Re­tail NZ, says Sin­gles’ Day had the po­ten­tial to build into a sig­nif­i­cant event in New Zealand.

“A good ex­am­ple to look at is Black Fri­day, the US shop­ping frenzy to­wards the end of Novem­ber, cou­pled with Cy­ber Mon­day. Those have slowly gath­ered steam in New Zealand. Con­sumers have started look­ing out for those sales, and re­tail­ers have re­sponded to the com­pe­ti­tion that is avail­able in­ter­na­tion­ally by start­ing to roll out sim­i­lar sales,” he says. “Over time Sin­gles’ Day will be­come more sig­nif­i­cant in the Kiwi shop­ping cal­en­dar.”

A num­ber of New Zealand busi­nesses sell­ing prod­ucts through Chi­nese web­site Tmall have had suc­cess on Sin­gles’ Day in the past — par­tic­u­larly those in the beauty, health and well­ness cat­e­gories.

“Some of New Zealand’s best-known brands have been qui­etly do­ing very well, how­ever, few tend to shout loudly about it,” Wilkin­son says. “Spa treat­ments, food and bev­er­age busi­nesses also do well as the event brings peo­ple out to so­cialise.”

NZX-listed skin­care brand Tril­ogy is host­ing its very first on­line Sin­gles’ Day pro­mo­tion this week­end, of­fer­ing dis­counts across its New Zealand, Aus­tralia and China e-com­merce plat­forms.

Tril­ogy dig­i­tal and so­cial spe­cial­ist Kristina An­dreassen says the com­pany is ex­cited about the po­ten­tial rise in sales.

“Tril­ogy has ex­pe­ri­enced sub­stan­tial growth in the Chi­nese mar­ket and af­ter recog­nis­ing how crit­i­cal this on­line event is to that mar­ket and our lo­cally-based Chi­nese con­sumers, we felt it was im­por­tant to get in­volved and cel­e­brate these types of events with this au­di­ence,” An­dreassen says.

Ri­val brand An­tipodes is also get­ting in on the e-com­merce ac­tion.

The com­pany be­gan prepar­ing for Sin­gles’ Day in July, and is al­ready plan­ning for next year.

It has made a num­ber of videos and teamed up with Chi­nese in­flu­encer Al­li­son Zhu who livestreamed its prod­ucts — re­ceiv­ing nearly two mil­lion views — and has seen a spike in its Tmall flag­ship store pre-sales.

“11.11 is huge for us, and China is one of our big­gest mar­kets,” says An­tipodes dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing spe­cial­ist Katrina McClel­land. “This is our third Sin­gles’ Day . . . it’s dou­bled ev­ery sin­gle time, and we’re ex­pect­ing it to triple this year.”

While the of­fi­cial on­line shop­ping frenzy goes off on Novem­ber 11, most e-com­merce sites host warm-up and pre-sale events ahead of time.

“The rea­son why they do that is be­cause two years ago when Tmall hit go at mid­night all of the servers went down — we’re talk­ing mil­lions of peo­ple go­ing on the site at the same time, so now they do warm up sales and pre-sales — you can pre-or­der for the day, they had to,” McClel­land says.

An­tipodes’ en­try into the Chi­nese mar­ket was not all smooth sail­ing, as it is not per­mit­ted to sell its prod­ucts in bricks and mor­tar stores.

“We can­not sell our prod­ucts in China in bricks and mor­tar stores with­out test­ing on an­i­mals, and one of our ethos is we would never test on an­i­mals, so we had no choice [but] to go e-com­merce,” she says.

“In hind­sight it has been great for us be­cause a high per­cent­age of Chi­nese shop on­line on their phones through Tmall. We do cross bor­der par­cel to par­cel, ei­ther from Hong Kong or New Zealand, that was the only way we could tap into the mar­ket.”

Eco-friendly house­hold and per­sonal care prod­ucts com­pany Eco­s­tore has also reaped the re­wards from Sin­gles’ Day in the three years it has been in­volved.

“We’ve seen year on year growth of over 100 per cent on sales and we’re ex­pect­ing that again this year,” says Eco­s­tore man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Pablo Kraus.

“We see Sin­gles’ Day as a huge op­por­tu­nity to build brand aware­ness, and we see our base sales go up over the rest of the year be­cause of it.”

Last year, within 20 min­utes Eco­s­tore had ex­ceeded its sales from the pre­vi­ous year and within 10 min­utes had sold out of its fab­ric soft­ener and laun­dry liq­uid.

Last year Alibaba held a glitzy fourhour long count­down gala to kick off Sin­gles’ Day which was watched by more than 400 mil­lion peo­ple in China. Last night it again held a sim­i­lar event — this time big­ger — head­lined by Amer­i­can singer Phar­rell Williams and hosted by Chi­nese ac­tress Zhang Ziyi.

The re­tail gala is part of Alibaba founder Jack Ma’s strat­egy and vi­sion for the fu­ture of re­tail — merg­ing en­ter­tain­ment and con­sump­tion.

Hong Kong-based Kiwi Mar­cus Glu­cina, di­rec­tor of New Zealand Fo­cus, a com­pany set up to show­case New Zealand’s pre­mier ex­port prod­ucts in China such as meats, honey and milk pow­der, says work­ing on Sin­gles’ Day can be daunt­ing.

“The team needs to work 36 hours non-stop to an­swer prod­uct queries, process or­ders and en­sure ev­ery­thing goes smoothly,” Glu­cina says. “We can­not have any out of stocks, or neg­a­tive con­sumer feed­back that may neg­a­tively im­pact sales on the day or in the fu­ture. Ex­tra staff is al­ways re­quired for pack­ag­ing — par­tic­u­larly ware­house sup­port — as thou­sands of parcels are dis­patched in one day.”

Glu­cina says sales on the day can ex­ceed sales equiv­a­lent to a three to

New Zealand busi­nesses can demon­strate that they are cul­tur­ally aware of these events and make them­selves more rel­e­vant to the chang­ing face of a ‘new New Zealand’.

Nick Siu, left, di­rec­tor of com­mer­cial con­sul­tancy The Agency 88

four-month pe­riod on the same chan­nel and on­line site.

Nick Siu, di­rec­tor of com­mer­cial con­sul­tancy The Agency 88, says New Zealand’s grow­ing Chi­nese pop­u­la­tion, and fes­tiv­i­ties like Sin­gles’ Day, is good for busi­ness.

“One of the great­est ben­e­fits of the new mi­grant pop­u­la­tion is that they are just that — new, so they are very aware of events such as 11.11

that are hap­pen­ing back home in China and have friends, first gen­er­a­tion rel­a­tives who are par­tic­i­pat­ing and en­joy­ing those ben­e­fits from par­tic­i­pat­ing busi­nesses,” Siu says.

More than 171,000 New Zealan­ders are of Chi­nese ori­gin ac­cord­ing to the last cen­sus, and that fig­ure is pro­jected to in­crease to 370,000 by 2025.

Of the 171,000, 82 per cent are able to speak their na­tive lan­guage.

“New Zealand busi­nesses can demon­strate that they are cul­tur­ally aware of these events and make them­selves more rel­e­vant to the chang­ing face of a ‘new New Zealand’.

“This aware­ness does not go un­no­ticed within the Chi­nese com­mu­nity and may have sig­nif­i­cant spill-over ben­e­fits in brand aware­ness, sen­ti­ment

and fu­ture trad­ing be­yond the trans­ac­tions that are de­liv­ered on the day.”

The eu­pho­ria of Sin­gles’ Day will make its way to New Zealand but re­tail­ers need to be care­ful of how they ap­proach such events, Siu says.

“For re­tail­ers it is a step-by-step process,” he says.

“Take a holis­tic and rea­soned view of un­der­stand­ing the Chi­nese mar­ket first, sec­ondly un­der­stand the size of the prize and thirdly strate­gi­cally de­cide whether it is a di­rec­tion the or­gan­i­sa­tion wants to un­lock.

“If those val­ues align, they should be brave enough to not au­to­mat­i­cally go to cre­at­ing an ad­vert.

“The point is to be gen­uine and au­then­tic to this au­di­ence who is par­tic­i­pat­ing in an equally novel and

in­no­va­tive event.”

Such of­fers need to be com­mu­ni­cated through chan­nels such as WeChat, he says.

“WeChat is the dom­i­nant Chi­nese so­cial me­dia plat­form and is also a game changer in that it of­fers pay­ment func­tion­al­ity,” Siu says.

“This al­lows the par­tic­i­pat­ing 11.11 cus­tomer to make a trans­ac­tion while in-the-mo­ment, which is great for cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion but also the Kiwi re­tailer who can make the till go ring,” he says.

“What­ever of­fer and par­tic­i­pa­tion an or­gan­i­sa­tion has, it should not be seen as to­ken, and if done cor­rectly connects the do­mes­tic Chi­nese pop­u­la­tion to­gether with an ex­cit­ing event and po­ten­tially a very ex­cit­ing ex­port strat­egy.”

Pic­ture / 123RF

Phar­rell Williams and ac­tress Zhang Ziyi are some of the many celebrity am­bas­sadors for Sin­gles’ Day.

Alibaba founder Jack Ma’s strat­egy is merg­ing en­ter­tain­ment and con­sump­tion.

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