PETALING JAYA: Malaysians are eagerly awaiting the once-in-a-year opportunity that falls on Nov 11 to seize the bountiful bargains offered by the shopping phenomenon known as Singles’ Day, or Double 11, the world’s largest online shopping event.
Singles’ Day started in 1993 at Nanjing University, China, as a day for students to celebrate their singlehood as a counter to Valentine’s Day.
Never one to let a good opportunity slip by, Jack Ma’s Alibaba transformed the holiday in 2009 from an “anti-Valentine’s Day” for Chinese singletons into the “11.11” global shopping festival that we know today.
Singles’ Day has since taken on a life of its own, drawing in China’s other major online shopping platforms like JD.com and Pinduoduo, competing with the Alibaba-owned Tmall and Taobao platforms.
Last year, the total value of goods sold during this shopping bonanza in China totalled US$158 billion (RM743.8 billion), according to consultancy firm Bain. That is more than four times the US$35.3 billion (RM166.2 billion) US shoppers spent last year during Cyber Week, the period from Black Friday to Cyber Monday.
The shopping extravaganza has been expanding globally over the years with online retailers offering Singles’ Day sales in the US, Europe, Southeast Asia, and Latin America.
In Malaysia, popular shopping platforms like Shopee and Lazada are touting 11.11 as “The Biggest Sale of the Year”, ramping up promotions in the run up to Singles Day, offering big discounts on a host of items.
Malaysian consumers are also big fans of shopping on Chinese shopping platforms like Taobao and Shein, especially on Singles’ Day.
It is not unusual for Malaysians to splurge thousands of ringgit during the Singles’ Day shopping frenzy, buying electronic products, gold jewellery, clothes and cosmetics.
Shein, a favourite online shopping destination for Gen Z, is the go-to shopping platform for college student Shanya Savantharaja, particularly for her clothing needs.
“I’m willing to spend RM500 on Singles’ Day 2023,” she told FMT Business.
Fong Boon Siew, a Malaysian Taobao user, claims that Singles’ Day is an “awesome opportunity” to find good deals. “Consumers will receive complimentary vouchers,” she said.
Sri Haree Natarajan said he spent about RM700 buying various items on Singles’ Day last year. “This year, I’m willing to spend RM500 to buy electronics products. I think prices are cheap, and discount vouchers are plentiful,” he said.
Ananda Aisyah Muhammad Voon has been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Singles’ Day sale.
“I willing to spend RM400 to buy make-up products. I think products are especially cheap on 11.11, and I get many free vouchers as well,” she said, adding that most of her purchases are done on Shopee.
University student Jane Francisca, a Lazada customer, expressed her intention to curtail her Singles’ Day expenditures this year, attributing the decision to the impact of rising inflation.
Helping hand for local SMEs
Meanwhile, the SME Association of Malaysia said the government should put in more effort to help local SMEs promote their products during Singles’ Day.
“The government should also promote ‘Made in Malaysia’ products on this day, otherwise Malaysian customers will only buy international brands and foreign products,” said its national secretary-general, Chin Chee Seong, noting that many products on shopping platforms popular with Malaysians are made in China.
He said SMEs can leverage on Singles’ Day – a big shopping day – to introduce new products and do bundled deals.
Sellers need to apply different strategies on different shopping platforms be it Shopee, Lazada, or TikTok, as customers’ purchasing power could be different depending on the platform, he said.
However, not everyone is enthused by the Singles’ Day craze. Saravanan Thambirajah, CEO of the Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (Fomca), highlighted the complaints raised by many consumers relating to Singles’ Day.
He revealed that Fomca received 280 complaints on Singles’ Day 2022. “Many of the complaints raised were due to misleading information, misleading advertisements, and faulty products,” he told FMT Business.
“Most of the complaints are by people who are not satisfied with the products or services they received,” he added.
Saravanan also advised consumers to lodge complaints with the ministry of domestic trade if e-commerce platforms fail to address their Singles’ Day purchase concerns.
He said e-commerce platforms needed improvement, and called for action to safeguard customers’ interest, especially pertaining to Singles’ Day sales.