Are online shoppers’ sentiments changing, or are we at another inflection point in e-commerce?

Other than Singles Day 11.11, the Asia Pacific region has in recent years been experiencing a boom in online shopping over the festive shopping season – including Mega Sales Days on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, 12.12, and Christmas and New Year shopping events

Data from TechCrunch highlight record-breaking purchase statistics and interesting consumer insights during Mega Sales events from Thanksgiving and Black Friday in 2022. Key highlights include:

    • Shoppers spent US$5.29 billion online during Thanksgiving, up 2.9% on a year ago, and ahead of the $5.1 billion
    • Black Friday broke $9 billion in sales for the first time, with online sales of $9.12 billion – a record figure for the day, and up 2.3% on sales figures a year ago
    • Mobile devices are playing a bigger role – a record 48% of all e-commerce sales on Black Friday were made on smartphones (versus 44% in 2021)
    • Boom of Buy-Now-Pay-Later (BNPL): Black Friday saw BNPL orders shoot up 78%, and they are up 81% by sales figures, compared to the same day in the previous week

However, sentiments this year seem a little different from the high-growth trends witnessed the last few years.

While e-commerce remains robust, an analysis of sales data gathered from 100+ brands over a 24 hour period on 11 November 2022 and 11 November 2021 across online marketplaces such as Shopee, Lazada, Zalora, Blibli, qoo10 and Tokopedia – in South-east Asian markets including, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – we can see a general downward trend in the growth in e-commerce.

Maybe it’s indicative of inflation in the region. Maybe with less pandemic-related restrictions, online shopping isn’t growing as much as during the COVID-19 pandemic – a result of ‘revenge’ mall visits. Or could there be other reasons?

DigiconAsia gathered some answers and perspectives from three industry experts…

Luke Taylor, Founder, TrafficGuard:

The upside in SEA is that there have been 60 million new digital consumers since the pandemic started, however “the irony” is the damage that mega-sales have created for shoppers. Shoppers lose focus with so many additional shopping fares such as Valentine’s day, (double digital days) 3.3, 7.7, 9.9, 10.10, and other fares in between disrupt the cycle or need for consumers to wait and camp for sales and deals. The perception that there is an always-on sale for this brand – it doesn’t give the same excitement to push consumers to purchase on 11:11.

Focus on full-funnel, not just lower funnel:Targeting just key dates for 11:11 is a short-term push. With so many brands offering sales, building a strong online presence through an always-on approach is essential — experimenting on media mix from social (creators + social ads) /affiliate programs, search paid ads, mobile app, partnership with key ecommerce platforms

Gijs Verheijke, CEO, Oxstreet:

Travel is back, the economic situation doesn’t look promising, and companies are competing heavily with offers. It should not come as a surprise that 11:11 sales did not grow as much as the last two years.

Generally, for next year, it might be time to consider the possibility that the ‘haul’ culture of crazy online shopping sprees will be less popular compared to targeted, high-quality purchases.

Antoine Gross,  General Manager, Southeast Asia & India,

This year, Mega Sales Days have continued to take the world of e-commerce by storm. If there’s one big trend we’ve seen, it’s that consumer behaviors are shifting towards a more refined purchase journey that is smoother and less time-consuming. 

What we’ve also seen is how Gen Z and Millennial consumers today discover products differently and are highly-motivated by referrals, whether it is through influencer marketing and creator product endorsements, or commerce content where a website lists a ‘top 10’ style review. Consumers don’t want to be bombarded with advertisements and popups, but genuine advocacy from sources they trust. 

This is also in line with how the industry is moving as a whole with Google’s plans to drop the cookie in 2024. As marketers adopt first-party data, targeted advertising will mean a shift away from cookie-driven ads. Instead, the adoption of brand collaborations with content creators and publishers will become an effective way of reaching a more receptive consumer.

Hence, brands will need to curate their strategic partnership campaigns to appeal to a market of consumers who are truly discerning. Marketing activations will have to be authentic and trustworthy as shoppers will not settle for anything else.