‘Tis the season to shop like crazy. As expected, during the first three weeks of November, online retail transactions increased +7% globally, continuing a steady uplift from September (+3.1%) and October (+5%), according to Criteo’s report.
This year, the sales frenzy was particularly strong in APAC, online transactions in the region were up +25.5% and traffic was up +13.6%. By comparison, in the Americas, Black Friday shopping continued its trend of +5% year-on-year sales growth.
China’s stellar Single’s Day numbers
But it seems that Black Friday is just one more mega sale in the many that Asian countries have grown accustomed to. For example, JD.com reported a record-breaking Singles Day, with transaction volume, order volume, and user engagement reaching all-time highs.
JD.com’s sales highlights;
- Transaction volume of folding screen mobile phones increased more than 300% year-over-year (yoy)
- Transaction volume of AR glasses increased fourfold yoy
- More than 2,000 home appliance and home product brands’ transaction volume increased 100%+ yoy. Transaction volume of 10+ brands, including Midea, Haier, Gree, Hisense, and Xiaomi, reached RMB 1 billion.
- Gold and watches saw transaction volume increase over 130% yoy.
- Transaction volume of Lululemon products increased 260% yoy.
- New energy vehicles and accessories saw user numbers increase more than 300% yoy.
India celebrates has an extended Diwali
In India, Black Friday took the form of an extended post-Diwali shopping spree. According to ecommerce tech firm Unicommerce, there has been a sharp 23% increase in ecommerce order volumes in 2023 compared to the Black Friday sale weekend of 2022.
APAC has its own sale traditions
According to Joshua Foo, Senior Retention Marketing Manager at Chronos Agency, a lifecycle marketing agency helping high-growth DTC brands scale, “In the APAC region, BFCM wasn’t really a thing for the longest time.
Marketplace apps like Shopee and Lazada have dominated with their own sale traditions in the form of double-digit sales (2.2, 5.5, 11.11, 12.12) and Pay Day Sales (25th of every month) and we saw a surge in cementing this tradition during lockdown (pandemic). It has its pros and cons but the downside of this is the sales have really been so diluted over the years.”
Foo lists out the pros and cons;
- Pros – Advantages include successfully ingraining a habit within customers, as they now anticipate sales during specific periods. This establishes expected results in brands and benefiting from an anticipated surge in traffic, providing an opportunity to leverage this increased attention to their advantage.
- Cons – On the downside, the frequent occurrence of sales events has led to a dilution of their value. In comparison to the expected impact of a sale, the abundance of these events has diminished their significance, affecting the perceived value of the promotions.
“Because of this BFCM hasn’t really found its way into the APAC market yet. This year was the first time I’ve seen a bunch of brands jumping into the BFCM action. Even the local branches of global brands are getting in on it, running their own sales directly on their websites or in-store, not just on marketplace apps. Of course, not as much promotion, or hype in comparison to double-digit and pay-day sales,” says Foo.
Is the sales culture sustainable?
For brands from the west looking to expand their base, the Black Friday sale was seen as a way to woo Asian shoppers. But this year’s numbers from Counterpoint Research show that Apple saw a decline in the value of smartphone sales this year losing out to domestic rivals Huawei and Xiaomi which recorded robust increases.
There’s a larger argument that marketers need to take cognisance of – are promotional sales profitable?
According to Nielsen reports, a whopping 84% of price promotions are unprofitable. Marketing thought leader Les Binet, adam&eveDDB’s group head of effectiveness and the co-author of The Long and Short of it calls it the “crack of the marketing” world. A short burst of activity that could cause more long term damage than good.
Marketers need to ask themselves three pertinent questions;
- Does promotional sales move up purchases that would have taken place in any way?
- Are we missing out on the opportunity of full price purchases?
- Are sales reducing the pricing power and eroding margins?