Singles’ Day deals are more complicated, but shoppers are undeterred
Alibaba’s big shopping event broke sales records despite user complaints of spending more time collecting “meow coins” and calculating deposit returns
Every November 11, millions of Chinese internet users are glued to their smartphones as they try to get the best deals of the year on snacks, groceries and electronic devices. But shopping during the world’s largest online shopping event isn’t as easy as it used to be.
(Abacus is a unit of the South China Morning Post, which is owned by Alibaba.)
Some vendors ask users to pay deposits days before November 11 with the promise that the value of deposits will increase when users make the purchase. So a 20 yuan (US$2.85) deposit, for instance, might count as 40 yuan (US$5.71) toward a purchase at checkout. Users can also redeem subsidies with their Tmall points, which they get from past purchases, and get coupons from individual shops.
“Ecommerce by its nature is a price-sensitive channel since it’s so easy to compare prices,” said Philip Wiggenraad, the head of research at Hong Kong-based digital retail consultancy Tofugear. “So having to jump through hoops will be regarded as hugely frustrating for consumers hoping to get those deals.”
“That said, these ecommerce businesses know exactly what they are doing,” he added.
Wiggenraad pointed out that the strategies from ecommerce companies work to their benefit. Deposits are meant to gauge demand ahead of time so vendors can prepare inventory accordingly, and some shops raise prices before the event so discounts seem bigger than they actually are, he said.
Alibaba didn’t respond to our request for comment.
“While complaints have been on the rise on social media, the reality is that this year’s Singles’ Day event will smash last year’s sales record, underlining that when it comes to bargains, most consumers are willing to go to considerable extremes,” Wiggenraad said.