The growing charm of online shopping festivals

Bhavana Akella –
Late last year, reporters from across the world were invited to Shanghai — China’s largest city — to witness the people shop relentlessly for 24 hours.
Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, one of the world’s largest retailers, has been celebrating the country’s ability to buy in abundance through its shopping fests since 2009.
Through its 11.11 shopping festival, held on November 11 each year on Singles’ Day (an official national festival in China where young people celebrate the fact that they are single), the company has turned the country’s purchases into a spectacle for the world.
The fest-day sales clocked in about $25.4 billion, making it the largest shopping extravaganza ever held in the world.
Sales events like Black Friday (day following Thanksgiving Day in the US, usually in November) and Cyber Monday (Monday after Thanksgiving Day where websites push online shopping) had existed much before Alibaba introduced its flagship shopping event. But the advent of Internet on mobile phones has effectively allowed the Alibaba Group to convert people into consumers.
The very same mobile phone has managed to turn Indians into diligent shoppers as well, awakening the buyer in many smartphone-owning citizens. Even those who rarely visit shopping malls are now made aware of the best time to buy a television or a mobile phone, thanks to the mobile applications of shopping portals.
The online shopping festivals, particularly, have succeeded in turning non-believers in digital purchasing into believers who are eager to grab the deals on offer.
“Shopping festivals are not just about offering consumers products at great prices, but are platforms for brands to explore newer and more innovative ways of engaging with people,” Alibaba Group Chief Marketing Officer Chris Tung said.
With increasing Internet penetration in China (53 per cent of the total 1.37 billion population), visits to shopping malls have been digitised for the convenience of millennials, the drivers of online shopping. It’s a trend that mirrors in India as well.
India’s leading e-tailer Flipkart and the local arm of American e-commerce major Amazon, along with other digital platforms, have managed to get Indians — not just from metros, but also from smaller towns — to go on an online shopping spree largely through their shopping festivals.
In 2016, 69 million of India’s 1.25 billion population shopped online, according to an Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham) study. — IANS