Complex promos overshadow online shopping festival

By Cui Bowen Source:Global Times Published: 2017/11/3 5:03:40

Illustrations: Peter C. Espina/GT

November 11, known as "Double 11" in China, is the country's - make that the world's - largest shopping spree, and it's just about one week away. China's e-commerce platforms like Alibaba and, online vendors, delivery services and shoppers are now busy preparing for it.

As a die-hard fan of the online shopping extravaganza, I used to add favorites in shopping cart in advance, and when the time came, all I needed to do was hit the purchase button and get a beautiful discount, of 50 percent or more.

However, some shopping platforms like and and their contracted online retailers have released overly complicated promotion methods this year, such as prelaunch, discounts and price protection policies.

For example, customers are not able to combine their orders to obtain the maximum discount when buying prelaunch merchandise.

In addition, online vendors have set a plethora of restrictions on coupons. Some are exclusive to prelaunch items, while others are only used for specific products, models and even colors.

Hongbao, or red packets, are also included in this year's sales promotion. Online merchants issue the monetary gifts to customers as a means to boost consumption, but it has been classified into different categories and has confused consumers.

Some of my friends and I are hesitating about joining the shopping spree this year after reading the complicated promotion ideas because you need to be a math talent and spend a few hours studying the confusing promotion methods.

Do the complex promotion campaigns reveal a secret that the online shopping fury is just a shopping fraud as direct percent-off discounts are rarely seen this time? If not, why don't e-commerce giants and online merchants frame simple rules, so that customers are able to follow them more easily and enhance their desire to purchase goods?

It seems that the "Double 11" shopping event, also called Singles' Day, becomes showy and deviates from its original purpose.

Singles' Day was first celebrated in the 1990s by young Chinese singletons as an anti-Valentine's Day. In 2009, Alibaba Group Holding began launching the made-up "holiday" to help merchants on its business-to-customer marketplace. Taobao and Tmall promote their sales, as a way to lift revenue in the traditionally quiet sales period between National Day holidays and the Chinese New Year. Online vendors will be slashing their prices and customers can find a wider range of products at lower cost, causing a phenomenal shopping spree at home and abroad. 

The Singles' Day sales event has been an astonishing success. Last year, retailers recorded sales worth 120.748 billion yuan ($18.17 billion) within 24 hours on Alibaba's platforms, a record in global retail for any single day. More than 10 million kinds of goods from over 100,000 businesses worldwide and consumers from 235 countries joined Alibaba's global shopping festival. It is estimated that about 1 billion parcels will hit China's logistics system on the shopping spree this year.

Apart from various promotion stunts, the online shopping frenzy is also mired in some other challenges and problems such as false advertising and untrue promotions, including discount restrictions, unfulfilled promises and price protection failures. Some discounted goods are said to be knock-offs or poor quality brand-name merchandise.

The online shopping carnival has reached astronomical figures in its transaction volume and become a widely-acknowledged shopping event. But it needs to be further regulated through the joint efforts of governments, e-commerce platforms, logistics companies and consumers. By doing so, the online shopping festival can head in a well-regulated direction and become a real party that everyone is happily involved in.

The author is a postgraduate student of translation studies at Beijing Language and Culture University.

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