Korean Consumers Eye Chinese Online Shopping Malls on Black Friday

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The Chinese equivalent of Black Friday is this coming Wednesday, Nov. 11, with all sales beginning at midnight. Called Guānggùn Jié (光棍节), or Singles’ day, 11/11 is a day of partying and meeting new friends for young Chinese men and women—and in celebration of this spirit, vendors offer sales up to 50% on online shopping malls.

The growth of sales figures for this once-a-year offer has been astounding. On the first Singles’ Day in 2009, Alibaba, the e-commerce giant that invented this celebration that year, recorded 52 million yuan (~$8.2M) in sales—since then, five years of exponential growth saw this figure skyrocket up to 57.1 billion yuan ($9B) by 2014. This coming week, the single-day revenue for Alibaba is expected to match or surpass that of last year.

In Korea, a trend of purchasing rare or expensive item overseas at a bargain has picked up, popularly referred to as “direct purchase” or 직구 (jik-gu). With the upcoming Singles’ Day in China, Korean consumers may turn their eyes to this blockbuster sale next door, given the attractive prices and convenience of online platforms similar to those in Korea. Below are some shopping malls that dominate the scene. However, they address the perpetual concern of counterfeit goods in different ways–consumers are advised to look into the details product by product to avoid faulty goods.

1. AliExpress
AliExpress is a subsidiary of Alibaba that has already garnered a dedicated user base in South Korea. Products tend to boast very competitive prices, and ship international with no extra charge. The platform is an open-market system similar to Korean websites such as Auction or G-Market, which are composed of small to medium vendors advertising a wide range of products. A downside is the lack of control on counterfeit / fake goods—users are advised to study customer reviews carefully to discern the right product they want. Following link leads to AliExpress’s sales schedule.

2. TaoBao
The Amazon of China. Singles’ Day began as a part of Taobao’s promotion scheme. Korean goods sold on Taobao are advertising sales up to 70% off original prices. Across the Taobao platform, patrons can expect up to 50% in discounts. Schedules can be found here.

3. Tmall
Also a subsidiary of Alibaba, Tmall deals exclusively with those products from Taobao that have been certified as legitimate goods. Foreign spenders with the qualms of buying in free-for-all Chinese online shopping malls can instead head to this link at Tmall.

4. JD.com 
The runner-up in the online shopping mall industry, JD.com specializes in electronic hardware such as PCs and mobile devices. Korean goods sold here, however, are mostly edible goods such as ramen and made-in-Korea snacks/chips. More schedules found here.

5. Taobao Shaomi Mall
The overseas bestsellers on Taobao are mostly Shaomi products—and they have it all from earphones, scales (yes, for your weight), auxiliary batteries, et cetera. The same items go on sales on Singles’ Day. Shaomi itself has been releasing a series of new products this fall, and plans to release their latest phone, HongMi NOTE 2, on Singles’ Day.


– Inspired by Platum

Yong Bin is interested in finding out what makes budding businesses sustainable in the long term, something he studied as an industrial engineer at school. He became a New Yorker at age 18, and tries to outdo Google in figuring out directions in the City. Yong Bin can be reached at ybkim@techforkorea.com.



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