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From a celebration of singlehood to global shopping phenomenon: looking back at 10 years of 11.11

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As the 11.11 shopping festival enters its 10th year, its incredible growth shows no signs of stopping, consistently beating out the four-day Black Friday to Cyber Monday period in terms of sales year after year.

The festival saw four times more sales than Black Friday in 2017, with more than $1bn being spent in just the first two minutes after midnight. E-commerce giant Alibaba, credited with creating the global shopping phenomenon, saw its gross merchandise volume clocking RMB168.3 billion, breaking its own record of RMB120.7bn the previous year.

The number of 11.11 delivery orders in 2017 went up by 23%, hitting 812 million, compared to 657m in 2016 and the percentage of GMV generated by mobile users was 90%.

Giulio Xiloyannis, the chief operating officer at Zalora, tells The Drum this shows three things – there is a growing number of online consumers and shoppers, e-commerce players in the region is sitting on a big opportunity and that the markets in the region are mobile-led.

According to Xiloyannis, the fashion e-commerce retailer saw over 70% of its orders come from mobile devices. It also adopts an omnichannel approach with customers having the choice to pick up or return orders at 7-eleven stores and other partners such as Singpost in Singapore.

“11.11 has also evolved from one platform-driven sales event into a multi-platform opportunity to drive sales and reach new customers,” he adds.

The success of Alibaba’s 11.11 has seen the rise of other similar events like 9.9, 10.10 and 12.12 created by other e-commerce players. For Tencent-backed Shopee, which is conducting its 11.11 sales for the third year, it claims it has seen ‘tremendous growth’ year on year as the online shopping holiday continues to gain traction in the region.

It is aiming to build on this traction off the back of its recent 9.9 shopping festival, which saw its highest ever single-day record, with over 5.8m orders recorded and over 15m items sold within 24 hours across the region. Like Zalora, Shopee saw more than 90% of orders made on mobile.

“11.11 is widely recognised to be the biggest shopping day in the world, and we believe that this major sale event will only continue to grow in size each year, with expanded promotions, product offerings and partner line-ups,” Zhou Junjie, the chief commercial officer at Shopee, tells The Drum.

“We are heartened by this trend as it signals positional growth for e-commerce. This, in turn, benefits consumers as platforms innovate to create more for consumers – something we strongly believe in, putting our consumers first.”

Will there be shoppers’ fatigue?

There is a concern that after a decade of 11.11 sales, as well as the emergence of more and more offshoot events like 9.9, 10.10 and 12.12, there will be shoppers’ fatigue.

However, observers like Xiaofeng Wang, a senior analyst at Forrester and Mimrah Mahmood, the regional director for media solutions at Meltwater, disagree, noting that as marketing, business models and technologies will continue to evolve, it means consumers’ consumption power for online shopping will continue to grow.

“I don’t think shoppers’ fatigue is ever a thing for 11.11. Consumers look forward to big sales and promotions all the time,” Wang explains to The Drum. “We see more and more retailers (online and offline) joining every year, across broader and broader product categories, industries and regions. And more and more shopping festivals are created, such as 6.18, 9.9, 10.10 and 12.12, etc.”

Mimrah adds, “Unlike the Great Singapore Sale which is held over the third quarter each year, the format for newer shopping festivals like 11.11 is generally held once a year, for only a day. With a short time period coupled with extravagant deals for a diverse mix of products, 11.11 has been effective in attracting and driving a greater sense of urgency among consumers to make purchases. Brands are even leveraging on this opportunity to offer additional discounts during the lead up to 11.11.”

Xiloyannis agrees with both Wang and Mimrah, noting that the challenge of staying relevant in the age of disruption for e-commerce platforms and brands boils down to one thing – knowing what the customer wants and be true to it.

He explains this means knowing where and how they buy and discover products, and connecting and combining multiple channels to reach consumers any time anywhere. That is because the customer journey starts from discovery and it does not end with the purchase.

“Capture their attention by having media, brands, and platforms collaborate to generate smart content and facilitate customer engagement. From visual and voice search to AI-produced content tailored to individual consumers, the key to stay relevant is to keep customers engaged,” he says.

“Online shopping also calls for an integrated solution for the entire process from product design, production, and inventory to pricing and logistics, infinitely extending the value of the supply chain. In the end, when it comes to customers, actions and numbers speak louder than words.”

Keeping 11.11 fresh

Xiloyannis’s advice has already been heeded, with e-commerce platforms staging richer marketing content for 11.11 this year. Previously, these platforms provided just basic incentives like discount offers, coupons, and vouchers. This has evolved to the present day, where interactive and gamified campaigns are commonplace.

For example, Alibaba-owned Lazada, which focuses on South East Asia, has brought back features on its app, introduced during 9.9, for 11.11 like ‘Slash It’, where consumers can invite their friends to help ‘slash’ prices and ‘Shake It’, where they can shake their mobile phones to win Lazada vouchers and discount codes. It has also introduced ‘Wonderland’, an interactive map that allows shoppers to discover 11.11 deals from various brands, as well as win special Lazada or store vouchers for their purchases.

Not to be left out, Shopee has also introduced its own version of getting consumers to shake their phones for discounts, called ‘Shopee Shake’. It also introduced flash deal reminders where consumers can schedule reminders for upcoming flash deals to avoid missing out on timed offers and voucher wallet for consumers to save vouchers into their voucher wallet, which are then automatically applied at checkout.

In addition, there are also in-app games where consumers can earn additional rebates in the form of Shopee coins, vouchers, and other giveaways.

For Zalora, which has a slightly different shopper base, it finds a balance between aspirational content and interactive engagement by offering different ways to engage the fashion shopper, from shoppable videos, offering visual search and AI-driven personalized ‘Just for You’ page, to exclusive collection and deals from top brands.

Supriya Jain, the managing director for Lion & Lion in Hong Kong applauds the introduction of these new tools by these platforms because the key learning for both brands and e-commerce platforms is that consumers are more aware of the offers available and do more research before the big sale commences. She notes some consumers make their shopping list for big-ticket items in advance, which means brands and platforms need to start communicating their upcoming offers earlier to ensure consumers’ shortlist their products offerings.

“For impulse purchase products like fashion apparel, the discounts need to be attractive enough to lure them into buying. A 10% or 20% discount will not make the cut, it has to be a substantial discount,” she tells The Drum.

Brands like Reckitt Benckiser Group and Johnson & Johnson are delighted with how e-commerce platforms like Shopee, Lazada and Zalora are re-inventing the shopping experience for 11.11, as it is a great opportunity for them to showcase their product offerings, engage shoppers and foster brand loyalty.

“Our sales expectations were exceeded during the recent Shopee 9.9 Super Shopping day, where we saw a four-time increase in orders compared to last year. Our partnership with Shopee has enabled us to effectively reach out to e-commerce savvy shoppers,” Deborah Chong, head of e-commerce for SEA at Reckitt Benckiser Group tells The Drum.

Patrick Smallcombe, president of SEA at Johnson & Johnson adds: “Johnson & Johnson is pleased to partner Lazada, where we are present on LazMall across all six markets (Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam) in SEA for the biggest ever one day 11.11 Shopping Festival.”

“With e-commerce as one of our prioritized growth drivers in the organization, the collaborative partnership and expertise from Lazada help support our FMCG brands to more effectively extend customer experiences beyond just online shopping; and to understand more quickly what customers want through a connected commerce approach.”

What challenges lie ahead for 11.11 in the next decade?

With 11.11 sales on the upward trajectory for the next decade, it means e-commerce platforms need to find a way to build a solid infrastructure of platform systems, delivery and warehouse logistics, payment system, data, and IT capability to cope with the massive spike in traffic and increased sales volume over the course of the day.

There is a worry for many platforms, because in 2017, after 11.11 launched, sales reached up to 1bn in the first 52 seconds, before reaching 10bn in 6 minutes and 58 seconds. Alibaba’s mobile wallet app Alipay also processed 256,000 payment transactions per second.

As Lion & Lion’s Jain points out: “Marketers often tend to focus most of their marketing efforts on providing the best deals on 11.11. However, the order fulfillment part often lacks the muscle to support the spike in orders placed during the sale day, thus brands and e-commerce platforms need to make sure customer service and delivery is a seamless experience for the consumer, to ensure fast delivery to customers, and that customer.”

While the likes of Alibaba has already invested heavily in its smart logistics arm Cainiao Network to aim to be able to deliver anywhere in China within 24 hours and anywhere else in the world within 72 hours, Xiloyannis says preparing for 11.11 is also part art and part science.

“It is important to have a structured approach in forecasting. There are a few components to it. One is looking at historical numbers. An extensive review of the data can help us in projecting peaks in the day. It’s also important for us to have a clear understanding of the quality of the deal offered and the depth of the inventory. The better the deal the higher the demand. Finally, the proper budgeting and marketing effort is key to a successful forecasting,” he explains.

“Accurate forecasting also demands us to coordinate with our IT and Operations team during this peak season. They need to make sure that our website and app will not lag and every step in the fulfilment process is ready for the increase in the volume of orders. Bottom line is, we want to give our customers the best online shopping experience possible.”

Once thought to be a day of events and celebrations in honour of being single in China, November 11 has evolved and grown beyond the shores of the world's most populous country. There is no doubt all the world's a stage for 11.11.

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China marketing specialist Hot Pot hires Cat Navarro as Chief Operating Officer

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Hot Pot, the full-service China marketing agency, has hired Cat Navarro, a business transformation specialist of more than 15 years, as its first-ever Chief Operating Officer.

For the past five years Hot Pot has been steadily growing its business, but with the massive acceleration of Western brands entering the Chinese market and the prediction that China will account for 60% of all e-commerce by 2020, it has put in place ambitious plans to scale-up and match that expansion.

Cat’s appointment reflects the company’s ambition. Her responsibilities will include the dual roles of implementing and overseeing transformation strategies, growth strategies, management structures, operational duties and workflows as well as acquisition, retention and training of talent.

Cat has spent 10 years leading high-profile change programmes for large organisations (SITA, AMP) and Australian government bodies (police force, housing). She then transferred those skills to scaling early-stage London-based businesses such as Quill Content, Ometria and The Sandpit.

Jonathan Smith, founder and CEO of Hot Pot, said: “We are excited to be entering the next phase of Hot Pot’s growth. To successfully scale the business, we knew we needed someone to have the requisite attention to the granular details but also be able to deliver on our overarching strategic goals.

“Cat’s depth and breadth of experience allows her to do this. She is exceptional at putting the right structures in place, operates at pace, and has an absolute passion for finding and developing the best talent.”

Cat Navarro added: “Hot Pot encourages brands to throw away the rule book and do things differently when it comes to marketing in China, and I’m excited to bring this bold philosophy to my role. When scaling a business that’s niche or disruptive, you can’t just rely on what you know or how others do things. Doing that just puts you on the same playing field as everyone else.

“I’m also thrilled to be leading both operations and talent, because the two are so intrinsically linked. It’s great to work alongside a CEO who invests in his staff as much as he does in the growth and profitability of the company and its clients.”

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10 questions with… Anna Watkins, UK managing director of Verizon Media

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In an attempt to showcase the personalities of the people behind the media and marketing sector, The Drum speaks to individuals who are bringing something a little different to the industry and talks to them about what insights and life experience they can offer the rest of us. This week's 10 Questions are put to Verizon Media's UK managing director Anna Watkins.

What was your first ever job?
It would have been washing my dad's car to earn my £1 pocket money each week. Smart man.

Which industry buzzword annoys you most?
Relatable.

Who do you find most interesting to follow on social media?
@POTUS is truly mind-boggling.

what is the highlight of your career (so far?)
Working with such a creative, inspiring and intelligent bunch of people every step of the way.

What piece of tech can you not live without?
It's baffling that I was born in London yet still seem to use Citymapper every day.

Who or what did you have posters of on your bedroom wall as a teenager?
Adam Ant and Count Dracula (aged 7). I'm not quite sure what that says about me.

In advertising, what needs to change soon?
We need a truly diverse workforce.

If you could change anything about a social media platform you use, which one and what would you choose to do?
It’s more a question of changing myself – I need to flex my creative muscles if I’m ever to make more than one friend on Tumblr…

What is (in your opinion) the greatest film/album/book of your life?
Scarface / Sign of the Times / War and Peace – delusions of grandeur, mine and theirs.

Which industry event can you not afford to miss each year and why?
The big awards bashes – it's like going to a series of weddings where you know half the guests.

The Drum's 10 Questions With… runs each week with previous entries available to view here.

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Mobile carriers end data sharing with location aggregators; should marketers worry?

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The collection and use of real-time mobile-location data has emerged as a critical piece of the larger data-privacy debate. A recent run of negative stories have conveyed the impression that location data usage by marketers is tantamount to spying on consumers.

We’re also starting to see lawsuits, like one recently filed by the Los Angeles City Attorney against the Weather Company, for allegedly misleading consumers about how their location data would be used. More suits will likely follow.

Carriers cut off data sharing. The negative coverage and exposure of some high-profile abuses have motivated major U.S. mobile carriers to cut off location data sharing with third party “location aggregators.” The latest to do so is AT&T, following a story by Motherboard that indicated carrier data was getting into the hands of unauthorized third parties — bounty hunters, in this case — and being used for legally dubious purposes.

As a practical matter, these moves are unlikely to significantly impact use of location data by advertisers on major platforms or in the programmatic ecosystem. AT&T owns AppNexus; Verizon owns Verizon Media Group (the rebranded Oath). Location data will probably still be available to advertisers on these platforms — they’re not “third parties.” (We’ve asked Verizon for clarification on this point and will update the story if they respond.)

Calls for more regulation or legislation. Location data are so valuable and widely available that abuses are inevitable. Some of these increasingly frequent reports are adding momentum to calls for federal data privacy legislation. The carriers’ decision to cut off location aggregators is at least partly an effort to preempt investigations and potentially forestall regulation.

Some location data companies embrace the proposition of clear regulatory or legislative guidelines, however.

For example, PlaceIQ CEO Duncan McCall recently told me in email: “I think that the California Consumer Privacy Act and hopefully a similar federal law (as a state-by-state patchwork of different laws would be good for no one) will not only give consumers protection and confidence, but will finally give the digital data and location data ecosystem a well-thought out set of rules and guidelines to adhere to. This will bring stability and predictability to the industry, and help weed out some of the “wild west” players that have had no interest in investing for the long term good of the ecosystem.”

Most location-data companies also say they adhere to ethical data-collection practices and are scrupulous about being “good actors” in the ecosystem. Some are vocal about the responsible and/or socially beneficial use of location technology. And some organizations (e.g., NAI) are seeking to enforce transparent and ethical data collection standards. Foursquare told me in email that their apps and partners seek opt-in consent for use of location data.

Why you should care. Location data is available from a wide range of sources in the market, including app developers and the programmatic bid stream. The loss of carrier location is not a significant blow to the ecosystem.

However it is reflective of a trend toward the tightening of access to location information more generally. While it remains to be seen whether federal privacy legislation passes in 2019 (multiple bills have been proposed), California’s Consumer Privacy Act will go into effect January 1, 2020. Other states may enact similar or more strict laws, which would lend further impetus to comprehensive federal legislation.

The post Mobile carriers end data sharing with location aggregators; should marketers worry? appeared first on Marketing Land.

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