SINGAPORE: Its strange but true. Taylor Swift is the headlining act for Alibabas annual 11.11 Countdown Gala this year.
If you are wondering what an all-American pop star has to do with a Chinese online shopping bonanza, you are not alone. In fact, if you are wondering why a shopping event needs to be ushered in with a concert, I am with you as well.
But first, a little background. Held on Nov 11, this annual retail extravaganza was initiated by the Chinese e-commerce giant in 2009.
It was originally conceived to piggyback on the Singles Day celebration in China – the numerals of this date resemble “bare sticks” which allude to unattached people – by encouraging consumers to treat themselves to various Alibaba deals, of course.
But in recent years, this shopping festival has morphed into a practically unrecognisable behemoth solely targeted at whipping up a buying frenzy.
In the days before the actual 24-hour event, shoppers are encouraged to collect coupons on Alibabas various platforms, obsessively check apps and social media accounts for other promotions and even pre-load their shopping carts in anticipation of the day itself.
As Taylor Swift would say: “This is exhausting!”
It is also contrived. Take for instance this Countdown Gala, which has apparently been held on Nov 10 for a number of years but has been relatively unheard of outside China until recently, mostly because Alibaba is attempting to market 11.11 to a global audience.
Last year, model Miranda Kerr, songstress Mariah Carey, performance troupe Cirque du Soleil and various Asian pop stars peddled products and belted specially written songs like “Buy, buy, buy” in between performing their hits.
This year, since the show was broadcast on various channels in the region, viewers got to tune in and gawk at the spectacle of celebrities hawking random stuff nobody ever knew they needed.
But laughable as these tactics may seem, money talks. Last year, Alibaba surpassed its own record from the previous year with a gross merchandise volume of US$30.8 billion, which outstripped the online revenues of the United States biggest shopping days – Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday – combined.
So it is not surprising that even though practically nobody gives two hoots about a day that celebrates singlehood, legions of other retailers have happily jumped on the bandwagon, concocting increasingly elaborate promotional schemes.
Besides Alibaba (and the various platforms it owns, including Taobao, Tmall and Lazada), other major players including Shopee, Rakuten and JD.com are also holding multiple campaigns and conducting live streaming sales.
The latter essentially means you will need to buy within a certain short timeframe or the deal will be no more.
Smaller retailers too, want a slice of the pie. In Singapore, the 11.11 sales will happen both online and in-store across an entire gamut of retail categories ranging from beauty, fashion, consumer goods and even insurance and travel.
All this shopping madness is making me do one thing – I refuse to spend a single cent on anything to do with 11.11.
Dont get me wrong, I love getting groceries delivered to my doorstep and stocking up on staples with a few taps of my iPhone.
And yes, I adore a good deal as much as the next person but this hoopla is just too much.
First up, many of these shopping websites have terribly noisy layouts, which are a pain to navigate.
They also stock a pasar malam jumble of items, so the user will have to possess supreme patience and a surplus of free time to sift through hundreds and possibly thousands of listings to pick one that they think best suits them.
The quality of some products are also questionable. The last time I used one of these sites was to procure plastic inflatable floats for a beach vacation.
Of the two I eventually bought, one arrived used – I know this because there were repair patches over the float and still, it would not fully inflate.
Dont even get me started on the long shipping time (I made my purchase more than a month before departure) and the inscrutable, bothersome return policy.
PS: I chose to cut my losses, snap a few pictures of the float for the gram and write off this purchase.
Add 11.11-style marketing pressure to these crowded marketplaces and all I feel is immense stress and confusion at having to figure out how to game the system to scRead More – Source