Retailers leverage on shift in CNY shopping
Najihah S 
Penny Choo and her husband Giden Lim analyse customer orders to improve their service

TRADITIONAL brick and mortar retail players used to enjoy brisk sales during the Chinese New Year (CNY) season but it appears players using the online platform are the ones which are seeing higher sales.

Online retailers see the shift in consumer behaviour and are actively offering customers variety, prompt delivery and product customisation.

The festive season is often a time where local online portals can easily pull customers as food items are often top on the list and prompt delivery is a huge factor.

An online store that lists only Malaysian products, Homedeal.my, has been in business since April 2016. To-date, it has more than five local manufacturers listed on the website with products ranging from food to personal care exclusively on the site.

With more than 150 local products listed on the site, Homedeal.my has seen good sales during the CNY season.

According to founder Danny Ng, the company achieved a 32% increase in sales for its Mid-Autumn season last year and saw a 30% growth in sales for CNY this year.

Ng also points out that it noticed a steady rise in apparels purchase in mid-January for the CNY shopping. Meanwhile, purchases of snack food and hampers gained momentum from early February onwards.

He adds that during these festivals, momentum only picked up two weeks before the actual festival day, sometimes even much later. 

“We get many queries from customers on whether their purchases will reach the intended recipient on time since those are last-minute purchases. I believe some shoppers realise they do not have much time to shop at stores and look online for bargains as the day of the festival draws closer,” he explains.

According to another online shopping portal, 11street, which conducted a nationwide survey with 1,854 respondents, discovered that a majority of them prepared only 14 days before CNY. This is much later that what it used to be, which is 28 days prior.

Meanwhile, 70% of the respondents said they were more willing to spend on family and friends instead of on themselves.

The survey, which was done between Dec 22 and Jan 3 this year, included topics such as products bought during the season as well as the budget allocated for CNY shopping.

Based on the survey, 11street’s customers spent more on clothes and are willing to spend three times more buying CNY gifts for their friends and family.

The company’s vice-president of merchandising, Bruce Lim says, “Our survey has helped us understand the needs of these shoppers, so we will continue to procure offerings that meet their demands.

“We understand that with today’s busy schedule, there will be limited time to make preparations, so we endeavour to be their best shopping partner and help them invest more productive time into shopping, and save the extra time in preparation for a meaningful CNY celebration with their loved ones.”

To better cater to its customers during the CNY season, 11street provided a 48-hour delivery to those in the Klang Valley, and a ‘Click & Collect’ service to enable shoppers to eliminate waiting time for shipment and collect their purchases themselves at selected physical stores nationwide.

Elaborating on the need to introduce the extra feature to their services, Lim says, “These two services are off the back of 11street’s survey and featured as a part of our last-minute promotion under the Gong Xi Wang Wang campaign.”


Seasonal corporate gift a boon

Online florist service provider, BloomThis Flora Sdn Bhd is one of the few online shopping providers, registered significant growth in sales during the CNY period.

According to co-founder Penny Choo, the hike in sales is predominantly contributed by orders from its corporate clients.

The entrepreneur who started the company with her husband, Giden Lim says, “Most of our CNY products are purchased by our corporate clients. We notice that the common practice among businesses is usually to send gift hampers during CNY.”

One of the reasons the online florist stands out from the other is its differentiation factor. “While there are many hamper gifting options available in the market, we choose to diversify and offer the market something special such as handcrafted designer flowers.”

Nevertheless, the increase in demand has also been a steep learning curve for the company as it is constantly trying the best method to ensure it is able to meet demand during the peak period.

“The main challenge is to ensure that operationally we are able to meet the surging demand of the market. We learnt that what used to work will not work anymore at scale. The flower business can be very operationally challenging when it comes to handling delicate perishables coupled with delivering them on time for someone celebrating a special occasion,” Choo explains.

Choo, who relies on social media to boost sales of her products, says, “We analyse our data and track our digital performance closely so that our digital marketing efforts are highly targeted and bring positive results. We ensure the buying experience is seamless and delightful on both web and mobile platforms.”

To-date, the methods have been working and Choo says its CNY campaign sales were at an all-time high in January last year.

It saw high demand for flowers during Valentine’s Day this year as it is near the CNY period. Choo says, “We were looking at a growth of at least 500%. We managed to achieve a figure close to this.”

This article first appeared in Focus Malaysia Issue 274.