Here’s what you should know today.

1. Amazon launches Prime Reload, offering 2% back on purchases funded through debit cards

Amazon today is launching a new perk for Prime members that will give them cash back on purchases – even if they’re not paying for items using an Amazon cashback credit card.

Through a new rewards program called Amazon Prime Reload, Prime members can receive 2 percent back on purchases when they first load funds into their Amazon Balance using a debit card attached to their bank’s checking account.

Amazon Prime Reload is meant to encourage more people to sign up for Prime, the $99 per year membership program that includes free, 2-day shipping on millions of products, plus same-day shipping in select markets.

Amazon Prime Reload has another advantage for the retailer, as well – it may encourage people to load large lump sums into their Amazon Balance, in order to ensure they never accidentally pay for an item through their debit or credit card directly, therefore missing out on the cash back option.

Is this an indication that Amazon is working towards becoming a bank and payments platform? We think so.

Read the rest of the story here.


2. Wall Street Is betting against Tesla and Alibaba like never before

The two day tech stock sell-off has come to a stop, with major companies like Apple, Amazon, and Netflix all rebounding slightly in trading Tuesday.

While that’s good news for investors who held onto their shares, it’s less so for short sellers, who reap winnings by betting on a stock’s fall. Tech companies Alibaba, Tesla, and Apple are now the three most shorted stocks in the world, according to S3 Partners head of research Ihor Dusaniwsky.

with Alibaba and Tesla in particular, Wall Street’s bets against those stocks have never been higher, Dusaniwsky says.

 It remains to be seen if tech companies can meet investors’ lofty expectations. Mizuho analysts downgraded shares of Apple to “hold” Monday, while Morgan Stanley recently did the same for shares of Tesla.
Read the rest of the story here.


3. Bid to tax ecommerce on fast track to reality in Thailand

A draft bill on taxing ecommerce operators and social media networks will go before the cabinet this month, a step to ensure that the law will be enforced under the current government.

The draft bill will authorise the Revenue Department to tax online transactions; advertising fees on social media such as Facebook, Google and Line; and activity by other operators such as ride-sharing service Uber.

Under the draft bill, money changing hands from online purchases for goods and services, advertising on social networking and Uber, and transfers by senders or recipients in Thailand will see the 5% withholding tax imposed.

Read the rest of the story here.


Here’s what you should know today.

1. Grab wants to offer more consumer services

Grab wants to be the number one provider of online-to-offline (O2O) services, said founder Anthony Tan. O2O is a term to describe services that bridge the digital and offline worlds. Grab has been trialing food and parcel delivery in some of its markets. But so far, it hasn’t diversified as much as Go-Jek when it comes to types of services it offers.

“There are many O2O consumer services waiting to be disrupted,” Tan said but didn’t specify if Grab plans to launch any that are similar to Go-Jek’s.

However, he emphasized the importance of first- and last-mile services, which include deliveries and transportation, and mentioned the potential of retail, hospitality, and lifestyle sectors. Tan said that Grab wants to “win payments in Southeast Asia.” He pointed to the example of PayPal and how it leveraged eBay’s massive reach to cement its position as a payment platform, saying that Grab’s installed base can be the groundwork for its payments services.

While payments and commerce is an important new frontier for Grab, its transportation features are still evolving.

In Jakarta, Grab plans to test GrabNow, a feature which lets riders book a GrabBike rider they just flagged down, without having to wait for the app to run through its match-making algorithm.

Read the rest of the story here.


2. LINE starts to attract luxury brands in Japan

There are signs that the luxury industry is taking more interest in the platform in 2017, as several major fashion labels have flocked to the app this year. LVMH brands Louis Vuitton, Fendi, and Dior launched official LINE accounts at the beginning of the year, and were joined by Prada in February.

As these new brands launch on the platform, they’re forcing early adopters including Coach, Michael Kors, and Burberry to step up their game to keep up with luxury marketing innovations. In the months since its January launch, Louis Vuitton has surged ahead of competitors, generating 237% more interactions per post in April than the Index Luxury brand average, despite a lower follower base.

Fendi is also investing in LINE with a strategy that understands the role of LINE as a closed one-to-one communication tool, where users expect brands to behave more like their friends and less like advertisers.

The brand used chatbots to reveal exclusive celebrity content when users message a designated keyword, and utilized gamification for a virtual slot machine that offered the chance to win an original Fendi USB flash memory stick. The collaborations with luxury brands may be a good move for Line,

Read the rest of the story here


3. Amazon’s pivot to lower tier consumers

On Tuesday, Amazon announced that it will slash the price of membership to its Prime program by almost 50 percent for low-income shoppers on federal welfare.

It’s a direct challenge to Walmart, the reigning king of American retail, which relies heavily on low-income shoppers and receives nearly one of every five dollars of its revenue through SNAP, or food stamps, each year.

Prime, which includes fast premium shipping and access to movies, games, and exclusive Amazon television shows, typically costs $99 upfront or $10.99 a month. Households that can show they’re receiving public assistance, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), will be able to subscribe to Amazon Prime for just $5.99 a month.

With today’s announcement, Amazon is trying to become Walmart faster than Walmart can become Amazon.

Read the rest of the story here.

Here’s what you need to know today.

1. Vietnam state investment arm SCIC partners Thai Kasikornbank

Vietnam’s government investment arm SCIC, the state investor in the country’s biggest firm Vinamilk, has inked a deal with Thai Kasikorn Bank to unlock more investment opportunities in Vietnam.

Thailand has accounted for significant investments into Vietnam, notably in the retail sector. TCC Holding and Central Group put a war chest to acquire retail assets in Vietnam over the past two years to secure top positions in this $118 billion market.

Vietnam has been seen as a magnate for foreign investors thanks to its stable economic annual growth of some 6.5 per cent, blended with a rising middle class and improving infrastructure. Ecommerce has also grown steadily as a result.

Read the rest of the story here.


2. Malaysian payments startup Soft Space gears up for Japan launch with $5m investment

Malaysian payments startup Soft Space has raised $5 million in its series A funding round.

The firms will collaborate on a customer relationship management (CRM) tool, making use of Transcosmos’ data analytics capabilities and Soft Space’s suite of payments options.

Some features are still under development, but once completed the CRM software will be able to deliver targeted ads and loyalty programs, and let merchants employ chatbots to help handle customer complaints.

How would it work?

A restaurant, equipped with Soft Space’s card reader and linked up with its software, can accept a wide range of physical payments with cards, as well as online payments. After the payment has been made, the restaurant owner can send customers a survey and ask them to give a rating.

Read the rest of the story here.


3. Recommended Reading: Amazon Prime Now, Can Singapore Deliver?

“It’s going to be a siege.”

That’s one expert’s view of the battle looming ahead for Singapore’s brick-and-mortar retailers as e-commerce giants prime the Lion City as a key staging ground in their fight for Asian supremacy.

Social media was abuzz this week amid rising speculation that Amazon Prime Now – the US-based online retail behemoth’s two-hour delivery service – will soon be available in the city state.

The rumour mill started churning a week earlier after the chief executive of Lazada, the Alibaba-controlled Southeast Asian e-retailer, told a public forum that Prime Now would be available starting May 28.

Read the rest of the story here.

Southeast Asia’s largest e-marketplace has released its first go at a loyalty program called LiveUp. Lazada’s new annual membership will cost $49.90 SGD (roughly $35.73 USD) after a free 60-day trial period and is currently discounted to $28.80 SGD ($20.62 USD). What goodies do subscribers get?

  • 10% rebate and free delivery in Singapore, rebate capped at $50 SGD per month
  • Free delivery for shoppers on Taobao’s shop-in-shop on Lazada
  • 5% rebate in RedMart credits and exclusive promotions
  • 2 months of Netflix during trial period and 4 months after LiveUp paid membership begins
  • $10 SGD off every 10th Uber ride, up to 12 times a year
  • Refunded delivery fee on orders over $35 SGD for Uber EATS up to 4 times a month
Lazada Prime

Lazada Singapore promoting LiveUp on its homepage


Why Lazada LiveUp? 

The company is well aware that acquiring customers through paid channels can be just as costly as a loyalty program – Forrester analyst estimates that Amazon loses approximately $1 billion annually on Prime-related shipping expenses.

But rather than attempting to change the mind of the masses, why not better satisfy current customers? It will also in turn lead to a higher repurchase rate.

One also needs to look to Lazada’s biggest upcoming threat, Amazon, whether the company is or isn’t entering the region. How has the giant been able to disrupt retail over and over?

For those who aren’t aware, the Amazon Prime program has been available since 2007 and evolved over the ten years. Subscription provides members with a long list of Amazon only benefits that include:

  • Free two-day shipping on eligible items to addresses in the contiguous US
  • Free same-day delivery in eligible zip codes. 
  • Prime Now: free two-hour delivery or scheduled delivery on over 10,000 items, from groceries to electronics and more. Plus, get free delivery from your favorite local stores.
  • Amazon Restaurants: one-hour delivery from popular restaurants for Prime members in eligible ZIP codes. [LiveUp Uber EATS]
  • Prime Video: unlimited streaming of movies and TV episodes for paid or free trial members in the US and Puerto Rico. [LiveUp Netflix]
  • Amazon Elements: access to Amazon’s own line of everyday essentials. [LiveUp Taobao] 
  • Amazon Dash for Prime
  • Prime Pantry: members can purchase and ship to addresses in the contiguous US low priced grocery, household, and pet care items for a flat delivery fee of $5.99 for each Prime Pantry box. [LiveUp RedMart]
  • Kindle First: early access for members in the US to download a new book for free every month from the Kindle First picks. 
  • Amazon Music Unlimited: discounted Amazon Music Unlimited monthly plans and exclusive annual plans.
  • Membership Sharing and a lot more.

Amazon Prime is one of the few things that currently enables the giant’s retail operations to make a profit.

“Amazon’s total operating profit for its retail operation came out to $2.66 billion. Revenue from our membership estimates covers 143%. Without Prime membership revenue, Amazon’s retail operations result in a $1.1 billion loss.” – The Motley Fool

By rough estimates, Amazon probably has at least 46 million Prime members paying $99 a year and more importantly, their customer loyalty. Prime members said they spent an average of $538 annually with Amazon, far more than the $320 by non-Prime members.

Subscription has become a very sharp tool in Amazon’s threat to all retailers and it makes sense for Southeast Asia’s largest online marketplace, Lazada, to finally equip itself with the same firepower and speed up its path to profitability.

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Here’s what you should know today.

1. Sun Life Financial acquires 25% of Vietnam-based digital bank Timo

Canada’s Sun Life Financial has acquired  25% equity of Crescent Asia Limited, the holding company of Global Online Financial Solutions, which operates Vietnam’s first digital bank Timo.

The partnership will be implemented directly through the insurer’s Vietnam-based unit.

Partnership with Sun Life Vietnam will let Timo offer life and health insurance products to its members.

Timo members will be able to apply for Sun Life Vietnam’s products directly in the Timo mobile app

Timo has been providing banking services, including payments, money transfer, savings and card management in Vietnam.

Read the rest of the story here.


2. Plug and Play is tackling the Southeast Asia ecosystem through partnerships

Silicon Valley-based startup accelerator Plug and Play is known for its sharp eye for investment opportunities, it has invested in names such as PayPal and Dropbox in the companies’ early days.

Now, the accelerator has its eyes on Singapore. This year, Plug and Play is ramping up its presence in the Southeast Asian region.

In Singapore, it launched an automotive industry-focused program in partnership with Daimler and Mercedes Benz called Startup Autobahn Singapore (SAS).

Plug and Play will expand the scope of its activities to larger markets in the region, as well as to support “multiple customized and bespoke programs” out of its Singapore office. Its next major regional focus this year is Indonesia.

Read the rest of the story here.


3. Ninja Xpress launches C2C logistics app Ninja Easy

The new app is aimed at making logistics easier for merchants that do social commerce.

Ninja Xpress is first launching in Indonesia and looking at Thailand as the next target

Ninja Easy wants to shorten the social commerce process by enabling sellers to upload details about their product on its platform, and generate a link that they can share to potential buyers.

This will eliminate the back and forth process between a buyer and seller via Facebook or WhatsApp. Buyers can directly hit purchase and track the shipping process real time.

Ninja Easy also has subsidized on-demand pick up service for sellers, and facilitate them with real-time tracking and cash-on-delivery payment option.

Read the rest of the story here.


4. Amazon will livestream the NFL this season, replacing Twitter

Amazon has reportedly reached a deal with the NFL to stream 10 Thursday Night Football games this year. The one-year deal is reportedly valued at around $50 million.

The ecommerce giant is making aggressive plays towards multiple industries this year, from fashion to groceries and now, entertainment.

Viewers will have to be Amazon Prime members in order to watch live, which is a departure from last year’s deal where games were available free for anyone on Twitter. It’s not yet clear how Amazon will display the stream.

Read the rest of the story here.

The five most valuable companies of today account for almost $2.4 trillion in market capitalization combined while only employing around half of the people that normally attend the New Year’s Eve celebration in New York City’s Times Square.

This number may not tell us much per se but when we think that the whole continent of Africa with a population of 1.2 billion people has a combined GDP of $2.2 trillion, (International Monetary Fund) we realize that there was never a time in recent history where so much wealth was generated by such a small number of people.

If we think of these tech giants in simpler terms, we have a company connecting people (Facebook), another one organizing the world’s data (Google), one that’s aspirational (Apple) and another that makes businesses more efficient (Microsoft).

Amazon, on the other hand, is set out to become the world’s marketplace.

And even to this day, they continue to hold true to its original mission statement, which we can consider as their “Box Two”, which is to be “earth’s most customer-centric company, where consumers can find anything they want to buy online and at the lowest price” (

In its annual letter to shareholders, Jeff Bezos characterized Amazon as an “invention machine” which three main pillars or “Box One” are: Prime, their marketplace and AWS. Not only will Amazon Prime members account for 50% of American households this year but they also spend more than twice as much and order much more frequently than non-members.

Members not only get free and fast delivery but other benefits such as video streaming, which in the end results in higher conversion rates and retention. The company is allocating almost $6 billion on original content next year.

With more than 63 million members spending around $1,300 each year and a retention rate of more than 90% (Consumer Intelligence Report, 2016), numbers seem bright for Amazon. We also see that last year, Amazon alone was responsible for 51% of the growth in US ecommerce while expectations are set on the fact that total global sales are predicted to reach $28.3 trillion by 2018 with ecommerce accounting for 8.8% (eMarketer, 2014).

Lastly, when looking into Amazon cloud service, AWS, we find that they lead adoption rate with 57% and around $10 billion in revenue this year. Spending on public cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) hardware and software are also expected to reach $173 billion within the next ten years – the market growth potential is massive.

Amazon ‘Box Three’

The new global logistics paradigm

Not that long ago, only a handful of retailers offered free shipping. Now, everyone is forced to try and do so, hoping they won’t run out of oxygen before it happens. Amazon has changed the rules of the game for the retail industry with its tremendous access to cheap capital that allows them to make multi-billion dollars investments in their fulfillment infrastructure.

They have opened more than 180 fulfillment centers across the globe surpassing any other retailer and only last year, they opened 28 sorting centers, 59 delivery stations and more than 65 Prime Now and Fresh delivery hubs with the intention of delivering goods to consumers in less than 60 minutes.

Amazon also offers a platform called Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA), which is a way for third-party retailers to take advantage of Amazon shipping infrastructure. FBA saw its active users grow more than 50% last year while nearly 50% of total third-party units delivered was through this platform.

To this day, the Achilles heel for Amazon continues to be its shipping costs, which account for 11% of its overall sales and have increased each year to almost $12 billion in 2015. Shipping fees collected – mostly through Prime users – are only 50% of all shipping transportation costs making this situation unsustainable in the long-run.

Amazon needs to reduce its dependency on external providers and change the role it plays in the delivery of products.

The Seattle-based company has not sat quietly and recently made of series of moves to strengthen its logistics arm:

  • obtained a freight-forwarding license through one of its Chinese contractors that allows them to sell space in cargo ships potentially becoming a sort of travel agent for freights
  • leased 40 US cargo planes that could account for 20 to 30% of its cargo volume independently
  • started testing the usage of parcel-drone delivery under the “Prime Air” platform
  • utilizes more than 30,000 robots at its warehouses
  • started delivering packages under the “Amazon” brand with leased truck trailers.

Amazon has also recently focused on its “last mile” strategy, which is the final and normally most expensive part of a package’s trip to a customer’s front door.

Amazon started to team-up with delivery startups in Europe, mostly the UK, and introduced its own crowd sourcing delivery service called “Flex” that uses contract drivers to deliver its regular packages directly competing with FedEx, UPS and if thinking about future possible business models, with Uber.

Amazon has also filed a patent to use transient warehouses that would allow smaller vehicles to access items from places other than brick-and-mortar locations.

This is Amazon’s move into expanding across the supply chain by focusing on logistics components that were previously outsourced — first inbound logistics and then home delivery.

Once they have built a sustainable and efficient transportation network over the next 5 to 10 years, others will be able to use it and Amazon will market it accordingly, just like they did with their cloud computing business.

This way of doing business is explained by Freightos CEO Zvi Schreiber in Techcrunch as being part of the development process at Amazon. First, you identify some inefficiency and start developing a technological solution internally, then as you scale that solution and it becomes a platform, you can offer it as a paid service to third-parties.

Amazon has done this for things like product development and warehousing to payment systems.

Figure 1. Amazon’s vertical integration in the supply chain (Freightos, 2016)

In the following years, we are going to see a disruptive change in the current transportation business as Amazon will not only compete domestically but it will also become a global delivery company capable of moving goods directly from China to consumers in the US or Europe through its transportation network that ranges from cargo ships to drone deliverance.

Nowadays, ocean freight continues to be mostly a “paper-based” industry with room for technological improvement with consumers keen to have faster and cheaper access to a broader range of products from around the world and merchants eager to have a broader market.

This is what Amazon believes is a unique opportunity to enter both the $1 trillion market of cross-border online sales and tap into the $350 billion ocean freight industry.

Disrupting fashion

Although most of Amazon sales comes from either books or consumer electronics, there’s one category that has seen tremendous growth over the past few years: clothing.

Amazon has invested heavily in setting itself as a fashion destination for anyone looking to buy clothing online. Many designer brands have decided to be on the platform to take advantage of its huge consumer base, its excellent supply-chain management and the fact that Amazon has promised them full price on their listings.

Figure 2. US sales of apparel and accessories (Quartz, 2016)

On the other side, we see that all major department stores have witnessed their stocks fall last year as their long-term market outlook seems rather obscure with more people turning to Amazon for apparel.

Macy’s had to close 100 stores last year and it’s said that others like Nordstrom and Sears would have to cut down around 30% their stores in order to have the same level of sales per sq foot as pre-recession (2008) times.

Amazon has shifted its initial strategy about fashion to start offering more high-end designer names in its listings somewhat successfully with “accessible luxury” brands but most higher-end luxury labels still don’t want to be associated with what they consider to be a “simple marketplace” and diminish their brand equity.

Luxury is defined mostly as a customer experience that is difficult to replicate online and by no means in a template-ized format where their listings would be next to fast fashion or lower-end brands. But this could turn out to be a good opportunity for Amazon to acquire brick-and-mortar stores in exclusive locations -Macy’s for example – and build what could become an aspirational brand in the future, much like how Apple went from being a tech company to a luxury one.

Even when they are not officially on the platform, high-end luxury brands like Louis Vuitton also have products listed on Amazon. We can see that even when their products rank higher than other prestige brands, the bulk of their sales happened in the grey market through third-party sellers.

This phenomena involves mostly apparel and fragrances brands who can’t control the flow of counterfeits or legitimate discount listings.

Amazon keeps a close eye on the volume of these listings but only for partner brands, as is the case with Calvin Klein who after signing a partnership with Amazon went from having 7,824 SKU fragrances in 2014 to only 38 one year later.

This is the way that Amazon forces high-end brands to become partners and have an official store inside the marketplace.

Amazon’s move into the fashion industry does not only involve increasing brand equity by bringing higher-end brands into its platform but also positions them as a key player.

To do this, the company has launched its own private fashion label hiring executives from top luxury fashion companies and launching seven in-house brands.

They understand that branding is shifting towards the consumer and with its loyal and affluent Prime user base,they will surpass every department store out there and become the largest clothing retailer in the US by 2017.

Amazon entering our house

In a recent conference, NYU professor Scott Galloway stated that our previous understanding of how market capitalization is made in the tech industry has completely changed in the last few years. In the past, we would argue that value was dependent on the amount of users we had and how engaged they were and we could cite Twitter as a clear example of this with its vast (but declining) user base.

He argues that the algorithm for value is now based on how many “receptors” we have,

How much user data and user behaviour patterns we can collect and what we do with this data for the consumer in terms of intelligence.

Amazon had pioneered this idea long ago when they enabled shoppers to make informed purchases through user reviews while reinforcing search algorithms. This algorithm works by comparing historical and recent sales to determine a sales rank, which it then uses to support search placement.

Based on the user recent purchases and what product listings they visited, Amazon shows a customized home page relative to each person and while they provide users with the most information than anyone else about a product, they also ensure consumers that they are selling it at the lowest possible price.

While BestBuy and Walmart change their prices about 50,000 times each month, Amazon does it 2,500,000 times each day reinforcing the idea to Prime users that they don’t have to go anywhere else to buy something online.

Almost 20 years ago, the world of ecommerce was shaken when Amazon filed a patent for a “one-click” payment system that allowed customers to avoid the hassle of entering their personal information each time they make a purchase. This patent covered a business method with such a broad definition that created an initial technological lead by Amazon for many years.

With the recent introduction of the “Dash” button, Amazon now offers these “one-click” purchases within the household as a way for consumers to effortlessly order goods for their everyday lives but have no desire to spend time purchasing it, such as cleaning detergent, for example.

This was a bold move by Amazon to lure consumers away from brick-and-mortar stores and also learn even more about their users purchase history.

At the same time, it came at almost no cost for them because 150 brands were each sponsoring their own version of the “Dash”. But it doesn’t stop there, as Amazon launched a device called the Echo that uses cloud-based AI Alexa to perform tasks that range from answering queries about the weather to controlling smart home devices and making purchases.

Alexa has recently been opened up to external developers and more skills are introduced each week by the community – over 3,000 as of now. With sales reaching 3MM units this year, even other tech giants like Google had to come up with their own version of the Echo (using “conversational actions” instead of skills), to not miss the opportunity of entering ‘our’ house.


Not many companies have a broader “Box Three” than Amazon does at the moment. It has the ambition to disrupt not only the retail and fashion industries but also global logistics and content-on-demand to name a few.

Amazon is already the undisputed leader in ecommerce and cloud infrastructure (“Box One”) and have an affluent and loyal Prime user base.

My prediction is that Amazon will continue to secure this user base by spending more each year on generating original content for its users. The budget for next year ranks 3rd worldwide only after ESPN and Netflix.

It will also add more special perks such as “Prime Day” and finally continue providing an ever faster and cheaper service for consumers.

As Jeff Bezos said in a recent conference, “I don’t think anyone will ever want to spend more in shipping and have longer delivery times”. These users belong mostly to upper-middle class households that have yet to shift most of the purchases they do from offline to online.

Amazon wants to capitalize on that by offering a seamless experience to users through Dash and Echo for everyday item replenishment and through Amazon Fresh and Pantry for grocery delivery.

Amazon will surely open brick-and-mortar stores that will serve as warehouses and offer curated items with a 5-star user rating along with user reviews similarly to what they currently do in its Seattle bookstore or the recently opened cashier-less convenience store they call “Amazon Go”.

Amazon Go serves as proof that vertical integration is key to this kind of disruption as no other company would have ever pulled something like that off through corporate partnership.

As only 3 to 5% of the shopping we do is actually enjoyable and we prefer to do it in brick-and-mortar stores, Amazon understands that to capture the mid-high end market, they need to transform its brand into an aspirational one. For that, they need to provide a disruptive shopping experience inside its stores and make a name for themselves in the fashion industry.

Finally, through all this user generated data, Amazon machine learning algorithms will learn our purchasing behavior over time and eventually be able to “predict” what our purchases will be, only asking for confirmation before ordering the groceries for the week.

That way, most of today’s purchases, both offline and online, will happen through Amazon thus increasing the current Prime user yearly expenditure from $1,300 to $10,000 pushing market capitalization to a trillion dollars.

By Nicolas Metallo, the original article can be found here. Editing by ecommerceIQ