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THE BACKGROUND

Popular travel site Expedia had its humble beginnings as a travel booking division by Microsoft in 1996, known as Microsoft Expedia Travel Services. The goal was to provide a groundbreaking method for customers to research and book their trips.

In the early 2000s, American media and internet company, IAC took over Expedia and what followed was a string of other ecommerce site acquisitions: Hotels.com, Hotwire, TripAdvisor, and China’s eLong.com.

“Buy, not build” would become the company’s repeated business strategy. Five years later in 2005, Expedia was listed on Nasdaq.

“We are always opportunistic,” commented Mark Okerstrom, Expedia’s then CFO. “The M&A team is never closed for business. We are always on the hunt for interesting opportunities and we’re fortunate to have an incredibly strong core business, which gives us the confidence to go out and do some of these acquisitions that are a little bit more intensive.”

Expedia Southeast Asia

Source: Expedia

THE CHALLENGE

Technology, as with most industries, has disrupted the travel business at a blink of an eye, shaping the expectations of travelers. New forms of “travel tech” such as fare comparison, travel design and emerging business models like Airbnb’s share economy, shook an industry that relied on travelers thinking only “where do I sleep?”

The internet granted people the luxury of a hassle free travel booking; best location, best hotel, best flight all for the best (lowest) price on one platform.

The arrival of Airbnb in 2008 changed the mindset of travelers – mainstream hotel chains no longer attracted them. Travelers sought property in remote, funky neighborhoods and relied on the local know-how of their host to explore destinations. Could Expedia compete with its traditional hotel offering?

Expedia Southeast Asia

Source: Phocuswright

THE STRATEGY

In order to cope with the volatile industry, Expedia did what it does best – opened its wallet for another acquisition. The company added Airbnb competitor HomeAway to its portfolio for a price tag of $3.9 billion in 2015.

Expedia Southeast Asia

Source: Nikkei Asia

The acquisition helped Expedia increase market share but is still behind Airbnb. In Q2/2017, Airbnb captured 15% of the global home-sharing market while Expedia and Priceline secured 12% and 9%, respectively.

Expedia, already with a stronghold in North America, realized that it needed to focus on emerging markets where 50% of the world’s millennials live and where its competitor, Priceline, established a leading position via Agoda.com and Booking.com.

Asia’s travel industry is expected to rise with a 12% CAGR during 2015 – 2020 to reach sales of $434 billion.

Asia Pacific is expected to remain the main driver of this performance, registering a 20% CAGR over the next five years, as internet adoption picks up in the region.

Expedia Southeast Asia

Source: Skift.com

In an attempt to compete with Priceline’s popular Booking.com, Expedia made a recent investment of $350 million into Indonesia-based Traveloka to bolster its presence in Southeast Asia as the company services six of the region’s primary markets.

“The US used to be the driver of our global strategy and other areas would follow,” expressed Dara Khosrowshahi, then CEO of Expedia in June 2017, only months before embarking to Uber. “But Asia is now driving our strategy.”

Unsurprising as the region’s internet economy is expected to grow from $31 billion in 2015 to $197 billion in ten years time. Travel is estimated to account for 45 of that, according to Google and Temasek.

“Our target is to at least double our share of the online travel marketplace in Asia[-Pacific]. I think we are on our way,” said Dara Khosrowshahi.

More specifically, Dara expected to increase gross number of bookings from its non-US businesses from the current 36% to two-thirds. It’s quite possible with Traveloka as an aid because Expedia can capture more of the 168 million Muslims expected to go abroad by 2020 as Indonesia is home to the world’s largest Muslim population.

Before his departure, Dara said there are two keys to winning Asia:

  1. Understanding Asian consumer habits
  2. A mobile-first attitude

To achieve this, the company operates Expedia Innovation Lab in Singapore where it uses sensor technology to understand how users feel while browsing Expedia-branded websites in 14 Asia-Pacific markets, including Australia, China, Thailand and Singapore, most of which have larger traffic volumes coming from mobile users.

Expedia Southeast Asia

Expedia Innovation Lab uses sensor technology to understand how consumers in Asia interact with its websites and services. Source: Nikkei Asia

THE FUTURE

The company is trying to fight for a stake in the fast-growing home-rental industry in Southeast Asia, where home rentals are still illegal as regulations have not caught up to the “share economy” while expanding its core hotel-booking business.

The company already has formed strong alliances with powerful players in the region such as AirAsia. Expedia acting as an official distributor through its agency AAE Travel can bundle AirAsia flights with hotel packages. But in a nascent market such as Southeast Asia, strong discounts are only the beginning as consumers have a plethora of travel agencies to choose from.

Good news? No single company occupies over 23% market share in any major Southeast Asian country.

Here’s what you should know today.

1. Naver eyes online financial services with Mirae deal

Naver, the owner of LINE app is laying the grounds for becoming an online financial services provider by swapping its treasury shares with Mirae Asset Daewoo, the nation’s No. 1 brokerage house.

“Naver will cooperate with Mirae Asset Daewoo closely in the future, introducing new global businesses integrating artificial intelligence technology and financial content,” said Naver Chief Financial Officer Park Sang-jin in a statement.

Park Hye-jin, an analyst at Kyobo Securities, said that it was a good deal for Mirae Asset Daewoo too. “It is positive that [Mirae Asset Daewoo] takes a platform for overseas market through Line’s overwhelming market share in the Southeast Asia.”

Read the rest of the story here.

 

2.Amazon hosts merchants in New York as marketplace competition heats up

Amazon is hosting a meet-and-greet with merchants in New York on Wednesday, offering 1,5000 attendees a chance to network with each other. The event is seen as a move to court merchants and stand up to competition from rivals Walmart, Alibaba and eBay.

As its marketplace has grown, however, many Amazon sellers have complained that its policies are too Draconian and that its communications with them impersonal

This could be a move to woo back sellers.

Sellers on Amazon enjoy several advantages. The ecommerce giant’s Fulfillment by Amazon program allows marketplace sellers to store and ship goods from Amazon warehouses, while its fledgling Seller Fulfilled Prime program enables larger retailers and manufacturers to ship from their own centers.

Read the rest of the story here.

 

3.Desperate landlords turn to Airbnb-like sites to make up for abandoned retail spaces

All across the US, physical stores have been struggling to compete with online commerce. Retail is in a state of upheaval, with record vacancy rates even on shopping streets like Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

This gap between supply and demand presents a ripe economic opportunity for several sharing companies. Storefront, for instance, is a platform that connects those who have shops or empty real estate in areas with high foot traffic and visibility with merchants seeking to peddle their wares. It’s essentially an Airbnb for merchants.

The platform is attractive for new brands in particular, and thousands of merchants have used the platform to open up shops in places like New York, San Francisco, Hong Kong, and Milan.

The platform isn’t the only company to seize on this opportunity. Appear Here, which recently raised more than US$12 million in series B funding, is another marketplace for short-term retail space.

Read the rest of the story here.

Here’s what you need to know today.

1. Airbnb’s Chinese rival Tujia widens the war to Asia

Airbnb is doubling down on China this year, where it has been slow to expand. But it faces a strong rival there, Chinese unicorn Tujia which lists over 400,000 properties.

There’s also the convenience of integration with Chinese mobile payment systems like Alipay and WeChat Pay. For example, almost one-third of Thailand’s foreign tourism revenue came from Chinese travelers last year, and WeChat Pay has partnered with banks and mobile payment services in Thailand to make local shopping convenient for its users.

These regional markets are where Tujia feels it will have an edge in competing with Airbnb. It is building up teams in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. And it has already signed up nearly 40,000 properties outside China.

This also opens up many opportunities for Southeast Asian markets to explore payment integrations, services and more to serve the influx of Chinese visitors.

Read the rest of the story here.

 

2. Malaysia officially launches digital free trade zone

Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak officially launched the country’s Digital Free Trade Zone at the Global Transformation Forum 2017.

A major goal of the DFTZ is to become an ecommerce hub, in which SMEs and startups can build regional fulfilment centres (as Alibaba plans to do in the near future).

The Prime Minister spoke about a need for Malaysia to embrace ecommerce. To facilitate development, the government will reduce tariffs on goods priced over $112. Najib said wants to make sure the cost of fixed broadband is cut in half and internet speed is doubled by the end of the year.

In conjunction with ‘strategic partners’, Catcha Group will be the master developer, and a main investor, in a project called Kuala Lumpur Internet City (KLIC).

Read the rest of the story here.

 

3. Yoox Net-a-Porter shares jump on Alibaba interest

Shares in Yoox Net-A-Porter were up almost 8 percent on Monday as traders cited reported interest from Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba Group.

“There are reports Alibaba is interested in buying a stake in Yoox,” one of the traders said.

A report on Chinese fashion website Ladymax.cn said the Chinese conglomerate had contacted Yoox Net-a-Porter over capital cooperation, adding it did not rule out buying shares in it.

Read the rest of the story here.

Are online shops a fad?

There is an estimated 12-24 million ecommerce sites around the world of which, only roughly 650,000 generate more than $1,000 per year. While this may be an approximation, it does put in perspective how competitive the industry has become.

Some digital experts, on the other hand, see an opportunity. Arcadier, a Singapore-based company has developed a platform that lets businesses easily set up a marketplace online for a monthly fee.

Why? Because Kenneth Low, Arcadier co-founder and Chief Commercial Officer, is certain that exchanges from one person to the other, whether it be in marketplaces or offline, is something embedded in human DNA. His company is simply facilitating it online.

Fight for the single merchant

A textbook case to build a successful business is to find a problem and provide a solution as either a product or service. This was exactly how Arcadier founders came up with the idea to build a software platform for multi-seller marketplaces. It helps bootstrapping entrepreneurs develop their own ecommerce venture without any coding knowledge.

Arcadier started out in 2013 when the founders built customized marketplaces on a project basis. After working several years in PayPal during the eBay era, Kenneth and the other co-founder of Arcadier Dinuke Ranasinghe saw an opportunity for the provision of a marketplace platform enabling entrepreneurs to build their  “Uber for X” models.

Arcadier received inquiries from startup entrepreneurs, but a quotation scared off too many of them – no one had the minimum $50,000 to build an application. Kenneth says to build a minimum viable product for an online marketplace can cost around $500,000.

“We realised there was a whole market that was underserved. There were many software providers for building single merchant online shops cheaply and affordably, such as Shopify, PrestaShop or Magento and the big boys would go to Demandware and Hybris, but there was no commoditized product for cash-strapped entrepreneurs,” explains Kenneth.

“We couldn’t believe it. We were thinking, “Surely, Shopify would have done this!?,”” says Kenneth.

He explains that the back-end is much more complex setting up an online marketplace than for a single seller shop as it requires features such as multi-seller listing, inventory management for each of the sellers and split payment settlement.

Because existing players were all fixated on capturing the attention of single merchants, no one had invested in a platform for building marketplaces.

The hyper-localized hyper-niches

 Kenneth believes an online marketplace can create a win-win for sellers and customers, but Arcadier is not about helping others build the next Lazada or eBay, there can only be so many such global marketplace companies.

Instead, the trend is shifting towards hyper-localized and hyper-niche marketplaces, such as an Airbnb equivalent for female travelers in Asia or Christian travelers in Jakarta.

“Owners of these niche marketplaces never dream of being the next big thing, but they understand enough of the local market to know how it can work for them,” says Kenneth.  

Over 2,000 marketplaces spanning 45 countries and over 150 cities have been created using Arcadier’s platform.

Even without much spending on marketing, signups increase at 60% compounded growth rate month-on-month.

Arcadier operates on a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model charging its customers a monthly fee that can range from $0 to $399 per month – the free version is limited to 250 transactions per month. As the number of transactions increase, so does the platform subscription fee, but there are no transaction fees.

The platform is appealing as there are marketplace templates for selling goods (equivalent to eBay), booking professional services (similar to ServisHero), renting spaces (similar to Airbnb) and equipment.

In the recent years, Arcadier has gained a few competitors, a company in Finland called Sharetribe, another in Silicon Valley called Near Me,  and one two others, but Arcadier is leading in terms of sign-ups, asserts Kenneth.

While Arcadier is Singapore-based, 21% of all sign-ups are from US, 11% from the United Kingdom and 9% from Australia.

It also has users from India, Canada, Brazil, France, and Spain.

 “Our value proposition is to be the global leader in multi-vendor technology and our mission is to make sure we provide this technology to anyone, especially those who don’t understand tech,” says Kenneth. The tricky part is to make this technology simple to use, highly scalable and highly configurable, but Arcadier has got it covered.

Signup takes 5 minutes and the administrator’s user interface is very easy to set up the marketplace layout, what information is required from sellers, choosing languages and currencies of the marketplace, payments methods, etc.

The power of B2B

Kenneth gets passionate when speaking about how the trend of sharing economy is driving the growth of online marketplaces and not that much contributing to the single–merchant shops.

“Since the days of Agora in Rome and Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, marketplaces have always been the way people discovered things. A single merchant store isn’t sustainable – this trend is only now happening online,” argues Arcadier’s co-founder.

“Whatever you can think of, people build marketplaces for it. Marketplace for trading horses among owners, booking freelance DJs or belly dancers, these are some of the examples of what has been built using our platform,” says Kenneth.

He is also convinced that Southeast Asia in the long run will be the bedrock of ecommerce growth.

“The environment of trade is disorganized in countries like Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, which offers many opportunities for disruption.”

But the sleeping ASEAN giant has additional challenges of its own. Kenneth, a native Singaporean, counts language, regulatory systems and payment acceptance as the three biggest impediments to adoption of ecommerce and trading.

What does he believe makes a good marketplace?

Having seen a fair share of online marketplaces created, Ken shares his best practices.

  1. Own at least one side of the market

Online marketplaces always have the chicken and egg issue – buyers attract sellers and sellers attract buyers. If you don’t own at least one side of the equation, you should not be starting an online marketplace.

Entrepreneurs tend to think technology is the biggest hurdle for marketplaces while the biggest challenge is actually finding buyers and sellers.

  1. Know the market which you plan to serve

Not all B2B marketplaces are the same. Some industries require merchants (or sellers) to provide a letter of credit, some need vetting of merchants. So, be sure to know the existing workflow of the industry that you’re in.

Don’t use technology to change market participant behavior because that is impossible and you will fail. Make sure your technology works with the existing behavior, just automate it differently.

  1. Be patient

Building an online marketplace is not a sprint, it is a marathon. Don’t build a marketplace and wait for customers to come. You have to actively market it – know your customer acquisition channels and constantly manage them.

  1. Integrate with key service providers, not all

Many clients ask for an integration with all fulfillment, payment and other service providers, but that isn’t necessary. What you need is to find the key service providers in your vertical and integrate your systems with them. If it is SAP for accounting  or aCommerce for fulfilment, integrate it.

  1. Solve the trust issue

Trust between sellers and buyers is a fundamentally important part of building a successful online marketplace. Accept you will never fully solve grey market issue when some sellers and buyers decide to make the transaction offline and cut out the middleman’s (your) charge.

Customers still trade on eBay because they have buyer protection i.e. Airbnb has insurance for homeowners. Trust can be strengthened in the form of guarantees or you can use escrow services when funds are held by a third party until seller and buyer report a successful transaction. In any case, do think about how to encourage trust in your marketplace.

By: Aija Krutaine

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Here’s what you need to know today.

1. Thai conglomerate CP Group set to buy 7-Eleven franchise in Indonesia

Charoen Pokphand Indonesia, an affiliate of Thai conglomerate Charoen Pokphand Group poised to buy 7-Eleven franchise in Indonesia for $75 million. The objective is to revive the convenience store chain. Although the franchise is top-of-mind for Thais, its presence in Indonesia is overshadowed by local players such as Indomaret and Alfamart.

Indonesia’s 2015 decision to ban alcohol sales at small retail stores dealt a major blow to 7-Eleven. Modern Sevel said it closed around 25 locations in 2016.

CP Indonesia is the country’s top poultry producer, logging $2.9 billion in revenue in 2016. The acquisition is expected to boost its downstream business.

Another interesting development that could come out of the acquisition is CP Group’s partnership with Ant Financial, and the existence of True Money in Indonesia. It seems like CP Group is already laying out plans to cater to the country’s unbanked population.

Read the rest of the story here.

 

2. Myanmar’s Shop.com.mm to launch online payment platform

Shop.com.mm now has more than 500 local partners selling on the website and are forging international partnerships to bring on more partners to sell on its platform. Aside from partnership expansion plans, the ecommerce platform is poised to launch its own online payment system.

The firm is cooperating with several banks to launch its online payment system, in addition to using existing services such as AGD Pay, OK Dollar, and Wave Money.

Currently, customers can pay via cash on delivery or swipe on delivery. Bringing in an online payment option may take some time, as trust is a big hurdle to ecommerce in the country.

Read the rest of the story here.

 

3. Recommended Reading: How in-home package delivery can save ecommerce

Would you allow UPS to drop off a package inside your home when you’re not there?

That question is at the heart of a three-month pilot program that smart lock maker August tried out last winter with 76 of its users in an attempt to see if the company could help jumpstart the ecommerce industry.

“It’s a question of working with those providers to make this something that’s commercialized, with training,” the company said. “We’ve already completed trials with some, and some are moving toward commercialization plans. The trick will be to get people to the point where they take such things for granted, much as we all do now with things like taking rides with Uber or Lyft, or staying in people’s homes via Airbnb.”

Read the rest of the story here.