More than a week before "Singles’ Day’ which falls on Nov. 11, major shopping firms in Vietnam had begun to update their mobile applications with a range of games designed to ‘hype up’ consumers.
These included shaking the phone to earn coins (shopping vouchers), discount lotteries and ‘easter eggs’ giving specific discounts, and many more.
Few retailers explain why Nov. 11 was chosen as the date for this promotional event, which some hail as "the biggest discount of the year."
Consumers and online businesses both acknowledge, however, that the marketing race building up to the day has been very fierce.
The most boisterous claims came from Singapore based e-commerce group Lazada, which announced that it will gift 110,000 vouchers worth $10 million.
General manager of Lazada Vietnam, Zhang YiXing, said he had spent the last three months fine-tuning Lazada’s app and working with vendors for the Nov. 11 event.
Although they have no reason or specific connection with Alibaba, other e-commerce sites are not missing the opportunity to profit from Singles’ Day. Industry insiders remark that with competition so fierce, the ‘big players’ are implementing emulation strategies to grab whatever advantage they can get at.
In particular, businesses do not want to stand idle during an event which increases the traffic and revenue of its rivals. So they’ve all jumped on the Singles’ Day bandwagon and made it spread further.
"E-commerce is the most developed industry in Vietnam and also the most competitive," said Tran Ngoc Thai Son, founder and CEO of e-commerce company Tiki.
On the Tiki website, the company hails Nov. 11 as the "legendary sales season", introducing a lottery to win laptops, phones and shopping vouchers with a total value of up to VND10 billion ($431,980).
Meanwhile, Shopee, a consumer Internet platform provider based in Singapore, has called this day the "Super Sale." The company has also launched a game consumers can play to earn rewards and has been promoting a different product line each day to attract attention before the official event.
Lotte.vn has also jumped into the fray in dramatic fashion, calling the event the "Nov. 11 shopping war", while Adayroi, run by Vietnam’s biggest private conglomerate Vingroup, has launched a full week of promotions from Nov. 1-11 with its "Sale Season".
Experts say that in addition to price, this years’ competing retailers have also focused more on branded goods and after-sales service.
"Technology is no longer a challenge for Vietnam’s e-commerce sector but consumer confidence. Now choosing products and discounts from a trusted retailer is also important, not just price," said Le Hai Binh, vice president of the Vietnam E-commerce Association.
"Delivery and after-sales services are competitive advantages that cannot be ignored in this race."
Although not as fierce as this year, last Nov. 11 had made ‘a killing’ for retailers, encouraging them to step up promotions this year.
According to data released by France-based commerce marketing company Criteo, retail sales of online shopping sites in Vietnam during the last Single’s Day campaign increased 245 percent, compared with ordinary days in the year, and marked a 70 percent increase in traffic.
Last Nov. 11, traffic increased the most in the evening, from about 9 p.m. onwards. Shopping time "peaked" at 11 p.m., which is one hour before promotions end, so consumers were rushing to finish their shopping.
The two most popular items last year were home appliances and electronics, with sales soaring by over 276 percent and 266 percent respectively compared to ordinary days.
Silvia Siow, Criteo’s chief customer strategy manager for Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan, said that these two categories were best sellers because of their high value. People tended to wait for promotions to cash in on significant discounts in absolute terms. Siow also said that Nov. 11 was playing a growing role in Southeast Asia, not just Vietnam.
He said the real gains from Nov. 11 were not in sales but an expanded customer base and increased market share.
"Sales are important, but traffic is more important. Increased traffic may represent newcomers who arrive and discover or rediscover products. "
The heat of the Nov. 11 race in Vietnam is expected to last many years as it is the second most dynamic e-commerce market in Southeast Asia, behind Indonesia.
Economist Simon Baptis, CEO of Asia region for the Economist Intelligence Unit (Economist Group) said: "Vietnam will be one of the fastest growing economies in the region with real growth constant at a high level between 2019 and 2023.
"Reinforcing consumer confidence in e-commerce and electronic payment systems is also a need of the period."
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