11 July 2024

The pandemic has disrupted the way we shop. Little wonder then that retailers and shoppers are adapting to the new world of click and buy

Time flies. It’s already December – traditionally the best time for shoppers to spend, spend, and spend and for retailers and brands to make the most of this busiest time of the year by running campaigns to boost revenues. It is also considered the most important sales period for online retailers, many of which run major events – the so-called 10.10, 11.11 and 12.12– in the hope of setting new sales records.

Some of the biggest e-commerce players – Amazon, Alibaba, Lazada, Shopee and JD.com — have been busy gearing up fortheir shopping events offering discounts and deals to entice online consumers to splurge.

This year, however, the campaigns look different due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

For example, US online retailer Amazon postponed its annual Prime Day shopping event that’s been held in mid-July since its inception in 2015 to October 13-14 in the light of the pandemic.

For the first time, Chinese e-commerce behemoth Alibaba, expanded its annual shopping festival, the so-called Singles’ Day to a 11-day promotion beginning on November 1 in an effort to boost sales amid the pandemic and take advantage of the rise in the e-commerce market, while giving consumers more time to make purchasing decisions.

The 24-hour online sale traditionally take places on November 11.

Falling on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the Singles’ Day has its origins in China. It was created by fourstudents as a kind of ‘anti Valentine’s’ event to celebrate those not in relationships. In 2009, Alibaba turned the day into the global online shopping festival it is today, with buyers all over the world, Thailand included, happily jumping on the cyber bargain bandwagon.

A new UNCTAD survey shows the pandemic has accelerated the shift towards a more digital world and triggered changes in online shopping behaviours that are likely to have lasting effects as the world economy begins to recover.

The survey involved about 3,700 consumers in nine countries, namely Brazil, China, Germany, Italy, the Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, South African, Switzerland and Turkey.

Most consumers say they feel safe buying products frombrick-and-mortar stores thanks to the strict adherence to rules on hygiene, social distancing and wearing facial masks. But many of them prefer shopping online even if the pandemic appears to be under control in the country.

Nipa (not her real name) said online buying allows her to compare many stores and products simultaneously in order to get the best deal.

“I don’t need to go from store to store to check the prices of products, the promotions and services they offer. I just go to one web page and then to the next comparing them. I also search for reviews of products. I can give feedback after using a service. I can do it all online. It saves time.

“I go for a store that offers delivery services at no charge. Sometime, the store owner gives me giveaways if he happens to be running a promotion,” Nipa said, adding she usually buys pet food and medicine online.

Suda (assumed name), 51, said online shopping offers a wider range of products and better pricing. She can buy everything from clothes to shampoo and cat litter as well as adult diapers for her mother.

“The tape-style diapers that my mother uses are only available at online stores. I got a massive discount by using coupons and promotion codes in the 11.11 biggest day sale event last month,” she said.

However, there are two sides to every coin.

Online payment seems not to be as secure as it should be. Some retailers are not reliable. Fraud can happen when consumers’ personal information and credit card and bank details are misused.

A few weeks ago, a report claimed that about 13 million records from one of the biggest e-commerce players in Southeast Asia with a Thailand operation were being offered for sale on an underground trading forum. But the company denies being behind the data leak.

The “Sorn Hack Web Baeb Maew Maew” Facebook page reported that the data available to buyers on the dark web included customers’ names, phone numbers and e-mail addresses.

“The selling and the buying of customers’ data is not new. They are bought and sold quietly by companies. Anyway, I will be more careful when making an online banking transaction,” Nipa said.

Suda expressed concern about her credit cards details gettingleaked as well as her personal details when she makes online payment.

“Insurance agents call me and try to convince me to buy a health insurance policy. I find it annoying.  I have no idea how they get my contact information,” she said.

For Suda, Nipa and other digital shoppers, there may be a solution in sight. Thailand’s new personal data protection law is due to come into effect in May 2021 – better late than never.