Here’s an in-depth look at the major retail sales events in Southeast Asia
According to a recent report by Bain & Co and Meta, GDP growth and inflation in Southeast Asia are projected to perform better than other markets, such as the US and EU. The region’s working population is set to grow by 23 million people by 2030, and household incomes are forecast to rise, with 51 million new high- and upper-middle class households expected to emerge. Meanwhile, the gross merchandise value (GMV) of Southeast Asia’s e-commerce market is expected to grow by a CAGR of 17 pe
17 per cent from US$129 billion in 2022 to US$280 billion in 2027, and the number of digital consumers in the region is expected to grow to 370 million by the end of 2022.
It’s clear that the region holds a lot of potential for online retailers and brands, but navigating the plethora of sales events is easier said than done. Here’s a look at the key dates you need to know.
Unique sales periods
First of all, there is Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year, which marks the beginning of the Chinese calendar and occurs in January and February. Beyond China, it’s also a two-day public holiday in Malaysia, and celebrated as a national holiday in Brunei, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam.
Next, there is White Day. In many Southeast Asian countries, women celebrate Valentine’s Day by giving gifts to their partners and friends. A month later, on 14 March, men reciprocate the gesture.
With shoppers often buying sweets, custom-made apparel, accessories and jewellery, White Day offers e-commerce platforms a huge opportunity to fulfil consumers’ needs. White Day is most commonly celebrated in Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam and South Korea.
The e-commerce factor
Lazada’s Birthday sale is another big draw. It’s the biggest e-commerce platform in Southeast Asia, serving customers from the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia.
To celebrate its birthday each year, it runs significant promotions and discounts of up to 90 per cent for a 24-hour ‘sales festival’ period. In 2022, this event ran on 27 March.
In Thailand, the annual water festival, Songkran, occurs on 13 April. This is when people gather with family and friends in the streets, hold water fights and celebrate together, and when advertisers run major discounts on products, services and travel packages.
Next up is Ramadan and Eid Al-Fitr, which is an important time of year in the Islamic calendar. During this time, Muslims fast between sunrise and sunset. It’s a month for reflection, devotion and discipline.
Retailers often see a significant sales spike, so it’s a good time to run promotions in Southeast Asian countries, such as Indonesia and Malaysia, which are Muslim-majority countries.
According to the Indonesian Digital Association, more than 50 per cent of Indonesian consumers spent more than 20 per cent of their annual expenditure during Ramadan in 2019, 80 per cent of which was spent online
According to a Statista survey conducted in selected Asian countries in February and March, 46 per cent of all Muslim respondents in Asia were planning to spend more during Ramadan this year compared to the previous year.
Because the event is based on the lunar Islamic calendar, the dates vary year to year. This year, it occurred in March and April.
The share of respondents in the Statista survey who said they were planning to spend more was the highest in India, at 76 per cent. Fifty-three per cent of respondents from Indonesia said they would spend the same amount on celebrations this year as they did last year.
Eid al-Fitr occurs at the end of Ramadan, when many Muslims break the fast with a big celebration. It is referred to by different names in different countries. In Singapore, for instance, it is referred to as Hari Raya Aidilfitri, and in Indonesia as Hari Raya Indul Fitri.
Consumers in the Middle East and North Africa were expected to spend about US$6.2 billion on online purchases during the holy month of Ramadan this year, according to a report by consultancy RedSeer.
Then, of course, there is Diwali, the Indian New Year and unofficial start of the country’s peak shopping period, with festivities generally stretching from August through December. Spending during Diwali has been projected to hit US$32 billion this year, with Indian households preparing for a restriction-free time.
According to a report by LiveMint, Amazon and Flipkart alone saw sales jump 27 per cent year on year to US$5.7 billion during the festival season’s first sale between 22-30 September.
When it reaches the middle of the calendar year, retailers in Southeast Asia run promotions and discounts of up to 70 per cent and more on products and services, often to rid themselves of old stock for the new season.
The Thailand Grand Sales usually occur around this time. Shopping malls, boutiques, and special pop-up shops all take part, offering discounts of up to 80 per cent. Online sales are also very popular during this period.
In Singapore, the Great Singapore Sale is an utterly unique shopping event that has global appeal, as many high-end brands advertise significant discounts during this two-month period.
The most visited shopping website in Indonesia, Tokopedia, celebrates its birthday with an anniversary sale on 17 August, which coincides with Indonesia’s independence day.
While neighbouring Malaysia celebrates its independence day on 31 August, and Malaysia Day on 16 September each year. Both dates have huge significance in terms of online and in-store shopping deals.
Another phenomenon that is quite unique to the Southeast Asian e-commerce market is the prevalence of unique sales periods like 9.9, 10.10, 11.11 and 12.12., as well as MyCyberSale and Year End Sales (Yes Sale).
Inspired by Singles Day on 11.11, Shopee launched a 9.9 Super Shopping Day event in 2018. Although Shopee launched the sales event, many other retailers have since joined in, with Lazada and Zalora participating in previous years.
According to a recent AlixPartners survey, 11.11 still remains the biggest shopping event of the year in China – Alibaba has said it will feature around 290,000 brands and more than 17 million products this year – but Chinese consumers are likely to spend more selectively this year.
Almost 60 per cent of consumers intend to spend more this year compared to last year, while 14 per cent plan to spend less amid the dynamic economic environment and the rise of sustainable spending.
The AlixPartners survey found that “value” has become a key consideration for consumers.
Thirty-four per cent of all respondents say they will think twice before spending and will only spend when necessary.
According to Justin Koh, senior vice president of AlixPartners, Southeast Asian retailers have “super-charged” peak sales periods by referencing shopping festivals from other countries.
“In addition, there are many uniquely “localised” peak sales (including Lazada Payday Sales which occur middle and end of the month), which have altered slightly based on the country within Southeast Asia,” he told Inside Retail.
Live streaming, one of the most dominant mediums for discount shopping festivals in recent years, is seeing its popularity decline, as only 74 per cent of surveyed consumers say they will watch or participate in live streaming this year, down from 97 per cent last year.
While Taobao remains the leading live streaming platform, with 73 per cent of livestream watchers saying they will go to Taobao for livestreams, TikTok is catching up aggressively. Fifty-eight per cent of respondents who plan to participate in live streaming will use the short-form video platform, up from 38 per cent last year.
“Social commerce platforms are exploring the potential of the market through live streaming, e.g TikTok has built up the e-commerce team dedicated to Southeast Asia and relocated the talents from China to develop the market with their experience in running social commerce,” Koh added.
The show goes on
Koh believes that these unique sales periods will continue to have staying power as consumers have become used to them, and expect them to be part of the sales calendar moving forward.
“Brands will need to figure out what role each sales period would play and how it corresponds to their own marketing and product calendar. Goals include getting users to buy more, try more, establish brand loyalty and defend a basket leader to lead more sales,” he noted.
“Extended time periods (i.e., not just a single day), timing of the start of the sales periods (i.e., starting at 8pm instead of midnight) are what Chinese consumers are looking for from platforms to help improve their shopping experience during these periods.”
The final double-digit date, Double 12, was launched by Alibaba-owned Lazada on 12.12.12. The sales event was created to focus on the small to medium-sized businesses overshadowed on Singles’ Day by the big e-commerce players in Southeast Asia.
Then of course, there is Christmas, which sees huge sales across the region. Although many consumers are taking advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, there will always be last-minute consumers who need to shop in the days just before Christmas Day.
In a recent article in Insider Intelligence, it was stated that e-commerce sales in Southeast Asia will total US$89.67 billion in 2022, an increase of US$15.31 billion over last year.
By next year, it is predicted that the region will cross the US$100 billion mark, a long way from the US$37.22 billion in online sales seen in 2019. Southeast Asia’s growth stands out even more, given that most other geographies will see only moderate increases this year.
The 20.6 per cent expansion in e-commerce in the region in 2022 will be the highest in the world. Latin America will be the only other region that will crack the 20 per cent threshold this year.
Only four countries in the world will produce faster e-commerce growth rates than Southeast Asia’s combined figure, and two of them – the Philippines and Indonesia – are in the region.
At the end of the day, Koh feels that online retailers who look into understanding the objective or motive of consumers during these peak sales periods will achieve better segmentation of different shopper types, which will help them adjust their tactics for each sales period.
“Bricks-and-mortar stores can help in a number of ways, such as in discovery of products in person, pick -ups and exchange services that can help ease any logistical bottlenecks, as well as increase loyalty and elevate user experience,” he concluded.
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