As Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy1, Thailand is an attractive market for big and small merchants alike. The country’s recent digital push has also made it a thriving market to pursue an eCommerce business. Total eCommerce revenue in the country was expected to reach $4.5 billion in 20192, up from around $2 billion in 2017.
As an online merchant targeting the Thai eCommerce market, it’s important to consider the best times of the year to win customers. Of course, you should do sales and marketing all year round—but it’s a given that some seasons are better than others for making a sale.
Here are some of the major shopping holidays in Thailand that eCommerce merchants can take part in.
With the presence of large eCommerce marketplaces like Shopee and Alibaba’s Lazada in Thailand, it comes as no surprise that they’d bring their popular shopping festivals with them. So far, the following dates are some of biggest peak shopping periods in Thailand.
9.9 is a 24-hour sale run by both Shopee and Lazada. Shopee began holding the event in 2016 while the former started only last year.
During 2018’s 9.9 sale, Shopee recorded over 5.8 million orders3 and sold more than 15 million items. A majority of these sales were in the health and beauty category.
The story is well-known lore by now—in 1993, four guys at Nanjing University got together on November 11 to bemoan and figure out how to deal with the loneliness of singlehood. It eventually morphed into an annual event celebrated by Chinese youths before Alibaba turned it into a highly-anticipated, annual shopping event.
With the expansion of Alibaba-owned Lazada across Southeast Asia, the eCommerce giant has brought Singles’ Day to the region. Mimicking successful tactics in China, Lazada held a gala in Thailand4 on the eve of the 2018 sale, complete with celebrities counting down to midnight.
Competing platforms have also joined in the 11.11 bandwagon. In 2017, Alibaba rival JD forged a joint venture5 with Thai retail conglomerate Central Group. They launched the JD Central platform and ran an aggressive “11.11 Crazy Hot Sale” campaign the following year.
Shopee’s version of 11.11 is called the ‘Shopee 11.11 Big Sale’, where they received 11 million orders in their 2018 event. Shopee also promotes the event through its interactive games for the event such as the ‘Shopee Quiz’ and ‘Shopee Shake’ during this period.
Inspired by 11.11, Lazada introduced 12.12, which it calls ‘The Online Revolution’ sale, in 2012. Thailand shoppers have responded well—from December 10 to 12, 2015, Lazada saw a 300 percent increase6in orders compared to the same period in the previous year. Electronic goods were the top-selling category.
Shopee’s version of 12.12 is called the ‘Shopee Birthday Sale7’. According to Shopee, the top categories during their event includes electronics, fashion, and health and beauty while interest is growing in categories like motors, home appliances, computers & laptops among others. Similar to 11.11, Shopee also makes use of its interactive games7 to keep shoppers engaged with them during the shopping bonanza.
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Songkran marks the beginning of the traditional Thai New Year and is the country’s most famous festival. The locals celebrate it from April 13 to 15 by splashing water on family and friends as a way of wishing them blessings. Some major marketplaces like Lazada and Shopee also use these as promotion periods such as ‘Splash Sales’ and promoting Songkran-related items like new clothes.
During this festival, junior members of the family honour their parents and grandparents with small gifts. Locals visit the temples and prepare food for their elders. Keep in mind, though, that those who live in the Southern Region tend to avoid spending money8 during the festival as part of their religious observance of Songkran. While some may be enticed by good deals on this day, Thais generally tend to prefer socialising with family rather than to exchange gifts during cultural festivals.
On the other hand, eCommerce sellers in the travel and tourism space can target both locals and foreigners who prefer to travel within Thailand during Songkran. In 2018, locals alone made 3.1 million trips9 to major cities and secondary provinces during the festival, while half a million foreigners visited the country. Online sellers specialising in local handicrafts and souvenirs can also aim for these consumer groups.
Children’s Day is celebrated on the second Saturday of January in Thailand, which was on January 12th 2019 and will be on January 11th 2020. On this day, people take their children out to fun events and places. Zoos, museums, and other kid-friendly facilities offer discounts. Family members give kids gifts, too, making it a great opportunity for online sellers to promote toys and children’s clothing.
In 2018, total spending during Lunar New Year (also called Chinese New Year) in Thailand was expected to reach Bt56.86 billion10, with Bt13.44 billion predicted to come from11 Bangkok residents of Chinese descent. Meaningful and auspicious gifts, household items, clothing, food, and travel-related purchases make up the bulk of spending during this season. To reach consumers across different channels, retailers are increasingly using both online and offline approaches.
For example, Looksi, a fashion eCommerce platform run by Central Group, promotes a Chinese New Year holiday collection12. Tesco Lotus Shop Online allows pre-orders of popular dishes13, such as boiled duck, and delivers these to people’s homes.
In December 2018, Thailand approved a 5 percent VAT refund14 for purchases of goods during the first 15 days of February 2019. This intentionally coincided with the Lunar New Year (or Chinese New Year), which took place on February 5 to 6. Buyers paying via their debit cards would receive the refund via their PromptPay15 accounts. The move was intended not only to boost local spending but also to promote the use of cashless payments in the country.
While online sellers can promote their goods to encourage shopping and gift-giving during Lunar New Year, keep in mind that some items may be considered inauspicious. For example, some consider it bad luck16 to wear black or white clothing and to buy new shoes during this period.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand has held the Amazing Thailand Grand Sale17 annually for around 20 years now. Thailand’s tourism body created the event to position the country as a shopper’s paradise. It takes place from June 15 to August 15.
During the Amazing Thailand Grand Sale, shoppers can find discounts ranging from 10 percent to 80 percent on clothes, accessories, electronics, local handicrafts. But it isn’t limited to retail. Shoppers also get discounts for food, hotel stays in certain cities, and airfare. Even market stalls join in the sale.
Although the sale is largely a tourism push, with the government event granting ‘passport privileges18’ to some tourists during this season, online stores can participate, too. Other sellers choose multichannel approaches—for example, eCommerce site Zalora and retail giant Central Group have merged19 to offer customers a seamless online-to-offline experience. And as previously mentioned, the Thailand Online Mega Sale now takes place in early August, essentially making it part of the Amazing Thailand Grand Sale.
The first-ever Thailand Online Mega Sale20 took place in 2013 and saw more than 500 eCommerce brands and websites joining the event.
Although the organizers—the Commerce Ministry and Thai eCommerce Association—initially positioned the event as Thailand’s own version of Cyber Monday, it now seems timed to coincide with the Amazing Thailand Grand Sale. The first sale in 2013 took place from November 26 to December 3, while in 2017 and 2018 it took place from August 1 to 8.
Shoppers can find discounts of up to 80 percent on electronics, fashion, health products, and more. But it’s not just online sellers that offer discounts during the event. Thailand Post often offers shipping discounts, while some payments platforms reduce their transaction fees.
According to the Thai embassy21, Mother’s Day was changed from April 15 to August 12 in 1976 “to commemorate the birthday of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit, the Mother of all Thai people”. People all over Thailand light candles in honour of the queen, and take their moms shopping—be it online or offline. This is potentially a good opportunity for online sellers of cosmetics, clothing, flowers, and sweets to run promotions.
The King’s Birthday in Thailand, honoring the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, used to be celebrated on December 5, which is also Father’s Day. When King Maha Vajiralongkorn succeeded to his father’s throne in December 2016, the birthday celebration was moved to July 28.
December 5, though, is still considered a public holiday. During both birthdays, Thai people pay their respects to the late and incumbent kings with fireworks, temple visits, and alms-giving to monks. Although the kings’ birthdays are not major shopping holidays, their supporters wear yellow on this day. Online merchants may thus want to promote yellow clothing prior to the holidays.
To help you out, here’s a calendar of all the eCommerce events in Thailand we’ve mentioned so far:
Thailand is often called a shopper’s paradise, attracting buyers with spectacular sales and promotions. eCommerce merchants can join in the fun by running some promos of their own.
If offline stores can offer testers and free tastes, online stores can offer free gifts. You can provide these as a pleasant surprise to random lucky customers, or to buyers who spend a minimum amount or buy selected premium items. Free gifts can also come as a bonus when someone purchases a bundle.
Bundles have become a popular way to reduce prices and attract buyers online. Think of a bundle as a package deal or a gift basket. This is one way to introduce new or less popular items to your consumers. At the same time, buyers will get more value for their money because they’ll receive more items at a cheaper price.
Offer limited discount coupons in advance of a sale to spread awareness and encourage buyers’ appetite. You can send these discount coupons through your mailing list or offer them to loyal customers.
You could also offer discounted prices on their product listings throughout the campaign period. Typically, merchants put larger discounts on older items to clear stock and on new products as a ‘new release sale’ to encourage adoption.
Get buyers excited and reward them for their purchases by offering a lucky draw prize. You can select a random buyer on the day of the event. If it’s a month-long shopping holiday, you can select the lucky winner on the last day to encourage people to make purchases and increase their chances of winning.
It can be confusing to choose from the seemingly endless items offered by multiple vendors online. Adventurous shoppers may want to try buying a surprise box instead. For example, you can offer a surprise box of mobile phone accessories. Depending on the price, the box can include a mobile phone case, a selfie stick, a fashionable strap, and a few other items.
The mileage of surprise boxes may vary depending on the popularity of the brand and type of items featured. Similar to the other discount methods, this is an opportunity for you to take your previous season inventory off their shelves or introduce lesser known products to customers. Merchants should ensure that the some of the items they include in the surprise boxes are desirable, on top of being more valuable than the surprise box’s listed price, to encourage repeat customers the next time they release a new set of surprise boxes.
eCommerce may be a new channel in the long history of shopping, but tried-and-true principles still apply. These include knowing your customers, their online shopping habits, and the holidays that matter to them.
Never assume that holiday celebrations in your own country will be the same in another place. Find out what people buy—during the holidays, and help them enjoy the celebration by offering them a sweet deal they can’t resist. But no online shopping experience is complete without deliveries to your customers. Look out for logistics partners with flexible, end-to-end eCommerce delivery solutions to help deliver delight Thai customers today!
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Interested in Thailand’s eCommerce scene? Check out our Breaking into Thailand series:
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