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Customers tread carefully on first online Black Friday

Released at: 14:14, 06/12/2014

Customers tread carefully on first online Black Friday

Purchases had reached 6,400 just before lunchtime on the first online Black Friday in Vietnam.

by Minh Tuyet

There were 3.5 million views and 550,000 accessing websites as at 11am (latest figures available) on Vietnam’s first online Black Friday, more than 15 times higher than usual, according to the Vietnam E-commerce and Information Technology Agency (Vecita) under the Ministry of Industry and Trade. Seventy-seven per cent of access was made by computer and 19 per cent by mobile phone.

Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City saw the highest access, accounting for 40 and 36 per cent, respectively, Vecita said. Purchases reached 6,400, valued at over $370,000.

Promotions were offered but cheaper price is not the only reason behind purchases, according to one online shopper, a 28-year-old architect. “I didn’t take part in the first online Black Friday,” he said. Despite the offer of free delivery and deep discounts, his biggest concern in buying products on online Black Friday was quality.

Although the Deputy Organizer of online Black Friday, the Secretary of Vietnam E-commerce Association, Mr. Nguyen Thanh Hung, said that two giant telecommunication corporations in Vietnam have texted about 50 million people in a bid to widely promote the event, it seems to have passed many young people by. While those who did hear about it may have been curious, quality was again an issue that held them back from making any purchases. Mr. Huy, a 23-year-old singer, said that that looking at pictures is not a reliable way to judge a product’s quality.

Mr. Nguyen Huy Hoang, Business Development Director at KantarWorldPanel

"Frankly speaking, I don’t think that customer numbers will reach the expected 10 million. Online shopping is still quite limited in Vietnam. According to a recent survey from Kantar, only 1 in 10 people living in urban areas shop online at least once a month. Ten million people equals 11 per cent of Vietnam’s population."

Guarantees over quality made by the Organizing Board of online Black Friday failed to assuage concerns. If there are complaints from shoppers about quality, the Organizing Board said, it will act as an arbiter to protect customer rights.

Ms. Chinh, a 24-year-old office worker at a South Korean company, believes that the public information distributed about online Black Friday was unclear. She has no experience in online shopping so wanted to gauge the experience of other shoppers before buying anything on online Black Friday. “If I see that online shopping is reliable then I may do so in the future,” she said.

Communication is a shortcoming identified by Mr. Nguyen Huy Hoang, Business Development Director of KantarWorldPanel, which is registered in Vietnam as Taylor Nelson Sofres (TNS) Vietnam. “Communication about Black Friday has been very limited,” he said. Communication is the leading strategy in attracting shoppers to online Black Friday, he said, adding that attractive deals, guarantees on product quality, and offering online and offline payment methods were all behind communication in importance.

Different from Ms. Chinh, Ms. Huyen, a 35-year-old government office worker who regularly shops online, was happy to hear about Black Friday. “My friends and I will enjoy hunting for bargains in the sales offered on online Black Friday,” she said prior to the day, adding that they plan to pick up their favorite items at a cheaper price.

Mr. Ralf Matthaes, Managing Director of Infocus & Associates

"Building awareness about Black Friday is critical. Mass burst campaigns well in advance need to generate pull to be successful. Also, stakeholders need to have a clear understanding of the type of categories, products and brands consumers want to purchase. Finally, the key is to provide promotions that actually give value to consumers in terms of price discounts and / or added volume. As current retail growth is somewhat flat, because consumers are unsure about the economy, this type of campaign can work if consumers truly see value for money."

Experienced online shoppers, like Ms. Trang, a 23-year-old PR worker, had an item in their sights. “I will buy a washing machine, at a price of VND7 million ($329),” she said before the day. As she has been thinking about buying a washing machine, online Black Friday gives her the opportunity to do so at a discounted price.

As an active shopper on online Black Friday, Ms. Trang obviously sees the benefit of having a special online shopping day. Most people asked by VET can see the benefit in having such a day, even if they aren’t planning to be involved. They agree that online Black Friday gives customers more choice and also creates opportunities for retailers to expand their market and promote their branding.

According to Vietnam E-commerce and Information Technology Agency (Vecita) under the Ministry of Industry and Trade, over 700 e-commerce enterprises registered to participate in online Black Friday, with over 800 promotional programs. According to the Director of Vecita, Mr. Tran Huu Linh, there are 120,000 e-commerce enterprises in the country, making online Black Friday a worthwhile endeavor.

Mr. Ralf Matthaes, Managing Director of Infocus & Associates, who has 20 years of market research and consulting experience, believes that given there are about 40 million internet users nationwide, the target of attracting what represents 25 per cent of all “net citizens” to Black Friday (10 million) is a bit of a stretch. “However, based on the products, brands and type, and the value of promotions offered, a reasonable number may be 6 to 8 million,” he said before the day.

Black Friday has become a popular day for shopping in many countries around the world, held on the Friday after Thanksgiving in the US and regarded as the first day of the Christmas shopping season, with many retailers offering sales promotions. In Vietnam, Vecita proposed to the government that the first Friday of December be the country’s annual online Black Friday, which this year fell on December 5. The Organizing Board of the event expected 10 million shoppers to buy something.

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