Here’s what you need to know today.

1. Snapchat stock finishes up 44% on first day of trading

After pricing the IPO at $17 per share yesterday, the stock opened at $24. It then closed the day at $24.51, a 44 percent premium to the people who bought it yesterday.

Snapchat went public at what was an interesting point in the company’s history. Unlike many companies, like Uber and Airbnb with sky-high valuations, Snapchat decided to go public earlier in its monetization, probably because it’s better to go public before the market considers the company overvalued.

Read the rest of the story here.


2. Myanmar’s MyPay in serious talks to acquire Singapore’s Fastacash

Two Southeast Asian payment companies that specialise in using social media to facilitate money transfers are in serious acquisition talks and expect the deal to be done in the coming months.

The deal has been approved by Fastacash shareholders and is expected to be completed in the next 60-90 days. The two companies use technology to allow people to pay one another directly via social media and messaging apps. They can facilitate services like remittances, merchant payments and cross-border money transfer.

Read the rest of the story here.


3. WeChat’s ‘instant apps’ are underperforming

A report from ii Media in China shows neither app developers nor users think favorably of them so far. Less than 10% of developers said they would continue developing mini programs, and only 11.5% of users said they would continue using mini programs instead of returning to an equivalent app. Nearly 70% of developers aren’t considering mini programs in the short-term or have given up on them entirely.

The biggest problem is that the app is hard to find and open, even for existing WeChat users. There is not an easy way for a user to find the app and open it, there is no link or QR code. Users would have to be taught.

“If they want mini programs to take-off, Tencent needs to make mini programs more accessible, better at reaching users – and give them unique functions such as better access to smart devices,” said Thomas Graziani, founder of WalktheChat, a WeChat focused marketing agency.

Read the rest of the story here.

Here’s what you need to know.

1. Line is losing users, but making more money than ever

The messaging app announced today that it lost three million users from October to December, stumbling from 220 million to 217 million. The bad news comes six months after Japan-based Line IPO’d in a dual listing in Tokyo and New York, debuting with a US$9 billion valuation. That has since fallen to US$8 billion.

Line is more dependent than ever on its four main user bases in Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia, who now make up 77% of its audience, up from 67.3% a year prior.

But its making more money? The app makes most of its money from ads, gaming, and stickers . The company has seen its total revenue in 2016 hit $1.2 billion, up 17 points from the year before.

Read the rest of the story here.


2. Facebook Messenger begins to test ads in Australia & Thailand

What? Facebook today is beginning to test integrating ads into its mobile messaging app’s user interface. The company says it will launch what it characterizes as a “very small test” in Australia and Thailand. This will allow businesses to place ads on the Messenger home screen.

How? The link to ads can direct users to click & learn more about the business, or signing up for a service.

Why do people like Messenger? People like to reach out to businesses via Messenger because it’s a more efficient way of asking questions and getting customer service.

Read the rest of the story here.


3. Indonesia’s Mimpi launches luxury mattress only sold online 

Mimpi, a tech-startup in Jakarta will launch the Mimpi Mattress in less than 33 days. It’s a luxury mattress sold exclusively online in Indonesia for an affordable price.

The startup allows for a free 100 day home try on exchange program, and can be shipped in a box or delivered with white glove service.

Read the rest of the story here.

In 2015, Malaysia’s ecommerce market was estimated at $1 billion. The country’s ecommerce landscape is actually on par with Singapore, in relations to the well developed infrastructure and market size. Mixed in with the global powerhouses such as Lazada and eBay, Malaysia also has an influx of prominent local players.

Here are the top 5 apps you should be aware about if you’re planning to enter the commerce market.

1. Lelong (B2B/B2C)

malaysian apps

An online incumbent in Malaysia’s ecommerce scene, the country’s alternative to eBay currently has over 8 million monthly visitors and over 1.3 million products available across different categories, from mobile phones to frozen food.

Since then, Lelong has also launched a virtual marketplace, Lmall, the first premium platform that allows Malaysian shoppers to find authentic products and shop from a variation of brands such as Nescafe and Durex.


2. Go Shop (B2C)

Owned by Astro Group, Go Shop is growing from strength to strength. The startup is currently serving 691K customers in Malaysia. Go Shop is a 24/7 online home shopping app, which is in tandem with its online TV shopping channel, giving those classic TV infomercials an ecommerce twist.

Recently, GoShop has expanded its services to serve ecommerce shoppers in Singapore through a partnership with StarHub cable.


3. imSold (C2C)

Previously shoppingKaki, imSold is a mobile shopping destination in Malaysia. A classic C2C platform that allows users to buy & sell their own things from iPhones to handbags and caters towards university students who can easily shop among friends on the platform.

imSold was recently included in one of Google Play’s most popular apps, as the third most downloaded app in the store.


4. MyBazar (C2C)

MyBazar is an online marketplace that connects merchants to the rest of the ecosystem. Merchants are given a personal space to operate and run, as if they were actually running a physical store in a bazar. A C2C platform that aims to support SME merchants, regardless of their technology capabilities or business size.

Originally founded in Dubai, MyBazar currently operates in both Dubai and Malaysia.


5. Gemfive (B2C)


Founded by the youngest son of the Hong Leong Group family, Gemfive launched in Q2 2015 and has since then, offered over 300 brands and over 10,000 to its shoppers (2015). The app is a local alternative to Lazada.

From electronics to fashion, Gemfive insists on no parallel imports on its platform.


Want to know more about Malaysia’s ecommerce landscape? Check out eIQ’s ECOMScape Malaysia here. 

Vietnam is one of the few landscapes in Southeast Asia that has an influx of local players where website visits are comparable to giants such as Lazada. Retail ecommerce in the country is expected to earn $10 billion revenue by 2020 and its ecommerce landscape has been developing at a growth rate of 30% a year as businesses slowly shift from offline to online, with some doing purely online businesses.

Despite key local players and promising growth rate, Vietnam’s local ecommerce websites are PR shy outside of their own country. To start the conversation, here is a list of the most downloaded shopping apps and key ecommerce players in Vietnam, on both iOS and android.

1. TheGioiDiDong (B2C)

Listed as the second leading retailer in Vietnam in 2015, TheGoiDiDong (Mobile World) specializes in selling multi-brand technology goods to consumers, such as tablets and mobile phones from a range of global brands like Apple and Samsung. Last year, the online marketplace targeted $1 billion in revenue and launched 123 mobile phone outlets offline.

Recently, it was reported that Mobile World’s 2017 revenue is expected to reach $2.83 billion. The group is the third largest retailer in Vietnam, right behind Co op Mart and Big C and the company will rely on revenue from the online marketplace until 2018.

2. Sendo (B2C) 









Currently, the B2C marketplace sits comfortably in the top 5 most downloaded shopping apps in Vietnam for both Android and iOS. This year, Sendo collaborated with owner, IT company FTP to launch V-FTP wallet, an e-wallet platform to ease monthly bill payments and simplify ecommerce purchases.

Thanks to this added feature, Sendo predicts that online payment on its site will rise 30-40% each year compared to only 5% last year.

Currently, the website draws in 8 million visitors. Sendo’s managing director, Tran Hai Linh was included in ecommerceIQ’s SPARK 40 list as one of Southeast Asia’s notable 2016 ecommerce figures.

3. Tiki (B2C)


Tiki is one of Vietnam’s most promising startups. This year, Tiki is valued at $44.83 million, making it one of the big boys in Vietnam ecommerce.

The company’s founder Son Tran also made ecommerceIQ’s SPARK 40.

4. Mang Xanh (C2C) 









Mang Xanh is a C2C online marketplace that received approximately 22, 800 visits over the past 6 months. The site is a collective marketplace that houses products such as beauty, mother & baby and household appliances – aims to be a one-stop-shop for all things that you need.

5. Thi Thruong Si (C2C)

An online wholesale website with the majority of coverage in Vietnamese, TTS was established in 2014 with the goal to become the number 1 wholesale marketplace in Vietnam. They sell a range of products, from fashion to accessories and electronic goods.

With over 25,000 views daily and 20,000 new registrations per month, TSS is optimistic that the number will rise to 50,000 by the end of this year. The company’s goal is to become the go-to for wholesale shopping online in Vietnam.

Want to know more about the local ecommerce players in Vietnam? Check out eIQ’s data page on Vietnam here.

It is hardly a secret anymore – ecommerce in Southeast Asia is an enormous $238 billion opportunity that has been under the global radar in the recent years. It’s no longer about whether businesses should have an online presence, but instead how they can stay relevant to their audience in a quickly crowding space.

Indonesia Ecommerce Landscape

ECOMScape: Indonesia details the growing ecommerce ecosystem as of 2016. Source: eIQ

One market that has time and time again stood out is Indonesia thanks to more accessibility to mobile devices, affordable data plans and a youthful demographic propelling social channels and social commerce to the leading activity on the internet. It is a clear goldmine for brands, retailers and investors alike to unlock over 250 million unrealized online shoppers.

So how are they going to do this? Well, Indonesia is a mobile-first country and its citizens update their social networking apps twice more frequently than games and fives times more than music/video apps according to a study by Baidu.

In the next three years, Indonesia is expected to have over 92 million smartphone users, up 67% from 2015. This will push many startups to skip desktop entirely and focus on smartphone friendly ecommerce products. New apps have been the popular way to reach customers, but large spending for development, maintenance, and marketing have restricted companies from finding long-term success. And what happens when app downloads start to slow down as currently happening in the US?


The rising global resistance to new apps

Almost 50% of smartphone users in the US did not install a new app last month while less than 25% of the ones who did returned to it after the first use. What’s even more shocking is a full 94% of revenue in the App Store comes from only 1% of all publishers, think Google and Facebook.  

Mobile isn’t dead but the opportunity is shrinking. So what does this mean for businesses scrambling to capture the attention of the world’s fourth largest population who prefers to use on average only 6.7 apps?

You don’t chase customers, you find them where they already are.

For the first time, messaging apps have surpassed social networks and that’s where chat commerce comes into the story.

Chatbot, chat commerce

Chat commerce isn’t the future, it is the present.

Chat commerce or conversational commerce is the intersection of messaging apps and shopping and is already a very familiar concept in the West. Businesses understand the importance of being readily available to their customers, especially as a poor customer service experience will drive 89% of them to a competitor.

According to Facebook, more than 50 million companies operate on its platform and send more than 1 billion business messages every month.

But having properly trained customer service reps to support hundreds to millions of personal conversations in parallel is difficult to scale for any business. Solution? Chatbot.

A chatbot is an AI (artificial intelligence) feature of a chat or messaging platform that simulates a human conversation with the user in order to provide them with the information or service they’re looking for.

Brands overseas like Taco Bell have partnered with Slack to allow customers to order and pay through the team communications platform.

Think about Siri who has been helping Apple users carry out tasks since 2011 or Amazon Echo, an at-home device by Amazon, which encompasses a chatbot named Alexa to read aloud weather reports, set alarms and more importantly, help customers order new products from Amazon.


Screenshot from Amazon Echo commercial.

These are only a few of many examples. Facebook Messenger also opened its platform earlier this year for businesses to build chatbots through its Messenger Send/Receive API.

The API will support sending and receiving text and also images and interactive rich bubbles containing multiple calls-to-action.

chat-bot-benefits, southeast asia chatbot

A chatbot can clearly offer a business great benefits to get closer to customers in a medium they are already familiar with, so why has there been little activity in Southeast Asia?

Call all chatbots

Southeast Asia has largely mirrored the West and particularly China in development of its ecommerce maturity. Yet, current chatbot growth has been stuck at the ‘idea phase’ – a lot of chatter and buzz about its revolutionary importance but no product.

“The reason why companies in Southeast Asia haven’t created chatbots isn’t because they don’t think the opportunity is there, but they lack the resources and most fundamentally – AI talent to build it,” comments Lingga Madu, Sale Stock co-founder.

No company has released a true commercial-scale, transaction-enabled MVP, that is, until now.

Sale Stock case study: Facebook Messenger’s first chatbot in Southeast Asia

One lesser talked about company has already begun testing its chatbot with Facebook, Indonesia’s most popular social channel. Sale Stock, the mobile first shopping platform widely popular among Indonesia’s young females, has become SEA’s first company to launch a chatbot that can handle end-to-end transaction on Facebook’s Messenger Platform.

Meet Soraya AI, a relatable, cheery chatbot who handles 100% of queries coming to Sale Stock’s Facebook Page and the brainchild of Facebook, Google, Palantir, and NASA engineers recruited by Sale Stock around the world.
sale-stock-chat-2, southeast asia chatbot

Soraya uses machine learning to shuffle through queries and decide whether to answer it autonomously or give recommendations to an agent instead.

Frequently asked questions such as “do you offer cash on delivery?” or “do you sell high heels?” are replied to almost instantly. In development since 2015, she can already handle 22% of all queries autonomously.

The beauty of machine learning is that the more information she receives, the smarter she becomes and the more accurate her answers will be.

Soraya has already improved response time by 20 – 40 times and currently replies within 60 s. That has granted Sale Stock a response time badge on their official Facebook page.

sale-stock-fb, southeast asia chatbot

Soraya has also been fed large amounts of past Sale Stock customer queries to enhance her intelligence. This combined with recent purchasing behavior and browsing history allow her to recommend consumers personalized products.

Buying the product is even more simple. Soraya asks for confirmation of the item, correct size and color, all within Messenger, and requests address and payment method. If it is a returning shopper, all previous payment information is saved so purchase is simply a click of yes.

sale-stock-chatbot, southeast asia chatbot

“Soraya was created to meet the needs of our customers, many of whom are living outside major cities on limited social media data plans where chat is free but browsing is not. Some have never even been exposed to digital shopping carts but chatting is second nature,” – Jeffrey Yuwono, Sale Stock President.

Trust is also a major concern that holds many Indonesians back from trying ecommerce. By creating a personable chatbot on a familiar channel, brands hope customers will feel comfortable sharing their personal details.

sale-stock-chat, southeast asia chatbot

Chatting with Soraya on Facebook Messenger

Sale Stock chat bot, Indonesia

What’s next for Sale Stock?

The company is already working to create viable chatbots for WhatsApp, LINE, BBM and SMS as they are the most popular messaging platforms their shoppers use. Sale Stock strongly believes in the Lean Startup methodology, “getting it out there as soon as possible to collect real, user feedback”.

“We’re still in the very early stage of our product and ironing out the bugs and adding features iteratively,” comments Madu.

All inquiries going to Sale Stock are monitored, independent of the channel source, on one platform created in house to control flow and fix any arising bugs.

The team hopes to fine-tune its technology to quite possibly launch SaaS in the future.

“The success of chat commerce depends on how well the machine can distinguish the details: context, intention, the slang, mix of dialects, and even the use of emojis so the customer never feels like they are chatting with a bot. The platform has to be robust enough to handle these typos and fringe use cases,” says Madu.

The future of chatbots

There has always been a fear of AI replacing tasks typically performed by humans, but customer support is a tricky area since personalization is at the core.

“As brand loyalty and exceptional customer service become the main priority for brands, companies simply cannot afford for bots to completely handle customer service and risk creating a negative experience. With that said, the live customer service representative will always have a place with the overall customer experience,” says Mayur Anadkat, Vice President of Product Marketing at call center software provider Five9.

The moment has not yet been reached when machine learning enables 100% accurate and instant replies to customers no matter the language, mix of dialect, slang or emojis – but it is in the foreseeable future. AI is here to enhance, not replace.

Not only will the rise of chatbots improve the reputations of brands but it will be expected of businesses by the next generation of shoppers. As Uber product manager Chris Messina put it, bots present a new, unpolluted opportunity to build lasting relationships with people.

Ultimately, the lack of friction is what makes the shopping experience a pleasant one and what will drive the A players to the head of the game.

By: Cynthia Luo