TECHNOLOGY

Study: Singles’ Day 2017 is expected to break new records

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Alibaba is preparing to reach new goals during its upcoming Singles’ Day shopping extravaganza.

This year, 140,000 brands, including more than 60,000 international brands, are participating in Singles’ Day, up from 100,000 last year. These brands will be able to showcase their products to more than half a billion Chinese consumers on Alibaba’s platforms, according to “Countdown to Singles’ Day 2017, Part 4: Singles’ Day vs. US Shopping Holidays,” a report form Fung Global Retail & Tech.

The sale, which the Chinese e-commerce giant initially launched as a way for “single” individuals to celebrate their autonomy by shopping online, debuted as a 24-hour event in 2009. The day-long shopping event has become so popular that it is the world’s largest shopping day of the year — even eclipsing all the major one-day shopping holidays in United States retail, including Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Amazon Prime Day, the report said.

Since the event’s introduction eight years ago, other e-commerce players in China have gotten in on the game, including JD.com, which launched its first Singles’ Day sales in 2010. Based on increased momentum, Singles’ Day sales are forecast to surpass last year’s $17.8 billion (up 32% from $14.3 billion in 2015), the report said.

On average, shoppers plan to spend $324 (U.S. dollars) during this year’s shopping festival. Those who indicated they will start shopping early tend to have a higher budget. Shoppers lured by pre-sales — some which launched three or two weeks prior to the event — have budgets of $454 and $349, respectively, according to another Fung report, “Deep Dive: Countdown to Singles’ Day Part 3 — Global Shopping Festival 2017 Preview.”

However, many Singles’ Day shoppers planned to delay some or all of their purchases until the big event. Those intending to buy electronics (73%) and apparel (71%) said they will hold off on purchasing, according to the third installment of the report.

While the event is known for deep discounts offered by retailers, online shoppers are no longer focusing on price alone. Some 81% of surveyed shoppers indicated they value quality over price this year.

Another area that shoppers will be keeping an eye on this year is logistics. Despite various efforts made by the online retailers, such as increasing the number of delivery personnel and capacity during the festival period, 64% of shoppers said that improving delivery times is necessary. Due to poor logistics, 32% of 2016 Singles’ Day shoppers canceled their order because of long waiting times.

Another issue was product exchanges. Some 17% of surveyed shoppers said they exchanged an item last year, while 14% said they requested a refund. The good news is a vast majority of Singles’ Day shoppers were neutral or satisfied with their refund or exchange experience, and only 7% of surveyed shoppers indicated they were not satisfied.

While 25% of surveyed Singles Day shoppers requested refunds or exchanged products last year, even more shoppers expect to do so this year. Some 48% of shoppers said they will likely have to request a refund or exchange.

The gap between requesting a refund and expecting to request a refund or exchange indicates that online shoppers are not yet fully confident in the quality of products being sold during Singles’ Day, the report added.

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TECHNOLOGY

British online fashion giant’s virtual assistant helps customers choose holiday gifts

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Asos is giving holiday customers access to their own personal shopper — a virtual one, at least.

The British online fashion giant debuted a virtual assistant via its Facebook page, a tool designed to make suggestions for customers shopping for holiday gifts. The Asos Gift Assistant will be available to customers during the Christmas period in the U.K. and France, according to the retailer.

Here’s how it works: The virtual assistant will have its own section on Asos’ Facebook page, and is also accessible via advertisements on Facebook. Customers answer a selection of questions about the recipient, such as ‘What item would most likely fall out of their bag?’

Machine learning technology will sift through the answers to narrow down choices among the merchandise available on Asos’ site. The service also displays more choices for customers looking for additional options, according to Asos.

The digital assistant also gives customers the option to purchase an item from the “Choose Love” category — a charity that raises funds and awareness for people caught up in the refugee crisis. Here, 100% of all proceeds associated with merchandise purchased from the Help Refugees category is donated to the charity, the retailer said.

The is the latest customer service that Asos is offering. In October, the British online retailer introduced Asos Instant — a same-day delivery option for its customers in London.

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TECHNOLOGY

Study: ‘Sofa Sunday’ to influence Cyber Monday shoppers

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

An often-overlooked shopping day is finding its niche amid the highly-anticipated Black Friday weekend.

While holiday retail buzz has primarily revolved around Black Friday and Cyber Monday, “Sofa Sunday” — the day before Cyber Monday —plays an essential role shaping U.S. consumer purchase plans for “the longest shopping day of the year.” In fact, on Sofa Sunday, nearly three-quarters (71%) of respondents will spend time deal-searching — and many will do so from the comfort of their homes, according to a new study from Valassis.

Two-thirds of shoppers will spend the same or more time researching savings on Sofa Sunday than actually shopping on Cyber Monday. Specifically, 45% of shoppers will spend two or more hours researching deals on Sunday. These deal seekers are most likely to do so via their desktop/laptop computers (52%) and mobile phones (36%).

Meanwhile, 58% will complete their Cyber Monday preparation/research by 9 p.m., providing a narrow window for retailers to make an impression before the lucrative online shopping day commences.

“With so much attention focused on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, many retailers may overlook Sofa Sunday – an influential shopping day,” said Curtis Tingle, chief marketing officer, Valassis. “Brands and retailers that develop their holiday media strategies with the full consumer decision journey in mind are more likely to reach shoppers with relevant, timely messages and will ultimately secure a bigger piece of the retail pie during this critical shopping season.”

Clearly, consumers are looking to save big on Cyber Monday this year, as 67% are expecting to save more than $100; 15% are hoping for discounts between $300 – $500; and 12% want more than $500 off their purchases. With consumers’ expectations running high this year, retailers should be pricing products accordingly, while offering competitive discounts to capture and retain their target audiences, the study revealed.

Electronics, clothing/accessories and toys will also be at the top of shoppers’ Sofa Sunday to-do lists and Cyber Monday wish lists. On Sofa Sunday, shoppers plan to spend the most time hunting for consumer electronics (52%), followed by clothing/accessories (45%) and toys (27%). Home décor was next (23%), followed by health & beauty products (16%) and pet supplies (12%).

Mobile optimization is key for retailers this holiday season. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of shoppers are planning to use their mobile devices to search for deals on Sofa Sunday while at home, at work or on-the-go.

Come Cyber Monday, a whopping 60% of respondents are planning to visit Amazon’s website first to begin their Cyber Monday shopping research.

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