November-December 2019 is set to be BIG for e-commerce worldwide, fueled by Singles’ Day shopping in Asia, Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales in Western markets, and the year-end Christmas season.

Based on Adobe Analytics data, US online sales for the 2019 holiday season are expected to increase by 14.1%, totaling USD$143.7 billion, while total retail shopping (offline and online), will rise by 4%. 1 out of 5 dollars this holiday season will be spent during Cyber Week – between Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday – generating $29 billion (or 20%) of total online revenue this season.

Adobe predicts Cyber Monday to set new records as the largest and fastest-growing online shopping day of the year, with $9.4 billion in sales, an 18.9% increase year over year.

In Asia, the same – maybe even more – can be said for 11.11 or Singles’ Day 2019. According to Forrester’s senior analyst Xiaofeng Wang, since 2013, Singles’ Day event founder Alibaba has generated more online gross merchandise volume (GMV) than all US retailers put together on Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.

“While eye-popping GMV numbers have become routine, we expect Singles’ Day to become grander than ever in terms of scale and reach, innovations, and social responsibility,” said Wang.

Here’s what she believes we can expect, come 11 November 2019:

  • Bigger discounts will come with more complex promotion schemes. Major players such as Alibaba, and Shopee rolled out preorder campaigns with varying start dates, and their promotion schemes have become increasingly complex. Consumers fall into a dilemma between deals that are too good to resist and schemes that are too many and too complex to follow.
  • Alibaba will continue to push the boundaries of what to buy online. Last year, Alibaba expanded its 11.11 product portfolio to new industries like automobile and hotel. This year, it is expanding into new areas such as entertainment to offline services to real estate. Consumers in China can buy tickets to Disney Parks, car care services, home decoration, and renovation services online. What’s more, Alibaba plans to sell 10,000 apartments on its auction platform.
  • Live streaming commerce will be the key driver of revenue growth. Live streaming commerce is increasingly gaining momentum in China and quickly expanding to South-east Asia and beyond. Lazada, Shopee, and Rakuten all launched live streaming features. Beauty brand Whoo already created a jaw-dropping record of achieving 100 million yuan GMV in six minutes of live streaming during the preorder campaign period. Fifty-five cars were sold in just one second in another live streaming session of Chinese automobile brand JMC. We expect to see more record-breaking live streaming sales like this emerge on 11.11 this year.
  • Leading retailers and brands will differentiate with their social responsibility. Alibaba announced the plan of “a greener 11.11.” It is committing to set up 40,000 recycling stations across China through its Cainiao Smart Logistics Network, along with an additional 35,000 by its express-courier partners. It also encourages consumers to participate by rewarding them with “green energy” points on Ant Forest. Not exactly for Singles Day, Singapore-based online retailer Carousell recently launched a “reboxing” campaign with the similar idea of reducing waste. We expect to see more retailers and brands participate and initiate social responsibility campaigns like this.”

Judith Loh, Head of Relationship Management, Wirecard APAC, observed that Singles’ Day has evolved from online sales to an annual event that provides a glimpse into the shopping experience of the future.

“It has spurred new thinking in the retail sector, as brands compete to draw customers into exciting new experiences,” said Loh. “Core to this transformation is a shift towards Unified Commerce – a flexible, continuous and consistent approach to bridge online and offline for a superior shopping experience.”

Going ‘phygital’

Already, retailers are tapping into new technologies like location-based mobile services, VR, AR and the use of entertainment to engage with consumers across all touchpoints. The ‘retail rebound’ will see more ‘click-and-mortar’ customer experience combining innovative physical and digital – or ‘phygital’ – experiences.  

Said Loh: “We will see more seamless phygital integration, including the use of new innovations like ‘smart mirrors’, allowing consumers to get personalized recommendations and shop online while in-store.”

All of this will push payments to the forefront, she added. “Not only do retailers need to cater for incredible payments volumes, but they must cater for a wide variety of different payment preferences – from online shopping, to in-store shopping, through to the likes of mobile wallets. We can also expect to see new ways of payments such as the use of biometrics, become more popular and widely adopted in the future.”

Vivi Wang, Business Development Director, Southeast Asia at Mobvista, concurred: “Online shopping events have become a globalized phenomenon and as a result, brands need to be able to deliver a more interactive, authentic and personalized customer experience that entertains and engages, in order to compete and drive traffic.”

Wang added: “Today’s consumers are looking beyond low pricing alone. As a result, we’re seeing brands such as Lazada, Shopee and Tokopedia channeling their efforts to creative mobile-first campaigns that cultivate customer engagement and loyalty – and critically, help build excitement and momentum ahead of major shopping events.”

Gamification of offers, livestreaming product features and video marketing are also great tactics in cultivating engagement and interest. However, Wang warned, in mobile-first Southeast Asia, it is important for brands to ensure their marketing strategy entails a comprehensive mobile-focused approach.

A report by iPrice found that mobile e-commerce transactions are demonstrating unstoppable growth, generating 72% of all e-commerce traffic online and expanding at an average of 19% over 12 months in 2017,” she said. “We see m-commerce growing exponentially in 2019 and beyond.”

Potential dangers

Clement Lee, Principal Consulting Security Architect, Asia Pacific at Check Point, warned: “This is a great opportunity for both shoppers and hackers to get a great deal. Any means of communication can be easily masqueraded as any legitimate retailer and could scam the public to fall for their trap.” 

It is especially during this frenzy period that shoppers should be mindful about clicking on any links – or even any part of the message – sent through any digital communication means. They should validate directly with the actual retailer (or website).

“This will be harder when it comes to spear phishing attacks (i.e. personalized, time limited for offers),” said Lee. “Please exercise caution and discretion when tempted to interact with such means of communications.”

His advice: “The golden rule always applies – if a deal is too good to be true, it is most likely a scam. Extra precaution is highly encouraged to prevent one from being part of a hacker’s ‘great deal’. Happy shopping!”

Online credit card skimming is another danger. Tim Mackey, Principal Security Strategist, Synopsys Software Integrity Group, explained: “Online credit card skimming differs from the physical skimming practices most people have heard about in that there isn’t an obvious way the average person will be able to identify if or when a website has been compromised.”

The only potential tell-tale sign might be that the website itself doesn’t look quite right, although more sophisticated attacks can make differentiating between a fake site and a legitimate one challenging.

Shopping tips

With the absence of tell-tale signs of compromise, Mackey’s advice is that consumers should invest in protections for how they manage their credit cards rather than looking at the websites themselves. From recent history, we know that companies as well recognized as Forbes, British Airways, MyPillow and many hundreds of others aren’t immune from attack.

According to Mackey, shoppers wishing to protect themselves from such attacks should think about these tips.