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LOCKDOWN 2.0 How cross-border and Single’s Day can help retailers through latest domestic restrictions

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International online sales are predicted to increase by 63% across November and December compared to the same two months in 2019, offering a potential life line for retailers as Lockdown 2.0 comes into effect.

With lockdown directives varying from market to market, cross-border ecommerce sales have remained at record levels.  Data from eShopWorld (ESW), which is the largest cross-border ecommerce provider globally, suggests a 56% and 70% year-on-year increase in November and December respectively as the upcoming Peak Trading period is marked by unparalleled uncertainty.

These latest figures follow recent predictions indicating international online sales would increase during October, as consumers shopped earlier for Christmas pulling sales forward and away from the traditional twin peaks of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. 

Tommy Kelly, CEO, ESW explains: “We saw a 113% year-over-year increase in same-store global online sales in October and we’re confident the end of the year will follow the same pattern.  Although consumers began their Peak shopping earlier this year, a predicted increase in sales throughout November and December suggests that the ‘typical’ Christmas shopping season will be active, as always.  We’ve already seen many countries enter a second phase of lockdown, so we can see that the massive shift to online shopping is here to stay.”

The unprecedented growth of cross-border ecommerce sales is in contrast to figures detailed in the Confederation of British Industry’s (CBI) latest monthly distributive trades survey, which showed UK retail sales fell at their fastest pace in four months in October, from 11% to -23%, as people reined in their spending in the face of more coronavirus restrictions.

“Now is the time for UK brands and retailers to embrace the cross-border opportunity as addressing this customer demand has become a business necessity,” adds Kelly.  “The potential to grow sales, reach and brand loyalty is immense. Selling internationally not only means greater and more diverse audiences, but also additional opportunities to optimise marketing efforts to capitalise on multiple shopping events during the year, match seasonal inventory to local seasons, and meet market conditions on the ground, in an ever-evolving global market.”

Tapping into Singles Day

While eMarketer’s forecast for global e-commerce growth has been revised to 14% (down from 18%) in recent months, retailers in APAC and other markets around the world can leverage Singles’ Day to recoup sales that may have been lost as a result of the pandemic.

Originally an online shopping event held as an unofficial celebration of a person’s singledom in China, Singles’ Day has since been adopted by brands worldwide, offering deals and discounted prices to customers. 

New research from Rakuten Advertising, which surveyed more than 5,000 consumers from across the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, reveals that the pandemic has undoubtedly shifted the way consumers shop, with online purchases showing a 14% increase – an increase in online purchases that presents a big opportunity for UK retailers looking to tap into the lucrative APAC market.  

The region alone will account for 63% of total e-commerce sales worldwide in 2020. Chinese consumers, making up the majority of APAC, will spend US$2.1 trillion online this year, an increase of 16%.  

Abi Jacks, Rakuten Advertising VP of Marketing, International, explains: “Although outside of APAC, Singles’ Day isn’t as well-known as events like Black Friday or Cyber Monday, UK retailers that take part can play this to their advantage. Participating in a lesser-known event offers brands a platform to communicate and connect with their consumers with reduced competition. In an industry that is increasingly digital, where retailers are competing more and more for consumers’ attention, the opportunity to tap into the prolific APAC market is huge.” 

High demand for international brands 

International brands are highly sought after by consumers across Asia-Pacific, with two thirds (66%) of consumers stating that they shop from international retailers. Almost three quarters (73%) said that they choose to do so for a wider selection and faster access to new products. Of those who shop internationally, over a third (38%) prefer to shop from Chinese retailers, followed by the United States (26%), Japan (20%) and South Korea (15%), with 12% saying they preferred UK brands. 

When discovering new brands, 64% of APAC consumers do so through online search, followed by paid social, and recommendations from friends and family. Influencers and bloggers also play an important role in the discovery of new products. 

“Shoppers in APAC – and even other international regions – have come to expect UK brands to offer Singles’ Day promotions as they do from local Chinese brands”, Abi adds. “As online retail events like Singles’ Day continue to globalise, marketers should consider global commerce demands and promotional opportunities to make up for sales lost throughout the year.” 

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