Shopping habits around CNY: Have you missed your chance?

With Chinese New Year around the corner, marketers might wonder when is the best time to launch their marketing campaigns.

According to Criteo, which analysed data from 3.5 million transactions made on the online platforms of key commerce providers in Singapore, Taiwan and Vietnam,

The peak shopping period for Chinese New Year last year was from 4 to 22 January across all categories.

The food (53%) and fashion (45%) categories witnessed the biggest sales uplift during the period. Mobile apps experienced the biggest sales uplift compared to desktop and mobile web. In the fashion category, for example, mobile apps saw a 56% sales increase followed by desktop (41%) and mobile web (23%).

Meanwhile, online sales experienced a decline five days before Chinese New Year.

Meanwhile, shopping peaked on 22 January for the Singapore fashion industry, garnering 217% in sales. On the same day, desktop came out on top in Singapore with a 164% sales increase, followed by mobile app (134%) and mobile web (105%). Singapore's food industry witnessed a peak on 23 January, accumulating 123% in sales.

According to Alban Villani, GM, Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan, the decrease in online sales close to Chinese New Year could signify that people are spending more time with family and friends. With shoppers on an online shopping spree two to three weeks before Chinese New Year, retailers need to start promoting and advertising from three to four weeks in advance to earn their attention, Villani said. He added:

For SEA retailers, this means that they already had to be increasing their online marketing spend across all platforms from as early as mid-January this year

With consumers increasingly making purchases online, particularly on mobile apps, commerce providers need to focus their digital budgets on the right platforms at the right time, Villani said. To reach shoppers who use multiple devices and channels, online and offline data should be connected and the "largest possible data sets" are required to be employed.

In a separate conversation with Marketing, Villani said while the retail industry sees an increase in sales prior to Chinese New Year, consumption for the travel industry, on the other hand, is "relatively flat" for two to three weeks before and during Chinese New Year.

Sales within the travel industry subsequently picks up until the end of the quarter. As such, Villani said that online travel agencies, airlines and hotel chains need to ensure their marketing campaigns are in line with the trend.

"First, they are busy buying on retail sites, so that is probably why shopping on travel sites remain flat. However, the period after Chinese New Year is probably when consumers start thinking about travelling again and are actually booking trips," Villani added.

On why mobile web ranked the lowest despite marketers being advised to have a mobile-optimised experience, Villani said in general, the quality of mobile websites will not match up to that of mobile apps because the user experience on the app is usually seamless. Payment, for example, is easier on a mobile app compared to a mobile website. As such, consumers might be more interested in using mobile apps.

Marketers chime in

In a statement to Marketing, Zhou Junjie, chief commercial officer and country head of Shopee Singapore said the company typically pushes Chinese New Year campaigns as soon as Christmas wraps up, since Singaporeans often start Chinese New year preparations then. It engages consumers through promotions that cater to spring cleaning and the "New year, new clothes" tradition.

According to Zhou, Shopee recently held the 2.2 Bundles Day Sale on 2 February, where the prices for over 1,000 items were marked down by up to 70% off. In addition to its ongoing Chinese New Year promotions, Shopee will also be conducting an "Up All Night Flash Sale" which will last for 24 hours, beginning at midnight on 15 February.

Also beginning its Chinese New Year push in December is Zalora, offering consumers an initial look at the Chinese New Year offerings and allowing more time for them to become familiar with its collections, Zalora's spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, Qoo10's spokesperson said the company would typically launch marketing campaigns approximately four to five weeks before Chinese New Year. As for 2018, the company noted some traction where consumers began shopping and preparing for the festive season as early as the start of the new year, fresh from the 2018 New Year celebrations.

Similarly, ShopBack Singapore begins its Chinese New Year push three weeks before the holiday. According to its country head Vincent Wong, this marketing strategy aligns with its customers' behaviour and ShopBack aims to help them save money from their Chinese New Year spendings, from mandarin oranges to clothes.