The holiday season is traditionally a peak time for consumer spending. It’s also a busy time for Asian marketers, who need to target their messages geographically to take full advantage of the region’s diversity.
Online holiday sales and revenue trends are generally influenced by North American and European consumers because of the volume of transactions occurring over the Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year holiday trifecta.
Some Asian markets, however, mimic those holiday shopping trends towards the end of the Gregorian calendar more closely than others. As such, marketers should target customs and celebrations specific to particular regions. The most effective way to do this is to group the regions by the significance of the holiday season to the people and the nature of their celebrations.
Major Regional Celebrations
Christmas is a big deal in the Philippines and South Korea. Eighty percect of the Philippines population is Catholic, and celebrations begin as early as Dec. 16. Christianity is also the largest organised religion in South Korea, where more than a quarter of the population follow the faith.
This means marketers can replicate holiday season marketing campaigns for the Americas and Europe with a few localized, country-specific tweaks.
Commercialised Holiday Season
China, India, and Japan are Asia’s largest markets and have been “globalised” to such an extent that any major international festival–or day such as Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day–is celebrated with much fanfare.
In these countries, marketers would do well to run campaigns focused around gift-giving (for sales) and the holiday cheer (for brand awareness). The fact that some major national festivals fall very close to Christmas and New Year in India and China helps as the national holiday mood pervades.
India, true to its multi-ethnic, secular form, celebrates Christmas and the New Year as enthusiastically as any other festival. The 24 million Christians in India make up 2.3% of the population, and shopping malls offer major deals around the holiday season.
Diwali, India’s most widely celebrated festival, and the Hindu New Year kick off the holiday season for this part of Asia in late October. Flipkart and Amazon, India’s biggest online retailers, together sold over 30 million units of goods in their five-day festive sales during 2016. Having shipped to 90% of India’s ZIP codes, Amazon’s country head, Amit Agrawal, was elated.
“While the overall landscape was flat during Diwali, we saw rapid momentum relative to what the ecommerce industry has seen this time of year,” Agrawal said.
In China, Christmas Day is not an officially recognised holiday, yet department stores and streets are festooned with Christmas decorations in the major cities to capitalise on seasonal sales. Hong Kong and Macau observe two days of holidays over Christmas.
In Japan, too, Christmas is a commercial event, and most parents give gifts to children on Christmas Eve. It’s also a romantic day when couples spend time with each other and exchange presents. Toys, dolls, and ornaments are popular gift choices.
The big challenge for brands in Japan is pleasing their customers in a technologically advanced market. The “SAP Asia Pacific Japan Digital Experience Report 2016” revealed nearly half of shoppers were disappointed with their online shopping experience, and consumer retail brands got low marks for personalisation.
Holiday Season Still Strong In Asia
The Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival, is less than a month away, and much like Christmas, giving gifts, such as fruit and chocolate, is a major practice.
“Understanding the difference between the Chinese and Western New Year and giving a gift that shows respect is very important in China,” said Brian Zeng, CMO of DigPerformance, a China-based online retail consulting firm. “Each province has differing customs, so analyse your target market very carefully before you plan your campaign.”
Zeng also offered this advice about consumer behaviour unique to China: “People are placing more importance on traditional festivals as opposed to Western occasions. So it’s better you run seasonal campaigns instead of round-the-year price discounts and sales.”
Another trend he pointed out: “Increased spending on luxury items as the average Chinese person becomes more affluent. Consumers are paying close attention to product quality and the story behind the brand.”