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As more Thai people shift online to conduct their shopping – 14 million by 2021 – there is little doubt that the country will reach its projected ecommerce potential of over $11 billion.

The government’s roadmap for Thailand 4.0 is another boost for the digital habitat as investors often see bureaucracy in the region as a hinder to business.

So now the path is smooth to promote growth and money is coming in from the Chinese, how has the ecommerce landscape in Thailand changed over the last year?

1. Strong players emerge in fashion ecommerce  

After acquiring Zalora in Thailand and Vietnam last year, Central Group finally shed the old image to relaunch as LOOKSI earlier in June this year in attempts to revive the brand.

The change wasn’t only in the name, fashion labels housed by Zalora were cut by half to about 1,000 brands. The company also moved away from discounted products and began offering seasonal products instead.

But it was Thai-bred fashion startup Pomelo that created buzz after raising a $19 million Series B led by Chinese retail giant JD.com and participation from ally, Central Group.

Pomelo currently operates local ecommerce websites in Thailand and Indonesia but with new funds, the company is eyeing further expansion in Southeast Asia and even Europe. It’s also a firm believer in a multi-channel retail strategy, launching a offline store in Bangkok’s fashion hub Siam to offer click & collect

2. Global fashion and beauty brands get local

This year, more notable global brands launched local ecommerce websites to penetrate the Thai market.

Global fashion retailer Zara officially unveiled its ecommerce website and mobile application earlier this year, and integrates online and offline shopping by providing a pick-up service and return in-store for online purchases.

Thailand ecommerce landscape 2017

Thailand ECOMScape in 2017 (right) see more beauty brands launch their own ecommerce website than in 2016 (left).

Global beauty brands such as Lancome, Biotherm, and YSL have also launched local ecommerce websites in hopes of capturing the growing online segment.

3. The long-standing battle for logistics dominance continues

To talk about the rise of online shopping in the country isn’t complete without mentioning the vital and often forgotten pieces of the ecommerce value chain such as logistics.

The red ocean sector still draws new players despite the handful of names already dominating the space i.e. lalamove, Kerry Express, etc. One of the new additions includes Singapore-headquartered online food and grocery on-demand provider honestbee.

honestbee launched its logistics service called Goodship earlier this year to capture the growing demand, focusing on last-mile and same-day delivery services.

Thailand Ecommerce landscape 2017

General Manager of honestbee Thailand Bounthay Khammanivong at the Goodship launch.

Singapore-based NinjaVan also entered the Thai market in August and hopes to raise a $60 million Series C round. Who can bleed the longest?

4. JD gets its grips on Thailand

Chinese companies have certainly made some aggressive moves in Southeast Asia, and JD.com has chosen to make waves in Thailand this year.

The company announced a $500 million joint-venture with Thai conglomerate Central Group earlier this year that will be spent on ecommerce and fintech development, as well as promising the latest technologies to woo the country as its hub for Southeast Asia.

The ecommerce lovechild of the joint-venture, called JD Central, is expected to launch by April next year.

Thailand is JD’s second major investment outside of China after plans to win Indonesia hit a roadblock. The company lost the bid for leading C2C player Tokopedia to Alibaba and its own ecommerce site JD.id has yet to push top five in the country in terms of web traffic.

Thailand Ecommerce landscape 2017

Are we missing any key players or do you have an opinion on the 2017 Thailand ECOMScape? Let us know via Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter

Download the high-resolution of ECOMScape Thailand 2017 here.

ecommerceIQ, together with Sasin SEC, created the Leadership Ecommerce Accelerator Program (LEAP) to provide the fundamental knowledge and skills needed to successfully run an ecommerce business in the world’s fastest growing market.

“Set up a website and sell goods online.” Having an ecommerce business is not as simple as it sounds. In addition to running effective digital marketing to create demand, a user friendly webstore and great customer service, what’s more important is getting the package delivered to the hands of consumer in one peace.

In this seventh week of LEAP, we introduced an overview operations of ecommerce from hiring the right people and technology to being the right leader for your organization.

1. Customer Experience is Key to Pomelo’s Brand and Customer Loyalty

SALISA LANDY, POMELO REGIONAL VP MARKETING AND PR

For leading fast fashion brand in Southeast Asia like Pomelo, it’s not trends and celebrities that drive returning shoppers but prioritizing customer experience. This doesn’t simply mean only answering customers’ questions  but taking care of even the smallest details, such as the packaging.

“Our packaging was something that got our customers excited. It [packaging] is edgy and instagram-able. It’s what our customers can post on their social media and from there, word of mouth spread.”

Ecommerce Logistics and Fulfillment

Pomelo Packaging

Another winning point for this online fast fashion brand is how Pomelo addresses the most painful point of online shopping – sizing and returns. Because selling goods online, especially fashion items, requires a good fit.

Ecommerce Logistics and Fulfillment

Salisa Landy, Pomelo Regional VP Marketing and PR

Pomelo offered a 365-day free return policy to break the online purchasing barrier of not being able to touch and trial.

Ecommerce Logistics and Fulfillment

2. A Checklist to Ecommerce Operations: Making Your Business Ecommerce Ready

MITCH BITTERMANN, GROUP CCO ACOMMERCE

When building your ecommerce backend, the frequently-asked questions often involve: Where do we start? Or what do I need to have in order to operate my ecommerce business effectively and efficiently?

Ecommerce Logistics and Fulfillment

Mitch Bittermann, Group CCO aCommerce

Mitch shared a checklist of items to make the organization ready for ecommerce.

Ecommerce Logistics and Fulfillment

3. To Lead is To Achieve Something Great Together

CARLOS FRANCAIS, COO LAZADA THAILAND

According to  the Chief Operating Officer of Lazada, to lead an organization, the leader must be able to influence and persuade his team members – especially blue collar workers – to work towards the same goal.

Ecommerce Logistics and Fulfillment

Carlos Francais, COO Lazada Thailand

In this interactive session, Carlos shared this framework to create a shared vision within the company, encouraging the team to fully address its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

“People populate your behaviour. When employees are inspired by what you do, and in return, they are productive at their work. This is where innovation begins.”

Ecommerce Logistics and Fulfillment

The next class is on Thursday November 2nd and will dive into how to run a fulfillment center efficiently and explore the right delivery methods in Southeast Asia by the industry expert Kerry Express. Stay tuned for next week’s takeaways!

[LEAP Week 1] eIQ Insights: The New Ecommerce Opportunity in Thailand

[LEAP Week 2] eIQ Insights: Refinement of an Ecommerce Channel Strategy

[LEAP Week 3] eIQ Insights: Market-Product Fit First Before Anything

[LEAP Week4] eIQ Insights: Central Marketing Group’s Shares Phase II of Digital Strategy

[LEAP Week 5] eIQ Insights: Startups Need to Have an Independent Source of Income to Survive

[LEAP Week 6] eIQ Insights: In Mobile Commerce, App Install is Only the Starting Point

To build or not to build?

This is the question many retailers around the world are struggling to answer. In the US, the answer is pretty evident.

A 31% increase in 2017 retail bankruptcies from 2016 and an estimate from Credit Suisse claiming that as many as 25% of America’s malls will shut down by 2022 all point to no.

Source: Credit Suisse

It’s the “Amazon Effect”, analysts say, the shift of spending from offline channels to online ones as young people become more accustomed to ‘online-only’ retail. No money in means brick & mortar stores are bleeding out trying to operate labor intensive businesses.

ecommerceIQ

Source: FT

Meanwhile, news overseas is quite disparate.

The country’s largest retailers and department stores like Tesco Lotus, Robinsons, and HomePro are all planning to open new stores in the next five months. Big C SuperCenter has allocated roughly $351.5 million for store expansion locally and abroad this year.

Online or offline: what’s the right way to go?

Although the rise of ecommerce has been a major contributing factor to the demise of traditional retail; the brick and mortar store is not dead as most claim.

Ecommerce only accounts for a single digit percentage in overall retail sales in Southeast Asia and ‘mall culture’ is not seen as a chore but as a weekend excursion, especially with malls adding new exhibitions such as Central Embassy’s recent interactive art display, “The Beach”, in Bangkok.

ecommerceIQ

Credit: adaymagazine

“Considering rapidly changing consumer behaviour, we may create shopping mall concepts that fit such changes. We want our complexes to become a third home for customers,” says Pakorn Parthanapat, COO of Central Pattana (CPN), a development arm of Central Group.

As well, there will always exist a large population that requires to see, feel and touch a product before making any purchase decision – a problem that many pure players retailers can only ‘solve’ by burning up cash.

Retailers understand these concepts, which is why the smarts ones with existing offline and online footprints are using it to their advantage.

The answer isn’t to label brick & mortar as a dying breed but instead businesses must become more deliberate with how many stores, what to offer in each and their locations.

Uniqlo is closing down stores in the US to only build others in premium locations.

In Thailand, HomePro’s new stores are testing its “HomePro S” concept, a shop that occupies only a sixth of its original store and in locations where young people frequent.

ecommerceIQ

Source: Marketeer

As well, Makro is opening one medium and three small sized cash and carry stores.

[cash and carry]: “Cash-and-carry” refers to a business model that virtually excludes all credit transactions, requiring up-front payment for all goods and services. Companies with a cash-and-carry business model eliminate accounts receivable from their books and are able to match all sales with actual cash receipts.

JD.com Inc., China’s second largest ecommerce company is also expanding into both urban and rural China with over 1 million JD convenience stores in the next five years.

Jason Yu, GM of consumer research firm Kantar Worldpanel comments, “it is more challenging to grow purely in ecommerce, so both Alibaba and JD move into offline business.”

Ecommerce is not the ‘end all’ solution to today’s retail evolution, but the trend appears to be that pure play companies – Pomelo, Xiaomi – are the ones that have a say in whether to open more offline locations or not, whereas traditional retailers are scrambling to go online in order to save their businesses.

Multi-channel is the inevitable future.

There are 854 million mobile subscriptions across the region – more phones than people. So does this mean that all businesses should have a mobile app?

Not necessarily. Despite the everyday use of a phone, a mobile app is only suitable for a handful of verticals, like fashion and electronics because of their ‘discovery potential’ and purchase frequency.

Source: Deloitte

A mobile app is also used for proximity marketing or to send out push notifications. For example, a business could target users with ‘location finder’ enabled on their phone, send a message to offer a discount at their nearest offline location, and increase foot traffic offline.

If a business can benefit from a mobile app, below are some pointers to know before building.

Native vs. Hybrid. What’s the main difference?

Native apps are built separately for either iOS or Android devices.

Hybrid apps are built on one framework that can be used for both iOS or Android devices.

Choosing one or the other is vital to a business’s performance depending on its goals. eIQ talks to Mandy Arbilo, Regional Project Manager at aCommerce, Southeast Asia’s leading ecommerce service provider, to find out the key features and differences between native and hybrid apps.

Native Apps

Time to build: 3-4 months per platform (iOS or Android)

Cost: $30,000-35,000 per app

Good if you need: Integration with third party applications such as Google Maps, including payment platforms such as Samsung pay, Android pay or Apple pay. Also recommended if the business requires functions such as store finder or a directory, as they are more accurate when integrated into a native app.

To note: Some brands are building an iOS app first to target the more affluent Apple device users that typically spend 2.5x more on in-app purchases than Android users. But if the aim to reach a wider demographic, building an Android app will be more effective in Southeast Asia.

Source: Deloitte

Native App Advantages

  • Faster, more responsive and reliable user experience than Hybrid
  • Allows push notifications to alert users when attention is needed in the app, this experience cannot be replicated in a Hybrid app.
  • Better integration to leverage device functionality i.e. camera, microphone and swipe functions
  • Native apps work with the mobile device’s built in features, so they are easier to work with and perform better on the device.

Native App Disadvantages

  • Dedicated developer to manage a codebase for each platform because iOS apps will not run on Android and vice versa
  • More expensive to build as brands would have to build two. Costs for maintenance can also be high.
  • Have to submit their app into the App store/Google Play store

Examples of Native apps:

  • Pokemon Go – Mobile game
  • Season – Thailand e-marketplace (mobile only)
  • Pomelo – Fashion brand

Hybrid Apps

Time to build: 3 months

Cost: $30,000 per app

Good if you need: Relatively affordable price to start your business and deploy an app into the hands of more customers as soon as possible. A hybrid is an MVP; a minimum value product and is a good cost-effective solution for brands that would like to target both Android and iOS users but are short on resources.

To note: The best way to explain a hybrid app is that it’s a fusion of a native app and a web app.

Users install a hybrid app like they would with a native, but it is actually a browser bundled inside the app. A hybrid app allows you to add new functionalities to both versions of your app through one codebase.

The process is similar to building a simple, responsive website.

The speed of your hybrid will depend on the user’s internet browser speed whereas native apps are less dependent on internet connection to work.

Hybrid Advantages

  • Development for hybrid apps are often less expensive than native app development
  • Hybrid apps are easier to scale onto another platform such as a Windows Mobile
  • Saves time and money because the one base requires less maintenance but the speed of the app will depend on the user’s internet browser speed

Hybrid Disadvantages

  • Performance is the hybrid app’s biggest setback because hybrid apps load in a browser like function called webview and are therefore only as good as the webview.

The webview is responsible for displaying the UI and running javascript. Google and Apple did not give webview the same engines used by their mobile browsers, Chrome and Safari, and therefore hybrids have not reached the level of a Native app’s performance.

  • The hybrid app needs to be tested on each platform to ensure it is properly responding as it has less access to the device’s functionalities
  • The UX of the app will suffer because the app’s components can not be customized to suit the behaviors of Apple or Android users exclusively.

“By building a hybrid app, you won’t be able to please both camps. Try too hard to customize the app based on the platform and it may end up costing the same as two native apps,” says Mandy.

Examples of Hybrid Apps

However, the following examples show that a hybrid app can be high functioning too (thanks HTML5).

  • Evernote
  • Amazon App Store
  • Uber
  • Instagram

Uber app

The final verdict?

“If you were to build an ecommerce app, or deploy a functionable platform with a decent sized budget, it’s advisable to go with a native application because of its high performance, integration with third party applications such as Google Maps app, and offline capabilities” says Mandy.

For those with smaller budgets, build a hybrid app first to test traction and if it shows potential for scale, dedicate resources into a native app. Facebook did it.

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Seasoned entrepreneurs from multiple ecommerce companies at Echelon Thailand 2017 discussed how ecommerce in Southeast Asia has developed so far and where it is heading.

On the panel: Orami Group CEO Jeremy Fichet, Box24 CEO & founder Nithipont Bond Thaiyanurak, honestbee Thailand country manager Bounthay Khammanyvong and Pomelo co-founder & CFO Casey Liang revealed some of the trends that they expect will influence the region’s ecommerce businesses in the next few years.

Here are the key takeaways:

1. Customers are getting more demanding and sophisticated

The tide is slowly turning from a few years ago when customers were more accepting if their order was late or inaccurate as ecommerce was so new.

“As we’ve honed our skills and elements of ecommerce, customers are now freaking out if anything is slightly off or wrong. Customers are becoming more and more demanding,” says Bounthay.

Customers are also getting more sophisticated with technology as other channels such as social media has improved product discovery. Companies can choose to ship to anywhere in the world to reach a global market.

“People are finding our products a lot faster and they’re willing to purchase from anywhere in the world,” says Casey.

2. Ecommerce players are gaining strength

The line between online and offline players has been blurred in the past few years as brick-and-mortar retailers are exploring digital channels and pure ecommerce players are looking to build an offline presence.

“Pure online players have more flexibility to expand their growth offline through different partnerships. If we look at the top 10 retailers in the US, Amazon is likely #2 or #3. In China, #1 and #2 will be Alibaba and JD.com,” says Jeremy.

“I’m pretty sure that in Southeast Asia, half the top 10 retailers will be ecommerce pure players in 5-10 years,” he continues.

3. Reaching for an optimal omni-channel mix

Pomelo’s Casey noted that a channel strategy comes down to selling a product and the shopping experience customers go through to reach that point. Sometimes, online doesn’t always work.

“Purchasing media is pretty much online, purchasing travel also makes sense online but when you look at physical products like fashion that is very tangible, people want to try it on and feel it.”

“There are benefits being online that you don’t get shopping offline. If you want to find a silver dress with pleats, you can go to the mall and spend hours looking around for it or you can lay in bed and easily find exactly what you’re looking for on your phone. Obviously, when you want to try it on and see how it fits, then offline comes in. We [Pomelo] are still trying to figure out what is the optimal hybrid strategy, ” says Casey.

The company recently opened its first pop shop to allow its customers to ‘experience’ its fashion pieces offline in Singapore.

4. Convenience ecommerce – the next big thing?

“I believe convenience ecommerce will be the next big wave. What we see in the market is businesses asking how can we add value to people’s lives? And one of the key things how to do it is by helping them save time – helping them focus on the important things like family, rather than running errands,” says Bounthay.

Read more #EchelonTH2017 coverage by eIQ with Dr. Alex Lin from SGInnovate here.

Retail has gone through a revolution. A glance at recent headlines indicate that many global brands in Q1 alone such as BCBG and Urban Outfitters have shown signs of trouble. The former filed for bankruptcy, citing changing consumer habits and increased competition from online players as key factors and Urban Outfitters stated that the ‘retail bubble has burst’. 

According to Bloomberg, shoppers’ visits to retail stores in the US are declining every year, leading industry veterans to wonder, “is anyone not seeing large foot traffic declines?”

Online retail, on the other hand, is thriving in the US. Retail sales through digital channels, including mobile sales, increased by a massive 23% in 2015.

One player enjoying this shift is Amazon. The company now accounts for 43% of all online retail sales in the States and has ventured aggressively into different verticals; from private label fashion brands to groceries. It also made entries into new markets, to the Middle East through the acquisition of Souq, a possible entry into Australia and a rumored entry into Southeast Asia.

A key aspect to its growing success is its omnichannel strategy – allowing shoppers to buy whenever, wherever. The company has been using offline to compliment its online platform, for example, with the launch of its offline bookstores in the US and its trial launch of Amazon Go, an offline grocery store that allows shoppers to scan items and pay through the Amazon Go app. 

Traditional retailers try their hand at omnichannel

The omnichannel strategy focuses on the idea that providing a ‘perfect’ shopping experience requires an integration of online and offline experiences. This is to encourage cross-channel shopping so that customers who shop only in stores will begin also buying online, and vice versa.

Although brick ad mortar players have an advantage here, pure-play brands and retailers are testing offline strategies to offer enhance their entire brand experience. Online brands such as NET-A-PORTER used this strategy back in 2012 by launching offline pop-up stores and eye wear brand Warby Parker launched its first offline store in 2013.

In Southeast Asia, more players are following suit. Thai online fast fashion label Pomelo has launched pop-shops in Bangkok and Central Group bolstered its online presence with acquisition of Zalora.

Retailers are counting on an omnichannel strategy to be their “killer app”. But is this true?

Harvard Business Review teamed up with an anonymous US retailer that operates hundreds of offline stores across the country to find out.

Out of the 46,000 study participants who made a purchase during the 14-month period from June 2015 to August 2016, only 7% were online-only shoppers and 20% were store-only shoppers. The remaining majority used multiple channels during their shopping journey – these are the omnichannel customers.

Omnichannel customer behavior

Findings showed that omnichannel customers loved using the retailer’s touchpoints in all sorts of combinations and places, such as purchasing offline and having the product delivered at home, or targeting in-store customers with personalized messages to their phones.

Shoppers were found to be avid users of in-store digital tools such as an interactive catalog, a price-checker, or a tablet. They were also leveraging their smartphones to compare prices between stores and to download discount coupons but it’s important to note that,

Among customers who lived close to a store, no type of coupon made a significant difference to shopping or profits – HBR

The more channels customers use, the more valuable they are

Omnichannel shoppers spent an average of 4% more on every shopping occasion in the store and 10% more online than single-channel customers. With every additional channel they used, the shoppers spent more money in the store.

Customers who used more than four channels, spent 9% more in the store compared to those who only used one channel.

Omnichannel shoppers were also more loyal. Within six months after an omnichannel shopping experience, these customers logged 23% more repeat shopping trips to the retailer’s stores.

Findings suggest that deliberate searching beforehand led customers to 13% greater in-store purchases. This disputes arguments about the popularity of impulse buying and showrooming, which refers to how traditional shoppers conduct their research in the store and then buy online.

This particular retailer sees the rise of webrooming, consumers that go online to browse products before going offline to buy the products in-store.

Whether the richer, multi-touch point shopping experiences of omnichannel led shoppers to spend, return, and advocate more remains an open question – no causation can be determined – but the case for omnichannel retail is positive.

In a developing market like Southeast Asia, department store culture is huge but ecommerce is only beginning to emerge – less than 4% of total sales. Whichever player is able to reach omnichannel success first looks to capture a large share of the region’s $150 billion retail opportunity.

Traditional retailers with physical stores will do better not only by leveraging the power of the online world, but by synchronizing the physical and the digital worlds to provide shoppers with a multi-channel experience that online pure plays simply cannot match. – HBR

Findings in this article were taken from “A study of 46,000 shoppers shows that omnichannel retailing works”, published on Harvard Business Review.