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Here’s what you should know today.

1. Alisports is bringing e-games to the Asian Olympics

Alisports, the sports affiliate of ecommerce giant Alibaba, announced that it’s partnering with the Olympic Council of Asia to bring e-sports to the 2018 and 2022 Asian Games, held in Jakarta and Hangzhou.

The company is betting big on e-sports, or competitive computer gaming.

It invested US$14.5 million to start the World Electronic Sports Games, an e-sports championship.

The global e-sports economy grew 41% year-on-year to hit a revenue of US$696 million, according to research firm Newzoo.

Read the rest of the story here.

 

2. K&N and Alibaba partner up to offer global logistics services

Kuehne + Nagel announced an MoU with Alibaba.com to offer global logistics services to customers of the Chinese ecommerce leader’s B2B business unit.

Alibaba.com’s paid members in China have been able to instantly obtain quotations, book pickup and destination delivery services for airfreight consignments via Kuehne + Nagel’s digital solution KN FreightNet on Alibaba.com.

The strategic partnership will draw closer cooperation between the ecommerce giant and Kuehne + Nagel with intent to expand the scope of logistics services on offer in the near future to cover the various modes of transportation beyond China.

Read the rest of the story here.

 

3. Facebook Messenger adds support for QR codes and food delivery services

Facebook has launched a few new features. Among those is an update to its M virtual assistant, which can now help you order food through delivery.com, the launch of Messenger Codes, which are basically QR codes you can scan into Messenger.

Users will be able to scan these QR codes at concerts, basketball games or other events and after you’ve scanned them, a Messenger bot will pop up to provide you with more information.

The codes means a business can have both a shopping and customer service bot, for example, and different vendors and developers can manage these separately. Currently this is only available in the US.

Read the rest of the story here.

Here’s what you should know today.

1. Alibaba backed ‘Best Logistics’ gears for IPO

Best Logistics, a Chinese logistics company backed by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd is gearing up to go public in the U.S., aiming to raise roughly $1 billion.

Best Logistics is hiring investment banks to help take it public with an IPO expected in September or October at the very earliest. Best Logistics had a market value of more than $3 billion last year after it was able to raise $760 million from a slew of new investors.

Alibaba’s Cainiao Network is also an investor in Best Logistics

The potential IPO of Best Logistics comes at a time when shipping competition is heating up in China as Amazon enters the market. According to a recent report in the Financial Times, Amazon is taking aim at the global logistics industry in China, which is valued at $8 billion.

Read the rest of the story here.

 

2. Facebook Messenger now supports group payments

The payments feature essentially works the same in group chats as in private ones, but now allows users to pay either everyone in the group or individual members through a click of the payments icon.

Facebook suggests the new feature would be useful for groups where everyone is chipping in on a purchases, like a group gift or are splitting a restaurant bill.

These are areas where people today still tend to turn to standalone payment services, like PayPal, Venmo, or Square Cash.

In addition to sending payments to other group members, you can also request payments from the group right within your chat. Currently, this feature is only available in the United States.

Read the rest of the story here.

 

3. Inc. doubles down on Southeast Asia

The company behind the website, Singapore-based Sycamore Media, has raised $1.2 million from local venture builder REAPRA.

Sycamore has licensed Inc. for Southeast Asia and plans to publish a print magazine as well, much like its US-based counterpart. The Tech in Asia rival will also branch out to events, kicking off with one in Manila at the end of April.

These initiatives involve continuing to build up traffic to the website, launching the print version around May, and exploring video content. Inc. Southeast Asia has about 750,000 unique visitors and around 1.4 million page views. No revenue numbers are disclosed.

Read the rest of the story here.

 

4. Recommended Reading: Uniqlo wants to be America’s perfect fit

The company’s perceived “wokeness” went up tenfold when Tadashi Yanai, president of Uniqlo’s parent company Fast Retailing, told Trump to “shove it.” Yanai was celebrated for coming back against the administration.

They’re products made for the average American, but aren’t necessarily bought by them. “It’s not that they don’t like us in the suburbs, it’s just they’re less familiar with us,” explains Fast Retailing’s president of global creative, John C. Jay.

Now, Uniqlo is focused on opening stores in big cities and hoping the people already familiar with it will hook up their friends in smaller ones.

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.

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?

wearesocial-indonesia-eiq

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.

chat-bot-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

Here’s today’s key headlines to start your day.

1. PayPal ramps up mobile payments business

Since spinning off from eBay last year, the company has doubled down on its mobile business, focusing on its Braintree and Venmo brands.Venmo has recently begun working with businesses, in an effort to monetize the service. Read the rest of the story here.

 

2. eBay is testing a Facebook Messenger chatbot

The chatbot is powered by artificial intelligence (AI) that gathers information from questions it asks and users’ Facebook profiles. ShopBot then uses those details to help customers find more relevant items. Read the rest of the story here.

 

3. Can Chinese ecommerce companies save retailers?

A recent report in Tech in Asia details why up to 1/3 of shopping malls in China as well as thousands of other retailers will close their doors, in large part due to online shopping. Read the rest of the story here

Winding down from a crazy day? Why don’t you check out some of the top ecommerce stories of today?

1. Lalamove is expanding into food delivery, partners up with restaurants in Bangkok

Restaurants and food producers, who are invited to use Lalamove’s 24×7 dedicated courier service, will receive a stamp of approval with a ‘Lala Recommended’ graphic featured on Lalamove social media. Read the rest of the story here.

 

2. Naspers-owned PayU buys Indian fintech startup for $130m in one of the biggest M&A’s in Indian history

Naspers-owned PayU today confirmed its acquisition of Indian payment gateway CitrusPay. The deal was closed for $130 million, making it one of the largest M&As in Indian fintech history. Read the rest of the story here.

 

3. Post CEOs look to partner with ecommerce players

Indian Postal Services Board Chair Boyapati Venkat Sudhakar said the India Post’s reach in semi-urban and rural areas, where demand for ecommerce goods is high, made them an attractive partner to e-retailers. Read the rest of the story here.

 

4. How on-demand ridesharing can give e-commerce a necessary boost

Another advantage is lower cost of transporting bigger packages, as is the case with Deliveree. Most P2P courier services also offer an option for cash or card payment, which gives users some flexibility. Read the rest of the story here.

 

5. Facebook’s Chat Bot Will Soon Allow You To Book Flights and Hotels Within Messenger App

Users can scroll through a list of flights, consume and engage with different types of media and play basic games while still in the chat window. Read the rest of the story here.