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The super Singles Day Sales continues its record-breaking streak. Its environmental impact also lingers for years to come.
In early 90s, four students from Nanjing University, decided they resent Valentine for crying out loud, being single and made up an unofficial holiday called “Singles Day”. The sacred date containing double entendre named after the four singles in 11.11, the unofficial holiday comes every November, 11th. Its underlining tenet is to celebrate the loneliness of the date as a symbol to the loneliness of single people, and allowing themselves to exercise self-care by giving themselves gifts. Years later, one of the students, namely Jack Ma (yes, that Jack Ma) realized the prospect in commodifying self-care, hence the practice of singles day discount in his online commerce, Alibaba to mention few among many.
Singles Day Sales
Rampant emerge of online commerce these days have also exercise singles day discount to boost their sale. As prequels, singles day has now become monthly anticipated events as it continues to 10.10, the upcoming 12.12, and so on. Deduced from the capitalization of self-care, the appeal of Singles Day remains sexy. The attraction of steal deal is heavily anticipated for the provision of momentary thrill. Keeping yourself updated for what clothing is in trend and which gadgets you suddenly need provides sudden urgency in making a purchase. As a result, Singles Days dwarfed out other shopping days, Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined. According to Forbes, “In 2017, Alibaba Group, a multinational e-commerce conglomerate in retail and manufacturing, earned over $25 billion in sales, beating the previous record of $17.6 billion in 2016. This event is four times the size of America’s biggest shopping days, Black Friday and Cyber Monday.” In 2016 Singles Day (11.11) Chinese buyers spent over $1 billion in the first five minutes and surpassed $1.47 billion in six minutes 58 seconds, making it Alibaba’s yet another registered record sale.
Consumers are constantly looking for avant-garde ways and entertainment in exploring new products. Indisputably, limited time in singles day discount provides a sense of urgency to buy new products. The fear of missing out on the best deals provided by all kinds of brands from low to high-end promoted by celebrity appearances namely Taylor Swift and Miranda Kerr, providing a sense of proximity to the person promoting singles day discount encourages people to buy more.
Not to mention with users’ algorithm, e-commerce has the access to purchase history and now be able to always display related products to the potential buyers, be it from the same brand or similar products or other dupes from other brands. The lure of free shipping form single day sales also encourages people to buy more, thinking that they are only paying for the product they’re buying much like going to a physical store. It is as if there is no longer a barrier getting in the way of geographical differences. Acknowledging the high rate of marketability of any products in singles day, e-commerce has moved to developing singles day sales as a way to test out new products and marketing strategies. L’oreal, for instance, has offered consumers free samples for the first 100,000 orders as part of their promotional innovations. Innovations like these has allowed brands to gain immediate customers’ response and make quick adjustment as to what worked and didn’t.
Monsters in Your Closet, Monster For The Planet
The Singles day sales is not as appealing to the environment as it is to the excitement we get everytime a package comes to our doors. “Record-setting over-consumption means record-setting waste,” according to Nie Li, toxics campaigner at Greenpeace who estimates that in 2017 orders will produce more than 160,000 tonnes of packaging waste, including plastic, cardboard, and tape. Considering buying products you don’t need at the extent of free shipping doesn’t instantly free buyers from the responsibility of leaving carbon footprints from shipping and products’ packaging. As more e-commerce offer free same-day shipping and free returns, it is inevitable that the expense of free-delivery is not free considering its impacts for the environment. A research in Germany proved that one in three online orders were returned. In China, same-day delivery claim already contributed to more than 10% of overall parcel deliveries accumulating roughly to 3 million daily. In addition, Amazon already delivered to 72% of all customers within 24 hours in 2019, contributing more to carbon footprints.
This new way of consuming has contributed to our “take, make, dispose” linear economy. Ranging from multitude of adverse environmental impact; wasteful packaging, transport emissions, and the escalating emissions of production to make all these products. As more and more dupes are produced, the making of fast fashions and gadgets no longer pay attention to quality and durability, causing these products to last only a while for it to get disposed only after a couple of uses.
E-commerce have been developing and creating measures to solve the environmental impacts online shopping has. From replacing disposable packaging to reusable ones to experimenting with biodegradable delivery bags and tape-free boxes. Walmart and Amazon have also announced their plan to resolve this climate issue by providing electric vehicles to deliver packages. Amazon expects this effort would reduce “millions of metric tons of carbon per year.” Brands like Freitag, Allbirds, and Patagonia are boycotting Black Friday promotion as a contribution to cut off carbon emissions. Freitag managed a Tinder-inspired campaign called SWAP (Shopping Without Any Payment) to collect and exchange pre-loved bags from one customer to the others to provide them the experience of getting the excitement of “getting something new.” Allbirds, on the other hand, raise their price by $1 in Black Friday and donating their sales revenue for the day to Greta Thunberg’s Fridays for Future foundation. Patagonia, on the other hand, held a campaign with a different approach to Allbirds and Freitag by hyping their own secondhand program namely Worn Wear. In numerous videos and essays called “Worn Wear Stories,” they ask people to tell stories about clothes they’ve worn, stressing the importance to minimise waste.
What Can We Do
As 12.12 discount is getting closer, all aforementioned efforts need to be balanced out by our personal efforts in buying and consuming less. Focus more on what we need instead of what we want, and that means reducing impulsive buying, hence reducing waste. For every 10% of waste reduction (buying products without plastic bags and less packaging), one can avoid 1,200 pounds of CO2e, according to the Center for Sustainable Systems. Reusing and buying secondhand products can also minimize our overall waste and diminish total emission derived from delivery and packaging. As for e-commerce companies, adding repair services to extend products’ longevity and practicing circular economy to the centre of their business models might be the ideas we desperately need.
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