It only seems fitting that a global pandemic would catalyze a global shift toward online shopping. As the busy year-end holiday season gets underway, PYMNTS looks at how eCommerce marketplaces around the world are preparing – and faring – in the new digital world order.
Asia and China
It’s not possible to look at AsiaPac eCommerce trends without delving into the fast-growing metrics of its largest individual player: China. Although the Chinese calendar is different, the fourth quarter is filled with consequential retail events – such as Golden Week, New Year and the newest entrant, Singles’ Day, which has become so popular in the past decade that it was doubled this year.
Alibaba Chief Marketing Officer Chris Tung said the key to successful events like Singles’ Day, which cranked out $74 billion in sales this year, is to make shopping fun.
“One thing that we learned through the experience of creating the festival is that there’s a new meaning for eCommerce. We think it has been redefined by entertainment,” Tung told The Drum. “The reason why 400 million people now take part in Singles’ Day is that it is entertaining, memorable and unifying.”
A recent report from Fitch on China’s consumer spending climate noted that many local merchants had shifted more of their sales online while other new ventures had been able to thrive by digitizing their retail value chains and expediting the integration of online and offline businesses.
In the historic spirit of Black Friday, Fitch is forecasting that solid fourth-quarter sales could save the entire year.
“We expect the momentum of China’s [fourth-quarter] retail sales recovery to see growth in the mid- to high-single-digits, narrowing the full-year sales drop to the low-single-digits,” Fitch said.
The eCommerce platform battle for the hearts and minds of India’s 1.3 billion consumers actually looks a lot like the situation in the U.S., since it has Amazon India vying against Walmart-owned Flipkart for the top two positions.
In the case of the former, Amazon India has just concluded its seasonal Diwali festivities that it bundles beneath the “Great Indian Festival” banner, and cross-promotes as “Gifting Happiness Days.” Like China, Indian eCommerce clearly doesn’t want to be limited to a single-day event or weekend.
At the same time, Indians are also well aware of what is happening in the U.S., looking to American Black Friday as a chance to score hard-to-find items and have them shipped internationally. A recent post on India’s NDTV’s Gadgets 360 site cautioned local shoppers to carefully compare prices and consider all the costs involved in buying overseas, including foreign exchange, shipping and customs duties, while avoiding bulky items.
“If the overall price comes out to be lower than the local pricing, that’s a good deal. But if it doesn’t, don’t go for it,” Gadgets advised. “If you’re looking to buy physical products, make sure you don’t buy anything too heavy. The shipping costs alone would break your budget.”
The biggest news lately in Japan’s highly developed and robust shopping culture was Walmart’s decision last week to exit the country after 18 years – a move the FT said was due to the country’s powerful suppliers and quirky regional food preferences.
In its wake, Japanese consumers will continue to benefit from competition between imported heavyweight Amazon.jp and the locally built Rakuten. For its part, Rakuten announced last week that it is embarking on a three-way partnership with KKR and Walmart to digitally transform local department store Seiyu into “Japan’s leading omnichannel retailer.”
Other digital upgrades coming to Seiyu include investment in digital channels to facilitate app-based shopping, payment and delivery services; the introduction of new options for cashless payment; and efforts to improve the service experience in both online and offline channels.
The one thing that really distinguishes Europe’s eCommerce marketplace environment is the regulatory climate, where EU policymakers continue to scrutinize the competitive practices of the enormous, mostly American tech companies that do business there, including Amazon.
Despite their shared currency, European eCommerce is as diverse as its member nations, where language, culture, customs and cross-border shipping all pose unique challenges for this massive and wealthy part of the world. It’s a formula that regulators have said makes Europe especially attractive to fraudsters, and has prompted leaders to call for a collaborative response from the eCommerce industry earlier this month.
“We know from our earlier experience that fraudsters see this pandemic as an opportunity to trick European consumers,” Didier Reynders, the EU Commissioner for Justice, said in a press statement. “We also know that working with major online platforms is vital to protecting consumers from their illegal practices. Today, I encouraged the platforms to join forces and engage in a peer-to-peer exchange to further strengthen their response,” Reynders added, calling for an even more agile response during the second wave of the virus.
With contestants ranging from Otto in Germany, to PriceMinister in France, to Fruugo in the U.K., consumers in Europe are spoiled for choice by some measures, as platforms from all over the world seek access to this block of 500 million people and the world’s biggest economy.
Although Jumia is headquartered in Germany, the marketplace operator in Africa continues to make inroads into online commerce. Like many of its peers around the world, Jumia has not only imported the Black Friday concept to the continent, but has expanded it to last almost the entire month of November.
In fairness, 2020 marks the eighth year that Jumia has brought flash sales and other promotions to consumers in Nigeria, but the pandemic and subsequent business closures have caused it to more than double down on the event.
“This year’s campaign will focus on providing support for [SMBs], seeing that it’s been a rather tough year for a lot of businesses,” said Jumia’s Nigeria CEO Massimiliano Spalazzi. “This will be a great opportunity to recoup sales that may have run low due to the lockdown brought on by the global pandemic.”