Byravee Iyer
Feb 2, 2015

GOSF: Why Google is interested in e-commerce

SINGAPORE - Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or outside of Singapore), chances are you’ve seen and heard all the advertisements and promotions for the Great Online Shopping Festival (GOSF), a first-of-its-kind online shopping sale organised by Google, DBS and SingPost.

Joanna Flint, Google's MD for Singapore
Joanna Flint, Google's MD for Singapore

GOSF started at midnight today and runs for 72 hours, ending at 23:59 on 4 February. More than 60 brands are participating in the festival, including familiar names like Agoda, Courts, Luxola and Zalora, offering a range of deals including major discounts on beauty products, fashion brands, electronics and travel.

For Google, promoting a flash sale will generate excitement and brand awareness while reinforcing that Google is the best place to start an online shopping journey. However, don’t compare this to Alibaba’s Singles Day or global sales like Black Friday and Cyber Monday just yet, experts said. Here, we present two independent opinions on the sale, followed by a Q&A with Joanna Flint, Google’s Singapore managing director.

Opinions

Ben Legg
CEO
Adknowledge Inc

Kim DouglasI doubt that Google will want to get into the flash sale industry. To do in a sustained way, with multiple new consumer offers 365 days per year per city, requires having thousands of sales people ‘feet on the street’—something that Google has always avoided.

However, Google promoting a flash sale will generate excitement and brand awareness, and help consumers to associate starting an online shopping journey with a Google search (or 10). This is an important behaviour for Google’s revenue growth. If consumers were to start their shopping journey on their favorite eCommerce site (such as Amazon), then Google becomes irrelevant in the shopping process, and its revenues would dry up.

Google partnering with major brands to help them sell more will also help them to make friends with companies that have massive marketing budgets. I would expect to see a lot of mobile commerce emphasis within the campaign. Google already has a strong position regarding consumer behavior on desktop—most people do start their shopping journey with Google. However, mobile commerce is much more immature than desktop shopping, and Google’s place within it is less certain, given the ‘appification’ of the mobile shopping experience.

The key challenge for such a sale will be awareness. They can’t just wait for people to search for the sale. They will need to proactively promote the sale and cut through the clutter of all the other advertisers out there.

Kim Douglas
Vice president and managing director
SapientNitro Singapore

Kim DouglasThe Great Online Shopping Festival is a step in the right direction for the ecommerce industry in Singapore. Prior to this, online sales have mostly been an accompaniment to greater physical store sales, namely the GSS (Great Singapore Sale). 

E-commerce in Singapore is still in its infancy. Statistics show that e-commerce sales are on the rise here in Singapore, but as a whole, the local e-commerce infrastructure leaves much to be desired. Most popular local sites that appeal to the mass market serve only a certain category, and are not all-encompassing. For instance, Fairprice & Redmart sells strictly groceries, Zalora looks at fashion, and Qoo10 is the go-to site for cheap deals in bulk, but the in-store experience is confusing and frustrating. What Singapore lacks is a site like Amazon, which has myriad of different types of items, brands, categories, and with reviews and ratings which aid in decision making. 

Hence, comparing this to Alibaba’s Singles Day, or global sales like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, is a stretch. Generally, local online retailers have failed to successfully inspire desire in their consumers to purchase more than they initially intended. Shoppers turn online during sales to easily search for deals. What other online sale festivals have achieved is that they have gone beyond simply fulfilling a need (they provide great sales on items that the shopper was already looking for in the first place) to creating a desire that was not otherwise there, and tempting the shopper to purchase an item that they would initially not have thought about. 

Ultimately, online retailers here need to build nice looking sites, providing extensive information which aids in product research, with predictive user experience, that all ties in to promote a great online shopping experience. 

Q&A

Edited excerpts from a Q&A session with Google’s Singapore managing director Joanna Flint.

How did the idea of a shopping festival come about?

Singapore is one of the most connected cities in the world—household internet penetration is around 90 per cent, and smartphone penetration, at 85 per cent, is the highest in the world. Singaporeans are also sophisticated shoppers, and the internet is a key part of their shopping process. Nearly 70 per cent research products online before purchasing, and over half of these shoppers go on to complete their purchases online. And this is a trend that we see across devices—12 percent of Singaporean internet users shop on their smartphones at least once a week. This is the same as the US, and more than France or Germany!

As these trends show, Singapore’s eCommerce industry is really taking off. And with the country’s 50th anniversary this year, as well as Chinese New Year just around the corner, 2015 is the perfect time to celebrate one of Singapore’s burgeoning economic sectors, with retailers across the country showcasing their products, services and best deals on a single platform.

Who are the retailers you are working with?

There are over 60 brands participating in the festival, including familiar names like Agoda, Courts, Luxola and Zalora, offering a range of deals including major discounts on beauty products, fashion brands, electronics and travel.

We are also collaborating with both DBS and SingPost. The first 2,000 shoppers to spend over a total of SGD168 with their DBS/POSB cards will receive an additional 15 percent rebate or SGD100 off. The offer can be applied over multiple receipts. SingPost is offering its delivery and returns solutions to participating brands in the festival. SingPost is also offering online shoppers access to 90 POPStations—or smart locker stations—around the island, which allows them to collect, pay or even return their purchases round-the-clock.

Do you plan to make this an annual event?

Right now we're focused on this year's festival. We’re thrilled to be teaming up with businesses across Singapore to celebrate the best of Singapore e-commerce.

What are your expectations from this event?

We hope shoppers in Singapore have lots of fun finding the deals they want during the festival! And for those that have never shopped online, we hope they discover how easy it can be.

How are you promoting it to consumers?

Shoppers can find out more about the festival by checking gosf.sg or following google.com/+GOSF_SG or twitter.com/GOSF_sg. We've of course been running some teaser video ads on YouTube, and participating brands have been doing some incredible promotions to their customers. And we may have put up a poster or two around town as well.

What are the big challenges?

A project like this has a lot of moving parts. Making sure all partners had everything they needed to make the festival run smoothly wasn’t easy, but the sheer enthusiasm of everyone involved did mean that putting this exciting project together has been, for us and all the participating retailers, demanding and rewarding.

 

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