Irish technology company eShopWorld has today launched a new e-commerce hub in Singapore aimed at driving growth in China and Asia.
The launch coincides with China’s Singles’ Day, the largest online shopping day in the world, when online sales in China surpass Cyber Monday and Black Friday combined.
Continuing growth at eShopWorld has seen it create over 60 new jobs in 2016, most of these in Ireland.
Online shoppers in China have spent billions on Singles Day, a quirky holiday that originated as an ‘anti-Valentine’s Day’ indulgence when China’s growing population of singletons bought for themselves rather than a loved one.
The November 11 date was picked to be 11.11 - four singles.
Commenting, eShopWorld CEO Tommy Kelly said: “Singles’ Day reflects ongoing societal change in China.
“The age at which people now marry is increasing, creating a market of young, single, tech savvy and increasingly middle class consumers.
“Having a local presence is key to understanding and tapping into this growth potential.”
E-commerce sales in China rose by 26.1% in the first nine months of the year. Economic growth for that period held steady at 6.7%, but that was its lowest level since the 2008 global crisis.
Forecasters expect the economy to cool further next year as regulators try to rein in a boom in bank lending and real estate sales that is pushing up debt levels and housing costs.
China has the biggest population of Internet users at 710 million, according to government data. Some 410 million people shop online for goods ranging from clothing and groceries to manicures and plane tickets.
"Online shopping is getting more and more common," said He Mei, an employee of a health products company in her 30s who had waited for Friday to buy an indoor air filtering machine at a discount.
"Young guys, especially those in their 20s, don't really go out to buy things, and they buy pretty much everything online," she said. "It's so easy and it saves time and money."
The migration of Chinese consumers to online commerce and entertainment is squeezing traditional retailers, cinemas and other businesses, forcing them to improve service and add offerings.
E-commerce has risen from 3% of Chinese consumer spending in 2010 to 15% last year, according to Boston Consulting Group. It forecasts online spending will rise by 20% a year, hitting US$1.6 trillion by 2020, compared with 6% growth for off-line retail.
Researchers attribute the rapid rise of Singles Day to demographics and timing.
University graduates who adopted the holiday earn more and shop online. Also, Singles Day comes as people receive monthly pay cheques and need to buy winter clothes.
Unlike other events such as the Lunar New Year, China's biggest family holiday, it involves few other expenses such as travel or banquets, leaving more money for gifts.