SINGAPORE: Asia's online retailers can expect a surge in consumer activity in the lead-up to the Chinese New Year with almost half of transactions set to take place via mobile, new research suggests.

In the two weeks preceding last year's festivities, consumers were browsing retail products more actively than before, with a 25% increase in items added to shopping carts, according to marketing tech company Criteo.

And they were following through on purchase: there was a 40% spike in e-commerce sales during this period, with three in ten being made on a mobile device.

These figures were based on an analysis of 174m online transactions in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, and Vietnam before, during, and after the 2015 Lunar New Year.

Yuko Saito, managing director of Criteo Southeast Asia, Hong Kong, India and Taiwan, explained the reasons for the surge: "Due to the traditional practice of wearing new clothes to symbolise a new beginning, consumers are doing a tremendous amount of online shopping two weeks before Chinese New Year."

They are also buying gifts and are often leaving this late – and not just at Chinese New Year but on other special occasions as well, she said.

"We observe instances of intensive, last-minute shopping, where consumers take less time to consider a purchase and require products to be delivered on short notice for personal use or gift-giving."

The last point – order fulfilment – is becoming a major focus for online retailers as they strive to match Amazon's Prime Now service which promises free delivery within two hours in selected areas, seven days a week. "Investing in instant delivery services will be crucial to increasing sales conversions," Saito noted.

The trend towards m-commerce will also continue to grow – some 45% of online transactions across the region are now happening on mobile, according to Criteo, a figure that rises to 56% in Indonesia.

"This spending period presents retail companies with a huge opportunity to engage consumers through personalised and relevant online advertising," Saito stated.

Data sourced from Tech Trade Asia; additional content by Warc staff