Here’s what you should know today:

1. Alibaba-backed Grana takes aim at Mainland China

Hong Kong online fashion retailer Grana has expand to mainland China via an official store on Tmall. The company has recently scored a $10 million series A funding led by the Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund.

Grana built a name for itself in the online fashion industry by cutting out the middleman – it manufactures and sells clothes directly to customers. It allows them to reduce the cost the prices for clothes made out of expensive fabrics such as silk or cashmere.

The company expects China to be its next biggest market after the US.

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2. Flipkart raises offer to buy Snapdeal for $850 million

Flipkart revised its bid for Snapdeal to $850 million after its initial offer of $600 million was rejected. In an unexpected turn of event, however, Ahmedabad-based ecommerce Infibeam has jumped into the fray with a proposal to buy for $1 billion.

Founded in February 2010, Snapdeal was the second biggest ecommerce company after Flipkart until 2015. It was valued US$6.5 billion when it raised funding early last year. The company began to crash after Amazon’s entry to the country.

Read the full story here

3. Shopee launches Shopee Mall, expands to B2C space

Shopee has launched Shopee Mall, a dedicated in-app space for B2C sellers. This portal is separate from the regular Shopee marketplace and provide access to products from brands such as 3M, L’Oreal, Philips and Reckitt Benckiser.

All products listed on the Shopee Mall are guaranteed to be authentic. Shoppers can easily identify Shopee Mall product listings with the newly added red ‘Mall’ label.

Within the portal, shoppers can also navigate easily between key brands, category campaigns and personalised recommendations.

Shopee Mall aims to bolster both attributes and assure consumers by ensuring that all sellers on Shopee Mall are verified with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority, a locally registered entity.

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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. Shopee has seen a rise in popularity in Indonesia

Some metrics indicate it’s already beating fellow Singaporean mobile shopping app Carousell, which is almost three years older.

Shopee counts 200,000 daily transactions in Indonesia

At the Indonesian ecommerce summit (IESE) last week, the startup hosted a press conference, claiming to be Indonesia’s largest ecommerce player.

It’s tough to compare this directly with competitor’s metrics, as this data is released irregularly, if at all. Daily transactions, for example, are typically not disclosed by Indonesian ecommerce companies.

With potentially a good part of US$500 million fresh in its war chest, Shopee’s Indonesia operation could be one of the best-funded ecommerce endeavors in the country right now.

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2. Tencent results beat estimates as WeChat and games power growth

Revenue climbed to 49.6 billion yuan ($7.2 billion) in the three months ended March.

China’s internet titans are defying a slowdown in the world’s second largest economy. Chairman Pony Ma is now bolstering a $300 billion empire that encompasses everything from online gaming and social media to film and TV production.

WeChat had 937.8 million monthly active users and the mobile version of QQ had 678 million users at the end of the quarter. Revenue from Value Added Services, which includes online games and messaging, soared 41 percent to 35.1 billion yuan.

“We see strong ambition from Tencent in building a closed-loop ecosystem on WeChat,” Chen said in a March report, adding that the mini programs could help Tencent in app distribution, mobile payments and data-driven user profiling.

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3. Malaysia’s eCommerceMILO shutting down after four years

Ecommerce insights portal announces its shut down after four years in business. The website targets online merchants, retailers and industry players. The founders have addressed some controversy surrounding the platform’s name, as it resembles a certain beverage brand.

We wish the eCommerceMILO team the best of luck in their future endeavors.

Read the rest of the story here.


4. Recommended Reading: Cheat sheet: Department stores are nearing a death spiral

 “Right now, everyone’s in a bad place, but as they reconfigure, it’s going to come down to cross-channel capabilities,” said Jessica Ramirez, an analyst at the boutique retail firm Jane Halli and Associates. “Buy online, pick up in-store, reserve online, store shipping — these things are all very important. If you don’t have this approach, you’re in the dark ages.”

Read the rest of the story here.

Here’s what you need to know today.

1. Garena rebrands as ‘Sea’ after raising $550 million in funding

Garena has rebranded as Sea Ltd. after Southeast Asia’s most valuable startup secured $550 million in funds to step up a battle with Alibaba for Indonesia.

The eight-year-old startup backed by Tencent Holdings Ltd. landed a clutch of new investors in its latest funding round, including Cathay Financial and GDP Venture.

The shopping and online games company is staking out a spot as competition in Southeast Asian ecommerce intensifies, particularly in the largely untapped market of Indonesia. Sea will use the majority of the new funds to expand Shopee in Indonesia. The online marketplace’s annualized gross merchandise value has more than doubled in the past nine months to more than $3 billion, according to the company.

The company’s new name is an acronym for Southeast Asia. Its businesses include the online games brand Garena, ecommerce operator Shopee and digital payments service AirPay.

Read the rest of the story here.


2. Singapore fintech startup MatchMove partners Bonfleet to help drivers go cashless

Singapore-based e-payment startup MatchMove has announced a partnership with India-based Bonfleet. This deal will allow Bonfleet to integrate MatchMove’s e-wallet solution into its platform.

Drivers using Bonfleet will then be able to use its app and ‘Bon Petro Card’ to pay for fuel, tolls, and other fleet expenses across India.

Launched in 2016, Bonfleet provides a cashless fleet expense management app with pre-paid cards that drivers can use in petrol stations India.

Read the rest of the story here.


3. Recommended Reading: Why are Goop and Airbnb teaming up with Condé Nast and Hearst?

In essence, both Goop and Airbnb are betting that they will benefit from plugging into the established architecture of legacy publishers, whose vast distribution networks can offer exposure to new audiences.

Goop is looking for ways to scale through brand extensions in physical retail, conferences and private-label products. Print is just another channel for this strategy.

And while both Goop and Airbnb are creating plenty of their own content, Condé Nast and Hearst can, no doubt, offer deeper editorial expertise, where Airbnb, in particular, is less experienced.

The short-stay rental marketplace has shaken the traditional hotel industry to its core, but needs to better communicate the experiential and lifestyle elements of its offering.

But will anyone really profit financially from these new partnerships? It’s doubtful. Details of Goop’s deal with Condé Nast were not disclosed, but as a special-interest publication, it is likely that Goop’s new title will come with a higher price than Airbnbmag as well as a selection of high-end advertisers.

Read the rest of the story here.

Here’s what you should know today.

1.  Shopee Philippines sees the growth in male shoppers

More Filipino males are starting to browse online for better deals and are more meticulous than women when it comes to buying online.

But despite the increase of shopping activity, the shopping behavior of men in the Philippines differ based on age groups

Macy Castillo, Shopee’s Head of Commercial Business shared that men aged between 20 and 24 are trend conscious and have lower spending power, but shop more often, buying more Fashion and Accessories. Men between 25 to 30 spend a bit more on Wellness, Hobbies and Sports items; while men between 31-35 who have higher purchasing power, buy from our Toys, Kids and Babies category as well as Men’s Skincare.

To cater to the different and discerning needs of male customers, Shopee expands its product selection with more trusted brands and allays fears by allowing buyers to easily communicate with the sellers for any questions they may have with Shopee’s Live Chat

Read the rest of the story here.

2. Thailand to boost internet connection with submarine cable

Following the recent visit of Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak to China, the government is planning to make a new investment in submarine cable to secure Thailand’s position as a link of international “internet paths” between Europe and Hong Kong.

Instead of laying the new cable down to Malaysia for international broadband connection, they could linking it with AAE-1 (Asia-Africa-Europe-1) via a submarine cable station in Satun in the Andaman Sea and a ground station in Songkhla on the eastern coast.

It will help Thailand easily link with Hong Kong by cutting the distance by 1,000 kilometers.

The cabinet recently approved a 5 billion baht investment in the system but did not reveal the decision. The investment will be handled by state-owned operator CAT Telecom via the Neutral Gateway Network & Data Center project.

Read the rest of the story here.

3. Malaysia’s leader: ASEAN could be the world’s fourth largest economy by 2030

The 10-countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, could form the world’s fourth largest economy by 2030, said Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak in the summit of ASEAN leaders in Manila last week.

As of Nov. 2015, the region’s combined economy was nearly $2.7 trillion, ranking 7th largest in the world, but he’s optimist to see the region turn into the world’s fourth biggest economy after the U.S., EU and China. The combined size of the ASEAN’s economies will grow to $9.2 trillion by 2050.

The growth is crucial to ensure prosperity can be shared among the less countries that are still left behind and work is needed to help small companies by helping them expand with ecommerce and reduce trade barriers and bring average tariffs to zero or near zero.

Read the rest of the story here.

Here’s what you should know today.

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.

Read the rest of the story here.


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.

Read the rest of the story here.


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.

Read the rest of the story here.


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