I’ve always been a bit of a caveman when it came to online shopping — although I’m a really lazy person, I never minded having to get out of the house to buy things. But with 26% of Singaporeans shopping online at least once a week and a whopping 78% doing so at least once a month, I decided it was high time to crawl out from under my brick-and-mortar rock.
After asking around, I found a good place to start: Lazada, the Rocket Internet-backed online shopping mall that’s been called the Amazon of Southeast Asia. The e-commerce site has launched operations in Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and, most recently, Singapore. Right now, it’s worth is estimated to be $1.3 billion, making it possibly the most valuable technology firm in Southeast Asia.
If you’re familiar with the e-commerce scene in Singapore, you’d most likely have heard of Lazada already. Even if you’re still among the uninitiated, no worries: follow me, and I’ll take you through five easy steps to falling down the rabbit hole of 70% discounts and adrenaline-pumping flash sales that is Lazada.
Step 1: Be blinded by their flash sales
I stepped (metaphorically) into Lazada on a Monday, the day when everyone is in need of some retail therapy. And luckily for me, Lazada was on hand with some sales.
Notice the plural? That’s because it was both Mastercard Monday — 10% off storewide for Mastercard holders — and their Monday Mania flash sale — five items ranging from the ASUS Zenfone 5 to a HP Stream laptop, with an average of 30% discount.
That’s not even mentioning the Great IT Sale that had just started that day, the Parisilk Promo on home appliances, and a ton of other limited-time deals. (Heads up: the IT Sale ends in two weeks’ time, so do check it out soon.) Within just a few moments of browsing, the auntie in me was hooked.
Step 2: Stumble into the ‘special promotions’ page
Redmart, Singapore’s online groceries market, currently has 1297 items on sale. That’s pretty impressive, especially for someone used to brick-and-mortar shops with limited space. Rakuten, another popular e-commerce site that originated from Japan, seems to have about 800 sale items.
Lazada’s ‘Special Promotions’ page also lists a dizzying 5252 results — and oh look, it just became 5271!
You know how sometimes, promises of huge discounts designed to lure you in result in a huge letdown? Maybe that half-price promotion that sounds awesome also states in tiny font that you have to buy three pieces of the same item. Sometimes, it gets even more sneaky: taking ‘Singapore’s No 1 Shopping Site’, Qoo10, as an example, I came across some complaints about its ‘gimmicky’ sales prices online:
That’s not to say that Lazada might not have similar complaints. Still, a search for bad shopping experiences at Lazada yields nothing more serious than delayed shipping (Though if you do have a horror story, feel free to share).
Any surprises I’ve had there are so far are of the good kind — it’s not uncommon for sales on Lazada to get above 70%. And if you have even the teeniest drop of auntie-ness in you, you’ll definitely perk up at this:
Step 3: Realise that this is how ‘we have everything’ looks like
Many of the most popular e-commerce sites in Singapore are specialised — Zalora is a fashion behemoth, while HipVan is beloved for its focus on products with great design. It’s far easier to get sucked into Lazada-reliance, though, because it sells pretty much everything — without compromising on quality.
If we’re talking about Southeast Asian e-marketplaces, Lazada doesn’t really have the corner on quantity alone. Shopping sites like Amazon and Qoo10 are currently more well-known, with the number of products listed ranging in the millions. In general, such platforms with C2C (customer to customer) marketplaces have a marginally wider variety of items available, with the unfortunate trade-off being a buy-at-your-own-risk mindset. When you let all and sundry list products, you occasionally end up with dodgy-looking, ill-spelled items, and some great stories to tell at parties:
On the other hand, Lazada is a B2C (business to consumer) platform, and prides itself on its Trusted Sellers Only program — according to its website, vendors on Lazada have undergone a “thorough selection process”. While this isn’t a 100% guarantee — I have no doubt that some of you could regale me with experiences so terrible, they just become funny — it does inspire more confidence, and it means that you’re unlikely to see strange products published there. For me, Lazada strikes the right balance — thousands of products to keep me scrolling, but not peppered with dubious items that jolt me from my shopping coma.
Step 4: Go on Facebook
You know how Gmail automatically scans your email to push ads customized to your interests at the moment? While such targeted advertising is nothing new nowadays, I never appreciated fully the creepy impressive outreach that companies can harness until I noticed what Lazada was doing on my Facebook feed.
Long story short, I was being shown ads for all the items I’d clicked on from the Lazada site, even though I don’t follow the Lazada Facebook page. This is because, of course, Facebook now tracks your browsing on third-party sites. So even if you managed to resist the temptation to click ‘Add to Cart’ on the website itself, you’ll be repeatedly bombarded with all the attractive items that you don’t really need but really, really want.
Step 5: Become a regular customer
Look forward to Mania Mondays, Wow Wednesday Deals and Friday Flash Sales. Download the Lazada app for Android or iOS, and compulsively check the push notifications and vouchers that’ll be sent to your phone. Bookmark the website so you’ll always remember to check for seasonal discounts. Rinse and repeat.
The one gripe I have with Lazada is its lack of a loyalty program to reward regular customers — after all, it’s always nice to be recognised for your…’achievements’. Since I’ve been mentioning the negative side of Qoo10 so far, allow me to introduce you to their comprehensive loyalty program. When you buy an item and submit a review on Qoo10, you are awarded a Qstamp. Qstamps can be exchanged for cart or discount coupons, or used in their Loyalty Shop. There’re also Qpoints, which you earn by confirming that your item has been delivered successfully, and which can be exchanged for more coupons. In addition, once you join their five-tiered members’ program, you’re issued with monthly cart coupons. Sounds awesome? Now that’s the kind of reward system that fuels a true shopping addiction.
All in all, though, for a novice online shopper like me, my time on Lazada has been a surprisingly positive one. If you haven’t started using Lazada yet, I highly recommend it. See you at the bottom of the bargain bin.