Here’s what you should know:

1. Vietnam’s online travel market is valued at $9 billion in 2020

Up to 45% of Vietnamese internet users book hotel services or air tickets, with the figure increasing by 11% annually, according to Vietnam’s deputy director of the Ecommerce and Information Technology Agency, Lai Viet Anh.

The number of travelers booking tours online has increased considerably in the last two years. About 4,000 travelers booked tours online in 2015 and it increased by threefold last year (12,000 travelers). In the first half of 2017, the number of travelers booking tours online was equal to that of the entire year of 2016.

Forecasts say Vietnam’s online tourism market’s value may reach $9 billion in the next three years.

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2. Didi Chuxing partners with car booking company Careem

Chinese ride-hailing company Didi Chuxing has announced a new partnership with Middle East transportation company Careem to further its expansion in North Africa and the Middle East.

With 12 million customers, Dubai based Careem has overtaken Uber within the Middle East since its launch five years ago, with investors such as Germany auto company Daimler, and Japan’s Rakuten.

Didi’s expansion into the Middle East will put it head-to-head with Uber, who have already gained ground within the region.

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3. Payless emerges from bankruptcy

Payless is set to emerge from bankruptcy after disposing of half of $847 million of debt it had built up under its private-equity ownership.

Payless has closed roughly 700 mostly mall-based US stores, but is opening four mega stores here to add to some 3,200 post-bankruptcy locations in the US and abroad, and plans to invest $234 million over five years.

The company is banking on a strategy focused primarily on brick-and-mortar sales at a time and can withstand the onslaught of ecommerce.

Read the full story here

Here’s what you should know today.

1. Siam Commercial Bank and Ripple Launch the first blockchain powered payment service between Thailand & Japan

Siam Commercial Bank (SCB), in collaboration with Japan’s SBI Remit, is using Ripple’s blockchain enterprise solution to power real-time remittance payments between Japan and Thailand.

Approximately 40,000 Thai nationals currently live in Japan, making it one of the largest sources of foreign nationals in the country. Total remittance flows from Japan to Thailand are roughly $250 million a year.

The rollout of this new service begins today, and supports individual funds transfers in JPY in Japan to THB in SCB savings accounts in Thailand.

Once sent into blockchain network, the funds are credited to a SCB recipient’s account within two to five seconds or about 20 minutes to complete the transaction, a significant uplift compared with the up to two business days it currently can take for a payment to be made between the two countries.

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2. How Nike is using digital channels to drive sales

Nike is trying to seize control of its customer data to stay ahead of its rivals. The company gave observers a close-up of its plans in its latest quarterly results.

App-based commerce is surging for Nike, with online sales doubling in two years to more than $2 billion, and app users spend nearly triple what they do on, according to the company, an ominous sign for retailers that could be bypassed by this trend.

Nike’s in-app and online experiences must offer strong value, though, as they pit Nike against a new set of competitors like running and cycling tracking app Strava and YouTube workout tutorials, said Paul Jakimciw, group CEO at innovation agency KBS Albion.

“If they’re focusing on true digital transformation, I expect to see big in-store innovations such as paying through an app or at least order history integration with online and offline,” says Chris Hassell, founder of Ralph Creative.

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3. Recommended Reading: Music and atmosphere big factors in choosing brick and mortar

A recent Mood Media survey of over 11,000 shoppers examined consumer preferences when shopping in brick-and-mortar stores. Predictably, 72% of U.S. consumers said they made the trip to a physical location in order to touch and feel the products.

In particular, the study reveals how important atmosphere can be, especially for younger consumers. According to Mood Media, one in three U.S. consumers aged 18-24 cite the “atmosphere and experience” of a store as their top reason for shopping in-store versus online.

Importantly, it’s the youth who are leading the charge for better in-store experiences. In addition to preferring physical stores, millennials in particular are seeking out brands with which they feel an emotional connection.

These preferences may be recorded from the US, but can also be applied to customers in Southeast Asia. As omnichannel retail picks up, stores of the future, regardless of geography, should pay attention to consumer data in order to adapt.

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Here’s what you should know today.

1. Airwallex raises $13M led by Tencent

Australia-based cross-border payments startup Airwallex has closed a $13 million Series A round to expand its reach across Asia Pacific and into Europe. The deal was led by Chinese internet giant Tencent.

Airwallex was founded last year to tackle the issue of cross-border transactions at scale. Unlike predominantly consumer-focused services such as TransferWise — which actually opened an Asia Pacific HQ last week.

Airwallex targets businesses, allowing them to make and receive international payments at scale at both a lower cost and with less hassle.

Already it is working with Tencent to help lower backend costs for its WeChat Pay service overseas — which is seen to have potential to grow alongside the emergence of outbound tourism from China.

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2. Didi’s master plan to win over local Chinese governments with data

Didi Chuxing, China’s largest ride-hailing company, has virtually no competitors left in the domestic ride-hailing industry, especially after its game changing funding round. According to CNIT Research figures from Q3 2016, the Beijing-based company controls 94.6 percent of the market.

Having all but conquered the domestic market, the Beijing-based unicorn is now turning its focus inward, towards the terabytes of data generated through its app everyday.

Didi’s new device could potentially collect a wealth of data about driver behavior.

Didi’s move to develop its own monitoring device is part of a larger push to analyze as much data as it can about transportation in China. Starting last year, the company has been tracking GPS information from drivers’ smartphones in an effort to curb speeding, sudden acceleration, and other risky behavior.

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3. Recommended Reading: Amid brick-and-mortar travails, a tipping point for Amazon in apparel

Amazon is exploring the possibility of selling custom-fit clothing, tailored to the more precise measurements of customers, and it has considered acquiring clothing manufacturers to further expand its presence in the category.

If there are tipping points in retail — moments when shopping behavior swings decisively in one direction — there’s a strong case to be made that apparel is reaching one now, with broad implications for jobs, malls and shopping districts.

“I do think this year is the year apparel e-commerce takes off,” said Cooper Smith, an analyst at L2.

Still, Amazon faces hurdles in its apparel business. Some apparel makers have been frustrated by the prevalence of counterfeit versions of their products on Amazon, peddled by independent merchants.

One idea Amazon is considering to lubricate apparel shopping: custom-fit clothing. The company’s apparel team is exploring the possibility of offering “on-demand” clothing that would be made only after a customer submitted an order, using the customer’s precise measurements.

Read the rest of the story here.

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1. Lotte Department Stores take in Korean online retailers

Online retailers in Korea are set to open 13 outlets at Lotte Department Store branches in the next three months.

“Online brands are continuously expanding into offline stores to raise their brand value and to receive real-time feedback from consumers,” says Lotte Department Store.

As these brands gain traction against traditional fashion houses, they start opening brick-and-mortar outlets as well, first as showrooms then as stores.

Lotte Department Store’s first offline store was for Style Nanda in 2012. Now about 100 online brands have offline outlets at Lotte’s department stores.

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2. Nestle Malaysia partners with Shopee to target growth

Nestle Malaysia has picked Shopee, a mobile-first marketplace, as its latest online shopping partner in Southeast Asia and Taiwan, targeting $225 thousand growth (RM1 million).

The company’s gross profit for the year saw an increase of 7.1% which contributed to the higher turnover resulting in favourable commodity prices and stronger operational efficiency in the factories and supply chain. The company cited ecommerce as one of the most powerful growth engines.

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3. Japanese department store Matsuya to open Chinese online shop

The department store operator will partner with Chinese businesses having know-how about the local e-commerce sector. Until now, Matsuya’s only ecommerce presence in China had been on platforms such as online malls. Products will be shipped from Japan. Matsuya will also increase advertising and promotions in China.

E-commerce sales from Japan to China are forecast to reach $20.4 billion by 2019, according to Japan’s trade ministry.

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4. Community Chatter: E-Payments and Wal-Mart

Source: Walmart ecommerce’s Mark Lore. Posted on Twitter             

India’s streetside sellers are now accepting e-payment. Source: Here

Here’s what you should know today.

1. Germany’s Hubert Burda Media to fix Southeast Asia’s series B funding gap

What is Hubert Burda? The print and online media company employs over 10,000 people globally and reported a revenue of $2.35 billion in 2015.

The firm’s investment arm, Burda Principal Investments, has started a dedicated investment team in Singapore.

The company’s priority is to foster more successful exits for startups in the region.

Deal sizes will be flexible but the company is looking for an average of US$5 million per deal. So far, BPI’s investments in Southeast Asia haven’t focused on specific verticals, but will focus on the B2C segment.

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2. Android users, you can now send and request money via Gmail

Users of the Gmail app on Android will be able to send or request money with anyone, including those who don’t have a Gmail address, with just a tap.

Source: Techcrunch

The user experience has been designed to make exchanging money as easy as attaching a file

The entire experience takes place on the Gmail app, and the user can simply tap the attachment icon, choose either “send” or “request” money. A pop-up window appears and the user can input the amount, add a note and simply press send.

This could be useful for those times where the money is already a topic of an email conversation, for example, planning a vacation. Currently available only in the US.

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3. Another US brick and mortar staple feels the ecommerce effect

It’s currently tough times for Urban Outfitters. Amid a bout of sales turmoil, the company has been removed from the stock market index, S&P 500. Last week, Urban Outfitters released a disappointing quarterly earnings report.

Lagging sales at brick and mortar locations have prompted Urban Outfitters to focus more and more on online retailing.

Sales over the internet increased at a double-digit pace last quarter, but that news isn’t actually as good as it sounds. High delivery expenses and other logistical costs have eaten into the company’s profits.

Slumping store sales, a problem that retailers in general are dealing with, seem to be causing the company’s biggest problems.

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Here’s what you should know.

1. Diamler invests in last mile robotics delivery startup

Auto maker Daimler AG has led a $17.2 million investment in London-based Starship Technologies. The company has presented a “Robovan” prototype, which would transport a batch of drones to a location where they can fan out to take packages the last mile of the delivery route. They can deliver up to three shopping bags worth of goods over a three-mile distance in about 30 minutes.

By being on the ground, it doesn’t face as many regulation guidelines as drones in the air.

Read the rest of the story here.

2. Singaporean online art platform, The Artling gets funding

The Artling announced that it has raised a series A worth US$1.75 million. The funding comes from Edipresse Media. The startup will use the funding to hire more people and focus more on marketing, two areas it held off on previously in order to control its spending. It will also be moving into a larger space as the team grows.

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3. China’s brick-and-mortar retailers likely to bottom out in 2017 

Positive signs emerged in December as sales for the top 50 retailers jumped 5.1% year on year, reversing a 5.6%  year-on-year decline in the same month in 2015. December also marked the biggest monthly increase in 2016.

“We believe 2017 is likely to be a year of stabilization for China and Hong Kong retailers, due to easier [comparable same-store sales] and lower pressure from operating expenses.” – Nomura analysts Emily Lee and Scott Hong.

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