E-commerce competition flares up as holiday shopping season begins

By Vien Thong   November 7, 2019 | 06:04 pm PT
E-commerce competition flares up as holiday shopping season begins
A woman holding up a phone with the Shopee app opening. Photo by Shutterstock/Sirirat.
Vietnam’s e-commerce platforms are going all out with promotions and other marketing campaigns to woo customers for the year-end shopping season.

Immediately after Apple’s latest iPhone 11 was released in Vietnam on November 1 at midnight, CEO of Singapore-owned Lazada Vietnam James Dong was seen riding a bicycle delivering the first phones to promote his company’s two-hour delivery service.

Lazada’s latest PR stunt, along with discounts on the newest iPhones, kicked off a series of promotions, many of which will begin deployment from November 11 as the company gears up for the year-end shopping season, generally a peak time for the retail sector.

Vietnam’s e-commerce players have now latched onto promotional trends that have been ignited by major regional players like Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, which launched the first Singles’ Day shopping event on November 11, 2009, offering heavy discounts on its platform.

In addition to Singles’ Day, Vietnam’s e-commerce sites have been offering heavy promotions on October 10 and December 12, both spin-offs, as well as Black Friday and Cyber Friday events that originated in the U.S.

"The fourth quarter is always the most exciting time for the retail sector. There will be peak days when the whole market spills out to shop," said Steven Tuan Nguyen, Senior Regional Manager for Southeast Asia of Paris-headquartered internet advertising company Criteo.

Lazada has also followed up the night of discounts for the iPhone 11 with a strategy it calls "Shoppertainment", hosting live game shows in which competitors guess prices, and inviting famous artists who give out nearly 10,000 discount codes worth a total VND300 million ($12,900).

The retailer has also hosted promotional concerts in Ho Chi Minh City. Instead of hiring artists, Singapore-based Shopee has enlisted international football superstar Christiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo’s brand ambassador contract for Shopee in Southeast Asia was announced in mid-August.

"Together with Cristiano Ronaldo, we look forward to making a positive and lasting impact on Shopee's development in the region," said CEO Chris Feng.

Shoppers not only in Vietnam but also Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia have seen CR7’s ads pop up everywhere through various online media channels. The player is also currently associated with Shopee’s November 11 "Super Sale, free nationwide shipping" campaign in Vietnam.

Home-grown e-commerce platform Sendo, which saw a traffic surge last quarter, is also investing heavily in year-end promotions, prioritizing Black Friday (November 29). After diva My Tam, Sendo has just added actor Ninh Duong Lan Ngoc to its roster of celebrities.

"This year, we’ve decided to invest a great deal in the Black Friday campaign, not just on the day but for the whole week. We will advertise on all channels, from mass media to social media, so that 90 percent of customers nationwide aged between 18 and 35 years will be reached by Sendo’s ads," said Vo Dang Minh Tuan, Brand Communication and Social Media Manager of Sendo.

Similarly, Vietnam’s Tiki announced it will also engage in year-end promotion peaks, having invested heavily in October 10 promotions.

The company said it has primarily been focusing on promotions related to its two strengths: a two-hour express delivery service that applies to 70 percent of items in its shop; and sales of genuine branded items with a return policy.

According to a recent report by Criteo, Black Friday last year saw online sales traffic in Vietnam spiking 64 percent, and online sales revenue 149 percent over the average day of the month.

Traffic and sales revenue rose 23 and 64 percent respectively for Singles’ Day, and 34 and 97 percent for December 12, a trend that is expected to continue this year, the report said.

"The year-end shopping season usually commences with October 10 sales. Singles Day remains the key shopping festival and post-Singles Day sales ride on the festivity’s traction," said Steven Tuan Nguyen. "As we approach the year-end holidays, there is also a spike in online retail as part of the celebration. This sustained sales season presents retailers with more opportunities to engage their audiences."

However, they are also faced with a real challenge to differentiate themselves. This could be achieved with the power of data – by being able to identify top selling categories amidst millions of products, predict shopping behavior and integrate online and offline shopping data, he added.

Vietnam’s e-commerce market is estimated at $5 billion this year and is set to reach $23 billion in 2025, according to a recent report by Google, Singapore-based investment firm Temasek, and U.S.-based consultancy Bain.

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