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November 28, 2016

Bet You Won't Have Time To Read This Post Today

Posted by Madhu Janardan (View Profile | View All Posts) at 3:22 AM

Bet You Won't Have Time To Read This Post Today

Today is Cyber Monday here in the US, and we are inundated with steals and deals. These range from lunches to gaming consoles, furniture to holidays. As the energy of the day takes over, it's not uncommon to have family and friends glued to their mobiles, filling up their carts with stuff they have been coveting for weeks- even months perhaps.

But first there was only Black Friday- the day after Thanksgiving when American retailers officially kicked off the holiday shopping season. In the last decade - never to let a lucrative opportunity pass them by - retailers devoted the following Monday to their virtual shop, and Cyber Monday was born. But something else was born along with it: the special 'one-day event' in the retail scheme of things. Aren't we all familiar with the 'manic Monday', 'terrific Tuesday' and 'wacky Wednesday' offers? Ask any marketing expert and she'll tell you that creating a sense of urgency appeals to the human psychology and is a well-tested method to sell merchandise rapidly.

The one-day event is gradually becoming the favorite method of ensuring 'fast and furious' sales, and this internet phenomenon owes it entirely to advanced digital technologies. This is the opposite of Black Friday, which ushers in an entire season of shopping deals which ends only with Christmas. Cyber Monday capitalizes on the impulsive nature of consumers to shop on their smartphones and laptops.

Last year in the US, the total sales on internet retail sites on Cyber Monday was estimated at $3 billion. Compare that with this month's Singles Day (November 11th as known in China), which saw Alibaba alone rake in nearly $17.79 billion. You read that correct: A single Chinese online retailer's sales from a one-day event was almost six times greater than the sales of all American retail sites combined. What's more, Singles Day posted higher sales than all of last year's sales on America's Cyber Monday and Black Friday combined.

Chinese and American consumers- chalk and cheese?

The concept of Black Friday started decades ago when weary hosts of the Thanksgiving dinner wanted to get guests out of the house for a few hours. What better place to send them than to the shopping mall, right? More recently, Big Box retailers have been opening their stores in the evening of Thanksgiving. Inevitably, the 'one-day' frenzy often results in mobs of shoppers trampling each other as they run to grab their favorite things. It is however the reverse situation in China. Here, customers are more comfortable shopping online. This year, Alibaba and its rival JD.com reported that 80 percent of Singles Day sales took place over mobile devices.

I can just hear American retailers saying: Well, that's fine for Chinese consumers, but 71 percent of Americans still enjoy shopping in stores and examining the sale items up close. This is not a cogent argument anymore. Viewed from today's fast paced retail environment, omni-channel retailing is strongest when a consumer doesn't need to be near a brick-and-mortar store to fully experience the one-day event. The statistics from China should also be a wake-up call for retailers to make their online retail platforms robust enough to be engaging, experiential and real time.

In some ways, retailers from the West are already experimenting with mobile-savvy consumers. For example, this year 16,000 brands participated in the Singles Day event including brands such as Apple, Burberry, Victoria's Secret, and Gap. Who says the Chinese marketplace is tough to enter? You have to adopt a different approach from the one in the West.

One-day event- a game changer

In the rapidly transforming space that is omni-channel retailing, it pays to concentrate efforts on splashy one-day sales rather than usher in a shopping 'season,' which was more in tune with how traditional brick-and-mortar stores could sell their wares and keep inventory in neatly stacked racks. The digital world isn't measured in months or weeks but rather by minutes and seconds because retailers have the technology platforms to make inventory accessible, and customers happy down to these tiny fractions of time.

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