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E-commerce is a fast-growing industry in Malaysia, with the government hoping it will contribute RM211 billion to the country’s GDP by 2020. The government’s ambition and optimism are justifiable given not only the potential economic benefits of e-commerce but also the country’s internet penetration rate of 85.7 percent.
To sell to Malaysia’s vast population, though, online merchants need to understand the pulse of e-commerce in the country throughout the year. When are some of the hottest sales periods? How can you compete with other sellers? These are some questions we’ll try to answer here.
Since the explosion of e-commerce in the region, Q4 (and a bit of Q3) has become the most vital sales period for e-commerce and online retail, led by major events like 11.11 and 12.12. This comes as no surprise as some of the pioneers of these double-digit e-commerce events like Shopee and Alibaba’s Lazada have strong presences in Malaysia.
Singles’ Day or 11.11 originated in China as a celebration for single people. China’s Alibaba turned it into an annual shopping spree, and Southeast Asia followed suit.
Some hot-selling items may come as a surprise for those unfamiliar with local consumer culture. For example, the most sold item during the 24-hour event was Milo. More than 27 tonnes of the powdered chocolate milk drink were purchased within the first two hours alone.
Other popular items were Xiaomi phones (13,000+ units sold) and diapers (4.5 million+ pieces sold). Lazada also put up 11 units of the Volkswagen Polo B&W Edition on the platform, all of which were sold within just one minute.
If you don’t sell powdered drinks, cellphones or cars, don’t fret. Most of the sales in Malaysia during 11.11 came from the Home & Living, Fashion, Health & Beauty, Accessories, and Mother & Baby categories. Over at online retailer Tmall, local coffee, health products, snacks and seafood proved the most popular among buyers.
It may seem difficult to surpass 11.11’s record-breaking sales, but that’s what 12.12 has done. In 2017, Malaysians spent thrice as much money online on 12.12 than on 11.11. The average consumer spent US$76 (RM310) on average, compared to US$24 (RM98) on 11.11. Lazada brought in US$250 million (RM1.01 billion) in gross merchandise value (GMV) during 12.12, up from US$123 million (RM496.9 million) in 11.11.
The increased spending was attributed to the holiday season, with a large chunk going to travel bookings and Christmas gift buying.
In 2018, many stayed up past midnight on December 11 to snag deals within the first hours of the sale. Shopee saw over 12 million orders during 12.12, a million more than the November sale. The most popular items were from the Health & Beauty, Home & Living, and Baby & Toys categories.
Both 9.9 and 10.10 are spin-offs from Single’s Day and act like a lead-up to the main 11.11 event. While they aren’t as big as 11.11, the sales they generate through their heavy promotions are nothing to scoff at either.
For instance, Shopee recorded over 5.8 million orders and sold more than 15 million items during 2018’s 9.9 sale. A majority of these sales were in the health and beauty category. This day also sees promotions like 90% Flash Sales or other deals related to the number nine.
Major players like Shopee and Lazada use these as test-runs before the main event. New promotion techniques and preparations for their logistics and delivery services are put through the onslaught of purchases led-by discount-hungry consumers.
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Chinese New Year (CNY) is celebrated on the first day of the Chinese lunar calendar. CNY remains as “one of the biggest and most important” holidays in the country, according to Tourism Malaysia. The country celebrates it with family gatherings, fireworks displays, street parades, and lion and dragon dances.
According to Google, Malaysians start researching online for products related to the festive season five weeks before CNY day. YouTube is one of the most popular platforms used for searching about traditions, activities and celebration ideas for the season.
Google released this handy list of popular search terms in Malaysia during CNY:
As the list shows, beauty, food and groceries are among the most popular shopping categories during this season. Beauty merchants can think of selling nail art sets and DIY hair dye kits, helping people achieve a new look for a new year.
Even if you don’t sell snacks or fresh produce, you can take advantage of the demand for grocery products by showing ads on food vlogs or partnering with food sellers to sell bundles. For example, you can run ads for bakeware on websites that sell baking ingredients.
If you consider insights from Shopee, though, you’ll see that there are plenty of opportunities for merchants of other product categories during CNY. The online marketplace reported that Women’s Clothing, Mobile & Gadgets, Toys, Kids & Babies products, and Women’s Shoes & Bags were its top-performing categories during CNY 2018.
Chinese New Year 2020 will take place on January 25.
Muslims make up 60 percent of Malaysia’s 28 million-strong population. Every year, they celebrate Ramadan, the ninth and most sacred month of the Islamic calendar. During this month, they fast from sunrise to sunset and engage in increased charity and prayer. Ramadan this year will be held from May 5 to June 4 2019.
iPrice, a price aggregator platform, reported that online shopping in Malaysia soared during Ramadan, particularly early in the morning, when people rise for Sahur (pre-dawn meal). Online traffic at 5 a.m. was 105 percent higher during Ramadan than in the previous month in 2018, compared to 90 percent higher in 2017. Online traffic dipped at 7 p.m.—the time when people typically prepared to break their fast—and peaked again at 10 p.m., once evening Taraweeh prayers were done.
iPrice also observed that clothing was the most popular category during the month, with people preparing for Hari Raya Aidilfitri, a celebration of the end of Ramadan. Malaysians searched mostly for three fashion e-commerce platforms: Fashion Valet, Muslimah Clothing and Naelofar Hijab. It may be a good idea, then, to sell fashionable modest clothing during this period.
ShopBack reported, though, that all verticals saw an increase in sales during Ramadan. Health & Beauty and Electronics performed very well.
More than 400 merchants take part in MYCyberSALE, which typically takes place over a span of five days in September or October. This year will be the sale’s sixth run. A wide variety of products are sold during this event, including home electronics, clothing, sports equipment, travel deals, and even educational courses. Interested merchants can register via the event’s official website.
Hari Merdeka is the commemoration of Malaysia’s independence from British rule on August 31, 1957. Malaysians celebrate it with parades and fireworks. As this is a holiday, many online deals offer restaurant discounts and vouchers to help people celebrate. Both online and offline merchants offer minor discounts and promotions during this event.
For its birthday celebration in April, Lazada offers shoppers vouchers, flash sales, and surprise boxes curated by different brands. Brands also offer exclusive deals on the platform. Discounts can go up to as much as 90 percent during this event. Last year, the sale was held from April 25 to 27.
For those who missed out on Singles’ Day, Black Friday is a chance to grab some deals. It’s typically held on the fourth Friday of November, the day after Thanksgiving. The sale is an American tradition that has made its way to Southeast Asia thanks to sites like Lazada, 11Street and Shopee. Malaysians also scour Amazon for hot deals on this day.
In 2017, 11Street saw a 50 percent rise in GMV on Black Friday compared to other Fridays. The leading categories were Electronics, Fashion, and Health & Beauty.
As part of the festive holiday season, Christmas sales generate considerable interest among online shoppers in Malaysia, according to a report by Meltwater. However, in 2017, spending during Hari Raya was higher than during Christmas.
Still, Malaysians do search for online purchases during this holiday, especially on Shopee, Lazada and Amazon. Gifts like toys and clothing, as well as decorations, are in high demand.
To recap on all the e-commerce events taking place in Malaysia, here’s an infographic that lists the events we’ve just mentioned:
E-commerce sellers are increasingly giving cashback incentives to buyers of certain products. During the campaign period for CNY 2018, Malaysians received over RM1 million in cashback from ShopBack. Around 40 online stores worked with ShopBack during CNY this year to offer cashback for Home & Living, Fashion & Beauty and Food & Groceries categories, as well as last-minute deals.
Remember the 11 units of the Volkswagen Polo B&W Edition sold on Lazada during 11.11 last year? It was a special limited edition produced for the sale. While you may not be selling cars, you can spruce up your best-selling items to offer a few special editions during a major sale. For this promotion, scarcity is the name of the game.
From 12 a.m. to 2 a.m. on 11.11 2018, Lazada introduced ‘brand crazy offers’ for items like cellphones, air conditioners, and makeup tools. This tactic can help merchants win buyers’ attention, especially during the peak hours of a shopping event.
Curate different items to create surprise boxes for your customers. For example, if you sell gadgets, make a surprise box made of useful accessories like universal chargers and novelty items like unique phone cases. This is also a way to throw in less popular items with those that are highly sellable, thus introducing buyers to new products.
Offer vouchers before and during an e-commerce sale. You can make them available for an entire day or for an hour (the latter tactic works well on the day of the sale, as competition would be higher among both merchants and buyers). Vouchers can be promoted on your website or marketplace homepage, on social media channels, on apps that sell group deals, and on voucher websites.
You can also partner with brick-and-mortar stores, tying in offline experiences with the chance to win online vouchers. For example, you could sponsor a local event and offer vouchers for your online store as one of the prizes.
For 11.11, Shopee ran in-app games that users could join only at specific times. These time-locked games are great for bringing in more buyers during the hours when traffic typically wanes. Game prizes can include vouchers and free items.
Shopee built up online traffic prior to CNY 2018 by running contests with prizes worth more than RM1 million in total. Contests can help build awareness of a sale and are a way of giving early discounts and vouchers to buyers.
A study by iPrice shows that online shopping interest among Malaysian consumers tends to peak in the last two months of the year:
However, this doesn’t mean you should ignore events that happen during the rest of the year. In the same report, iPrice points out that festivals and holidays like CNY and Ramadan remain significant among local consumers. Zalora, for example, saw peak interest during Ramadan, which was driven by demand for Baju Raya clothing for Hari Raya celebrations.
Even if you’re not based in Malaysia, you can still gain insights into the country’s e-commerce habits in order to compete with other sellers. Online merchants will do well to understand the holidays and events that matter to Malaysians, as well as the way they celebrate these occasions. While planning out your product catalogue for the year, make sure you also consider your packaging and shipping options so you can provide a pleasant shopping experience that will keep your customers coming back for more.
You might also be interested in other SEA countries’ hottest shopping periods:
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