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The Indonesian e-commerce unicorn that never joins a Singles’ Day

Written by Ursula Florene Published on 

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Large sales events help online marketplaces to net new users, but Tokopedia gives it a pass.

E-commerce platforms frequently hold big sales events to boost its business. In Indonesia, like in many other places, online marketplaces prefer “twin dates,” the closest being Singles’ Day on November 11. So they all started ramping up promotions, except for one company that’s not joining the frenzy—Tokopedia.

Since its conception in 2009, Tokopedia never participated in any of the country’s large sales events, be it Singles’ Day or the National Online Shopping Day (Harbolnas), which is held every December 12. “We don’t have any special campaign on November 11,” the company’s senior external communications lead Ekhel Chandra Wijaya told KrASIA.

The company says it prefers to stick to its regular discount programs in the last week of each month. Aside from that, Tokopedia’s largest sales event is “Ramadan Ekstra” during the Islamic holy month. This year, however, the firm decided to skip it due to the pandemic.

Even though Tokopedia doesn’t like sales events, it still benefits from its partners. On Singles’ Day, for instance, it collaborates with e-wallet Ovo and on-demand app Grab in a program called Ovo Boom 11.11. Users paying with Ovo will get up to 90% cashback and buy-one-get-one deals on Tokopedia and GrabFood.

“All discount offers can be used on Ovo, Grab, and Tokopedia,” said Ovo’s spokesman Harumi Supit. Tokopedia’s VP of corporate communications Nuraini Razak pointed out that the program aims to help Indonesian micro, small, and medium enterprises which were badly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wijaya, however, made clear that this doesn’t mean Tokopedia is participating in the Singles’ Day. “Boom is a part of Ovo’s cross-platform campaign with its partners Grab and Tokopedia, not a specific 11.11 event,” he said.

Tokopedia’s position remains a mystery given that these type of festivals can be crucial for the business. Sea Group’s Shopee, for instance, managed to topple Tokopedia as the e-commerce platform with most active monthly users in Q4 2019—thanks to the Single’s Day and Birthday Sale event.

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