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As the fastest growing industry in one of the world’s fastest growing markets, the evolution of Southeast Asia’s ecommerce landscape means new players and a lot of consolidation since last year’s first ECOMScape series by ecommerceIQ.

This year’s new edition of the ECOMScapes kicks off with Indonesia.

Expected to capture the biggest chunk of the $200 billion ecommerce opportunity in Southeast Asia, it’s easy to see why Chinese giants like Alibaba, JD, and Tencent have rigorously left their home-market to tackle Indonesia. What has happened over a span of only one year?

1. Chinese Companies are Hungry

Out of the total $3 billion investment put into Indonesia startups in the first eight months of 2017, 94% of the funding came from Chinese investors.

News regarding Alibaba leading a $1.1 billion investment in Tokopedia created excitement in the industry, especially because JD was rumored to also make a bid for the popular local marketplace.

Indonesia startups investment

Although that opportunity passed, it hasn’t stopped JD from participating in the funding round of Indonesia’s two other unicorns, ride-hailing app Go-Jek and online travel booking platform Traveloka. Chinese giant Tencent also joined the round for Go-Jek.

2. Natural Selection: A Race to the Bottom

As the market in Indonesia saturates, in both players and investment, it’s only a matter of time before natural selection weeds out the weaker companies (especially those with shallow pockets).

The past year has seen several ecommerce companies in Indonesia either shutting down or pivoting business models, and investors pulling out before stakes become worthless. And don’t think it’s only happening to the small fish.

Some cases? Alfacart and Elevenia.

Earlier this year, Indonesian convenience store chain Alfacart announced its decision to ditch the marketplace model after a continual lag behind e-marketplaces like Lazada and MatahariMall.

Launched in 2013, Elevenia is the joint venture of telco companies XL Axiata and Korea’s SK Planet. Despite claims that Elevenia has seen positive growth over the years, it’s a telling sign when both companies pull out and sell their stake to Indonesia’s conglomerate group Salim.

Even the ecommerce arm of large telco company Indosat, Cipika, shut down in June citing unprofitable business model and high cash burn rate as reasons.

Indonesia ecommerce landscape

With JD and Alibaba investing directly in local companies, it’s not a stretch to expect fewer names on the ECOMScape next year.

3. Marketplace Competition Heats Up

If this time last year Tokopedia was focused on growing its core C2C business, the Indonesian marketplace has long since been strong arming its shift to B2C as signaled by Unilever’s official store opening on the platform.

The move is already serious competition to Lazada, especially as the two ecommerce companies interchangeably grab the top spot in web traffic in Indonesia (which is probably why Alibaba invested in both companies).

Indonesia’s top C2C players have been moving into the B2C space i.e. Tokopedia. Traffic of ecommerce websites compiled by ecommerceIQ. Find more here.

Sea’s backed Shopee has also opened its platform for brands as it launched Shopee Mall that claimed to offer over 500 brands.

The shift from C2C to B2C is a natural progression as companies attempt to increase revenue and leverage their already large customer bases.

4. Having Fintech is for “Cool Kids” But the Nerds Will Win

While payments still remain a pain point in Indonesia ecommerce even though multiple companies released their own e-wallets last year, the country and the region potentially, might finally have a real solution.

Both Kudo and Kioson are arming micro-entrepreneurs and business owners such as mom-and-pop shops in rural areas with their digital platform to empower them to act as the bridge between ecommerce companies and rural citizens.

The O2O (online-to-offline) concept clearly has some merit, as both companies attracted investor attention and made headlines in 2017. Kudo was acquired by Grab and Kioson raised $3.3 million as the first tech company to IPO on the Indonesia Stock Exchange (IDX).

Kioson during its IPO in October 5, raising $3.3 million. Source: Kioson.

Indonesian startup darling Go-Jek is also leveraging its millions of users by launching its own mobile wallet, GoPay, which has real potential to become the WeChat of Indonesia.

GoPay’s usability has improved from payment for rides to also allowing peer-to-peer (P2P) transfers and making the order of food, groceries, tickets, and beauty treatments extremely easy in one app.


Are we missing any key players? Let us know via Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter

Download ECOMScape Indonesia 2017 here.

Featured image credit: Martha Suherman

Garena, a Singapore-based internet company, recently made splashes in the news as the tech unicorn, one of the few in Southeast Asia, raised US $550 million in funding. The fresh batch of investors include Cathay Financial and GDP Venture, who are supporting Garena’s aggressive push into Indonesia. The company also announced plans to change its name to ‘Sea’ Ltd., an acronym for Southeast Asia.

If the new name is anything to go by, it seems Garena is making big plays within the region this year – namely with its mobile-first ecommerce platform, Shopee.

The mobile shopping app reported more than 5 million downloads in Thailand since its official launch two years ago, and 25 million downloads in total across seven markets; Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan.

In an email interview, representatives from Shopee Thailand shared exclusively with eIQ that the platform achieved 43% MoM growth across Asia last year and reported over 3 billion in annualized GMV to date.

The company’s healthy growth can be attributed to the rise of mobile adoption in the region. Bain estimates 85% and 79% of online shopping happens on mobile outside of major metro areas in Thailand and Indonesia, respectively.

But with other strong mobile-first contenders and e-marketplaces in the field, notably Singapore’s Carousell, the company needed to innovate.

A shift towards B2C

Blackmores’ official brand store on Shopee TH

A glance at Shopee’s homepage indicates that the marketplace is onboarding brands such as phone maker Vivo and Blackmores, in addition to facilitating its normal C2C transactions. This move places the C2C-B2C platform in the same playing field with marketplace heavyweights such as Lazada and Korea’s 11Street that made its Thailand debut at the end of 2016.

“Shopee Thailand is currently focused on the expansion of our market segments, including having more corporate brands on the platform in order to strengthen our portfolio,” says Terence Pang, COO at Shopee.

With an already strong consumer base in Thailand, Shopee is heading down a path naturally explored by other C2C players:

  • Indonesia’s Tokopedia initially started as a C2C platform, but recently integrated official brand shops from P&G onto its platform.
  • Alibaba’s Taobao marketplace is a C2C platform but sprung out Tmall as a B2C subsidiary of the marketplace.

One reason that may explain the C2C-B2C pivot is financial change. Ironically, as C2C marketplaces grow in membership and transactions, the model essentially hits a dead end.

An example can be made from European car sharing platform, BlaBlaCar. As a C2C business, it relied on customer interactions to drive revenue but pivoted to B2C in 2015 after the founder realized that by facilitating transactions between customers, it essentially demoted the platform into a lesser role.

“We [now] manage not only the interaction but also the transaction,” said Nicolas Brusson, founder of BlaBlaCar.

Does this mean that C2C models are all essentially poised to adopt the B2C model?

Well, why not? An already existing user base can only grow with more product variety and marketing dollars provided by the brands while the marketplace itself is poised to earn commission.

But what companies should watch out for is having two stark businesses coexist on the same platform. Some marketplaces can be at risk of alienating businesses and established brands due to the fear of being placed next to hastily taken images of home appliances from an inexperienced merchant but Shopee has successfully separated the two.

 Characteristics of a strong C2C-B2C hybrid

“We are working to bring more personalization for Shopee users through product recommendations based on browsing history and also optimizing our chat feature so consumers have direct contact with sellers,” says Terence.

Shopee’s efforts to optimize its product features does not come as a surprise as Thai consumers highly enjoy chatting on social platforms and also connecting with sellers.

A study conducted by Forrester revealed that 44% of consumers surveyed said that having questions answered live while in the middle of an online purchase is one of the most important features of a website.

A communications platform also eases concerns about fraud and heightens trust during online transactions.

Personalized suggestions can benefit the marketplace itself because it provides a solution to the long-tail problem; more exposure to obscure items that are not very popular and do not drive revenue.

Recommending long-tail items to shoppers can provide higher return on investment for slower moving inventory.

By showing customers what they may enjoy, but might not necessarily discover on their own, marketplaces are able to heighten the entire shopping experience.

These tactics are already being used across the globe by tech titans such as Amazon and Netflix and it all seems to be working for Shopee Thailand as the company is experiencing over 1 million orders a month.

What does the future look like for Garena (Sea)/Shopee?

Sea is doubling down on the region and has publicly expressed intention to seize a larger chunk of the Indonesian market. Recent reports suggest the company is already performing in the top leagues.

The region’s largest market makes up 40-50% of Shopee’s transaction volume and the country experiences 200,000 daily transactions for physical goods, according to CEO Chris Feng.

As the region continues to thrive as an attractive retail ecosystem, Shopee’s expansion to a C2C/B2C marketplace will help it withstand the incoming tech titans and compete with the existing e-players for the attention of 650 million Southeast Asians.

Shopee Thailand team with Shopee University attendees, a workshop to help SMEs sell more efficiently on the platform.

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.

January is generally a slow month for retail as people are tightening belts after splurging during the holiday season. End of year campaigns are also allocated large marketing spend to drive more traffic to Southeast Asia’s November 11/11 sales period and the 12/12 “Online Revolution” driven by Lazada, the region’s largest marketplace.

Looking at SimilarWeb web traffic – a sum of all (non unique) visits both on desktop and mobile –  for Indonesia’s most popular B2C marketplaces shows a decline of around 3 to 20% from December to January. Lazada Indonesia experienced a 3% drop in the number of monthly visitors.

But it was MatahariMall,  the country’s biggest department store chain, who noted the largest staggering drop of 62% in visitors to its online marketplace.

The two-year old online venture, MatahariMall.com, raised $100 million in October last year to bolster its share of Indonesia’s ecommerce market. A look at the company’s online traffic shows a buoyant performance in terms of its visitors – spikes in traffic from roughly 7M to 24M shows the difference in organic traffic and the effects of a marketing push.

A more stable performance this year might provide a better indication if it will manage to live up to its ambitions to become the “Alibaba of Indonesia”.

Two players that continuously capture a steady audience are Lazada and Blibli.com, a six year old e-marketplace owned by Djarum Group and BCA, one of the largest banks in Indonesia.

Not surprisingly, the best performing ecommerce sites are the best-funded, making it harder for smaller players to compete unless targeting a niche audience.

Meanwhile, most C2C marketplaces saw site visitors in January increase by 3 to 8%. Jualo, an online marketplace for secondhand goods, saw the biggest lift in web traffic with 8% growth.

Web traffic, of course, doesn’t automatically equate conversions, it’s only one metric in tracking an online company’s traction. The data, however, is useful for marketers, advertisers, merchants, etc. to understand which marketplaces can provide an opportunity to tap into a large pool of existing customers.

eIQ will be updating the numbers every month. Find out the statistics for Indonesia | Thailand | Malaysia | Vietnam | Philippines

Vietnam’s investment potential is attracting attention, especially in industries such as real estate and technology. In January this year alone, 9,000 new companies were registered.

Despite its authoritarian government, investors in Vietnam have the option of side-stepping the country’s state owned companies to focus on smaller, private businesses that are poised for growth. Low valuations and a rising foreign cash flow mean there is a lot of potential to drive economic progress forwards but many companies still have doubt.

A lot of marketers, retailers and manufacturers are not sure about what to think of ecommerce: is it another buzz word or the future of modern trade in Vietnam? – Kantar World Panel

The current online landscape and its future

Vietnam is home to a handful of ecommerce marketplaces, notably Tiki, Sendo and The Gioi di dong, where site visits are comparable to the likes of Lazada, the biggest e-player that currently claims 30% of Vietnam’s online retail market.

Source: ecommerceIQ Vietnam data

Vietnam has also seen its fair share of newcomers and exits in ecommerce but C2C and B2C models are the most popular in the country. Garena’s Shopee has been steadily gaining traction after almost two years in the country and the Shopee app has been downloaded two million times and processes 10,000 orders per day.

2017 will be a year of intense competition for Vietnam’s ecommerce players especially as traditional retailers pursue an online presence. An example would be Korean cosmetics giant, Lotte.vn, that has an online and offline presence in the country. In January alone, Lotte gained 1.7 million visits on its website. Another threat to online players would be retail chain Aeon Shop that opened its online store AeonEshop.

vietnam, aeonVietnamese consumers shop FMCG 

According to Kantar World Panel research, the internet and online commerce is becoming more accessible to shoppers in Vietnam thanks to mobile phone usage at 80% penetration in the country’s four key urban cities. These are the other findings:

  • 69% of Vietnam’s households have working women who welcome convenience
  • Nearly 6% of urban households have shopped online for (fast moving consumer goods) FMCG at least once in 2016 and when they do, spend 3-4 X more than they would on an average shopping trip to avoid carrying bulky products on their motorbikes
  • The value share of FMCG ecommerce is 0.2% in Vietnam meaning there are plenty of opportunities for consumer good players to serve the demand and rack up sizable market share

 

Help from the government 

The Vietnamese government is set on implementing measures to improve the business and investment landscape to boost economic growth in the country. These include supporting SMEs and in particular, Resolution 35, which aims to create one million private enterprises in 2020 from 515,000 at present, and increasing the private sector share of national GDP from 43% to 49%.

The country was classified a “lower-middle income” country in 2009 – causes of the middle-income trap can include a lack of basic and advanced infrastructure, adequate financing, skilled human capital and innovative enterprise.

“Vietnam’s vision is to reach the upper-middle income category and be well on its way to a high-income economy by 2035” – Daryn Govender, opinion article on Interest.co.nz

 

Roadblocks to Vietnam’s growth

Analysts have said that many companies in Vietnam are looking to increase exports this year, hoping to leverage upcoming free trade agreements going into effect this year.

According to the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Vietnam will have to implement all commitments under the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement with China and other ASEAN member countries, the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), World Trade Organisation (WTO) to create highly favorable conditions for the country’s economic development.

There are other challenges from overseas and domestic markets that may hinder the growth potential of many Vietnamese enterprises, especially for exports.

Domestic challenges

  • Macroeconomic instability
  • Lack of adequate development infrastructure
  • Growth quality of the Vietnamese economy

Overseas challenges

  • President Donald Trump’s “protectionism” rhetoric could potentially stunt export growth for Vietnam
  • When official, the consequences of Brexit could also impact as Vietnam was emerging as one of the EU’s most active trading partners

The major economies’ shift from trade liberalisation to protectionism could very well change the structure of global commodity supply and demand and directly impact the global trade market. To analysts, this means that Vietnamese companies should focus on building in its domestic market to contribute to economic growth and development.

For those poised to enter Vietnam, does your business differentiate from what’s already available, more FMCG offerings perhaps? Are you able to benefit from government initiatives such as Resolution 35? For investors, are you willing to take a gamble on a still very much developing country such as Vietnam?

With all this in mind, we look forward to witnessing Vietnam’s growth.

Before you get started on your Tuesday, here is what you need to know.

1. Grab is now hiring government insiders to grow its business

In a move that mirrors ex-Obama advisor David Plouffe’s position at Uber, Grab’s latest hire is Badrodin Haiti, the former chief of Indonesia’s national police. Haiti will be taking on the role of President Commissioner, managing corporate governance.

This is interesting because: The Indonesian government laid out regulations for ride-hailing services last year, which place restrictions on the types of cars in service and a ban on so-called independent drivers. Grab is currently looking to expand further into the country, and would most likely benefit with an insider on board.

Read the rest of the story here.

 

2. Recommended Reading: Online resale startups enter an international growth race

Although VCs and fashion startups tend not to see eye-to-eye, with fashion founders often having to defend their company against male investors who don’t shop online.

However, investors are seeing an opportunity in the online resale marketplace. According to data from fashion investment community FashInvest, investors funneled more than $175 million into the online reselling industry in 2016. The question of when the inevitable bubble will burst has been raised, but it hasn’t happened yet.

For investors, the marketplace makes sense: it’s steadily aligned consumer behavior, as shoppers aren’t going to simply stop buying Birkin bags or vintage Chanel.

Read the rest of the story here.

 

3. Thailand’s PromptPay launches C2C segment

The launch of C2C PromptPay service is expected to increase the traffic of electronic money transfers, especially through mobile banking channels.

The government has also set the date to roll out the business-to-business (B2B) stage on March 1. The pre-registration for corporate clients was launched at commercial banks last Friday.

There are 20 million accounts registered for PromptPay services, with commercial banks expected to see 30 million accounts registered, with the addition of B2B clients.

Read the rest of the story here.