Online shopping festivals

Cheming Yang

The craziest shopping spree this month no doubt happened on the 11th of November. This date has been designated as Singles Day by Chinese online shopping tycoon Alibaba because 11th of November can be written down as 1111 which can be viewed as four singles.
Alibaba said total sales exceeded $5 billion in just the first 90 minutes of the 24-hour sale, which kicked off at midnight in Beijing. About 72% of sales were from mobile phones.
Singles Day is not the only man made shopping festival in history. For instance, Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the United States are two typical examples.
Black Friday is the day following Thanksgiving Day in the United States (the fourth Thursday of November). Since 1932, it has been regarded as the beginning of the Christmas shopping season in the US, and most major retailers open very early and offer promotional sales. Cyber Monday is the following Monday aiming at promoting online shopping. Neither Black Friday nor Cyber Monday is official holiday.
This year in the US, Thanksgiving online sales hit US$1.73 billion. Black Friday sales were US$2.74 billion. Cyber Monday sold US$3.07 billion. But even combined, they’re no match for China. Over these holiday shopping days, American ecommerce retailers raked in just US$7.54 billion, which is barely over half of the US$14.3 billion Alibaba alone raked in over Singles Day.
In terms of marketing strategy, creating a festival is a brilliant idea. In Taiwan, alll department stores will celebrate their anniversaries by lauching massive sales for an extensive period of time, not just for a day. And it has beome a ritual for shoppers in Taiwan. They will refrain from buying until department stores’ anniversaries when they indulge in binge shopping. Albaba also has its anniversary celebration but in addition it has 1111.
However, it is not entirely problem free for this kind of online shopping bonanza. The first worry is overkill. First of all, people might be less willing to spend their money on regular days. Another problem has to do with the characteristic of online shopping. Because buyers have not seen and touched the goods physically, online retailers have to maintain a more lenient return and refund policy so as to assure their customers. As such, online shopping tends to have a higher return rate in comparison with traditional shopping. And understandably, it gets worse when online shoppers rush to close deals. Alibaba doesn’t reveal return rate for Singles Day, but data from China Industry Research Network shows online shoppers returned 40% of average orders they placed on Singles Day in 2013.
Despite the worries, online shopping is the tidal wave that no one can resist. And the shopping environment is perfecting as we speak. The success of a man made shopping festival might be incidental, but the booming of online shopping is definitely here to stay.

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