Single, pringle, and ready to mingle in the biggest online shopping festival? What started out as a cheeky little protest against lovey-dovey Valentine’s Day has now become a massive e-commerce extravaganza on November 11. What is the origin of Singles’ Day, and how did it become the mega shopping festival that it is today?
Self-Love & Singledom
Singles’ Day was created by four single male students of Nanjing University, China, in 1993. As they brainstormed on ways to break away from the monotony of singlehood, they concluded that it was probably easier to
accept embrace and celebrate their singledom instead. And so, the date November 11 (11/11) was chosen because the four ‘1’s resembled bare sticks (光棍 guāng gùn) – a Chinese slang for lonely males without a significant other.
That marked the start of Bachelors’ Day. But with the proliferation of this occasion through social media, it became widely celebrated by both genders and was eventually renamed as Singles’ Day to include the ladies in the pringle party.
Status: Single and Shopping
Today, 11.11 has been commercialised into a global shopping holiday by e-commerce giant, Alibaba. Leveraging Singles’ Day to overcome the commercial lull before the Lunar New Year, Alibaba organised heavy discounts as part of their promotional activities for 双十一 (shuāng shí yī, or Double 11) – lending reasons to singles to treat themselves with online purchases (hashtag self-love).
Double 11 found a sweet spot in the social commerce space – in the right place, at the right time. Its success as a shopping festival can be attributed to the rising numbers of Internet, smartphone and social media users since its launch.
COVID-19 and Online Shopping Sales
Digitalisation may have driven the development of e-commerce but the recent pandemic has definitely spurred the growth of these online shopping platforms. In fact, UOB economist Barnabas Gan reported that a 151.2 per cent spike was observed in the year-on-year online sales back in June.
According to a study, 63 per cent of Singaporeans were reported to spend more online, attributing the higher expenditure to the temporary closure of brick-and-mortar stores during the circuit breaker period. The result was not surprising: a 31 per cent increase in the total expenditure for the average Singaporean consumer compared to before the pandemic.
Given the recent success in 9.9 and 10.10 events, e-tailers can certainly look forward to 11.11 overtaking Black Friday as the biggest (and most anticipated) sale of the year. That being said, even though Alibaba was reported to generate US$38.4 billion in sales in 2019 from the Double 11 Shopping Festival alone – 11.11 is not just about making sales.
Despite the growing numbers of Singaporeans shopping online, about four in ten Singaporean consumers expressed their dissatisfaction with the experience. And that says something about e-commerce operations at present. With high usage also comes greater scrutiny of these online shopping platforms; it is therefore crucial that these e-tailers continue to deliver in terms of quality and service.
So here are 4 things that every retailer must know, besides throwing out massive discounts, to generate high sales volume:
1. Tap on new segments
2020 has seen people buying things they usually do not as they adjust to the “new normal” e.g. whisks and dumbbells. For first-time entrants in these product categories, giving deep discounts can serve as an incredible pull factor.
Tip #1: Always be on the lookout for opportunities and business gaps e.g. untapped product categories.
2. Reach out to high-value customers
Before going all-in on attracting new users, bear in mind that customer acquisition also comes at a price. According to a Harvard Business Review article, acquiring a new customer can cost 5 to 25 times more than retaining an existing customer. Furthermore, a 5 per cent increase in customer retention rate also increases profits by 25% to 95%. So not all customers are equal.
Tip #2: Identify target segments that are most profitable to your business for efficient allocation of resources.
3. Gain customer insights on preferences and wants
Make data-based decisions. Consumer insights can help you learn what best captures the mind and heart shares of consumers. This extends to category-related search volumes e.g. sports and fitness during the circuit breaker period.
Achieving high sales volume should not be the end goal for us. We want to steer our businesses towards the top of the brand resonance pyramid and nurture them into brand advocates. (And as I write this, I am hearing someone’s mobile ringtone go “Shopee!”.)
Tip #3: Data (!) is more than a backup for your gut instincts. Listen to what your customers are saying and be a brand that is attuned to your consumers’ needs.
4. Build strong back-end operations (e-commerce edition)
To provide a great customer experience, it is crucial to put in place robust back-end operations. Here’s what you can do:
- Shipping visibility/tracking
The ability to track the status or location of their shipments lowers barriers of entry for new shoppers and puts them at ease.
- Contactless delivery
Times like this require us to prioritise the health and safety of customers and delivery personnel.
- Flexible delivery alternatives
Now that most people are alternating between working from home and office, the freedom to choose a time and place of convenience to pick up their packages warrants greater customer satisfaction and encourages them to make repeat purchases.
- Return policy
Consumer purchase does not mark the end of the customer journey. Providing an easy return experience is another opportunity to engage with customers.
- Shipping visibility/tracking
Tip #4: Map out your customer journey in order to target pain points they may face. And this includes their post-sales experiences.
1 Swallow Doesn’t Make A Summer
COVID-19 has propelled us to embrace and adapt to a more digitalised lifestyle, and there is no doubt that e-commerce will continue to prevail in a post-COVID-19 world. But just because businesses that pivoted are currently thriving doesn’t assure them of their continued success in a post-COVID-19 world.
A recent 2020 Shopper Study also revealed that 58 per cent of consumers in the Asia-Pacific region prefer to shop with online retail brands that have brick and mortar store locations; giving some of us hope that retail outlets won’t fade out entirely. At this point in time, it would be wise for brands to pivot (if they haven’t already), and embrace a multi-channel strategy; to be where the customers are.
As the Content Creator at The Outsiders Co., Jasmine is a storyteller who translates her love for learning into content that is entertaining and relatable for the audience. She believes in connecting with the audience through the words she pens – or types.
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