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Welcome back to our morning round-up. Here’s what you need to know before the weekend arrives.

1. Matahari Department Store’s shares up amidst controversy

Amidst controversy regarding Emirsyah Satar, the current chairman of Lippo Group’s MatahariMall.com as a potential suspect in a bribery case related to the procurement of aircrafts and engines, shares for Matahari Department Store have actually gone up 1.3% to 14,900 rupiah.

Read the rest of the story here.

 

2. As cross-border buying booms, so does Tmall global

The total number of international brands on the platform skyrocket 169% to 14,500 in 2016 from 5,400 last year. The number of product categories soared 85% to 3,700 from 2,000 over the same period.

Read the rest of the story here.

 

3. Amazon may be integrating shopping experiences into VR

Last month the company hired former Tribeca Film Festival head Genna Terranova to oversee VR projects at the company’s studio. A recent job posting shows that the company is looking for a creative director of VR to “envision the future of Amazon’s VR solutions” Variety reports. Nothing has been confirmed since then but perhaps we will be able to shop virtually on Amazon soon.

Read the rest of the story here.

This is the last of a four-part series breaking down Alibaba’s plan to shake up logistics in China: Cainiao Network. PART 1, PART 2, PART 3

Cainiao’s Platform Model Versus Jingdong’s Direct Model

By analyzing the aforementioned five pillars of Cainiao Network, we find that the implementation of its strategies cannot be achieved without collaboration with other partners such as warehouse storage operations. This reveals Cainiao Network’s business model implementation approach: a data-driven “platform model” (i.e. decentralized, horizontally integrated, asset-light).

Clearly, the platform model advocated by Cainiao Network is very different from the “direct model” (i.e. centralized, vertically integrated, asset-heavy) represented by Jingdong and SF Express and represents a different logistics development approach.

But it’s not a simple comparison – whichever fits a company’s own needs at any given stage is the most appropriate approach.

The advantage of the direct model of Jingdong lies in the high degree of control and better experience it can bring. As long as ecommerce logistics has massive demand reflected in warehousing and distribution, Cainiao’s platform model can achieve rapid growth.

In Cainiao Network’s view, the platform model is the inevitable future of logistics. Cainiao’s president Tong Wenhong believes that the direct model has no future and “Jingdong will eventually use Alibaba’s model in the future” on the grounds that Jingdong needs seventy to eighty thousand logistics personnel to process a daily parcel volume of one million and SF Express needs close to 400,000 logistics staff to handle a daily capacity of 4 million parcels.

When the number of China’s packages reaches 200 million, how many logistics staff will be needed to deliver them? The director of strategic cooperation at Cainiao Network, Li Wei, has said that “in the pyramid-shaped management structure of the direct model, each layer added will result in additional management costs of about 30% being passed along.”

The direct model ensures better service and timeliness, but it cannot solve the problem of scale. Cainiao hopes to help logistics companies through a platform approach with the goal of improving service and timeliness through technical means rather than brute (human) force.

Cainiao’s Platform Model Has its Skeptics—SF Express

Although Cainiao is very confident about its own platform model, its partners are not and some are even rejecting it. When Cainiao Network was established, it claimed bring innovation to the express delivery industry using a cloud system and warehousing storage system.

Two years later, these original strategies became the previously highlighted five key strategies: the express delivery strategy, the warehousing and distribution strategy, the pickup stations strategy, the cross-border logistics strategy and the rural logistics strategy.

The first three strategies almost closely control the operating lifeline of courier companies: that is, they intervene in terms of data, control delivery routes, and seize the last-mile. Needless to say, it will cause resistance by courier companies.

Take SF Express as an example. Even though SF Express and the “Three TOs and One Da” were all 1% stakeholders when Cainiao was established in 2013, they have expressed disagreements regarding their position with respect to Cainiao.

During the “Cainiao Jianghu Assembly”, more than 10 representative courier companies led by the “Three TOs and One Da” appeared to support Alibaba; only SF Express was absent. When facing the matter of business alliances, the strategies of the “Three TOs and One Da” are completely different from that of SF Express.

“The Three TOs and One Da” have difficulty coming to a resolution, while SF Express wants to get rid of the control of Cainiao Network platform and its ambition to be independent is abundantly clear. To show you why, let’s look at a simple comparison of SF Express and Cainiao Network.

cainiao business-model

Through the above comparative analysis, SF has been keeping an alert and sober eye on Cainiao for some time, and it has even tried to “challenge” Alibaba. The “Three TOs and One Da”, on the other hand, have been strategically ambiguous.

At present, it is hard to say who will win and who will lose—this is a long-distance race, and at this moment, the competition is more about who has made the best preparations for the future.

Conclusion

This three part series aimed to systematically review and analyze the commercial trajectory and development of Cainiao Network over the past two years since its establishment in 2013.

It also focuses on Cainiao Network’s strategic positioning to complete Alibaba’s own business ecosystem, and points out the five current strategic directions and implementation approaches of Cainiao Network. The main conclusions are as follows:

  1. Consumers have long complained about poor logistics in China. With the growth of the direct logistics approach of Jingdong, Alibaba’s logistics business has been at a greater and greater competitive disadvantage. This is the real reason why Cainiao has doubled-down building its own warehouses.
  1. Compared with the ecommerce and financial services business that Alibaba has successfully launched before, Cainiao’s current efforts involve many offline courier and logistics issues.

The complexity involved in completing the full integration of online and offline is beyond imagination – no precedent outside of China can be referred to. Also, Cainiao’s partners are cautious and alert and have their own contingency plans. Therefore, it is difficult to say whether Cainiao’s platform approach will be successful in the future.

Implications For Logistics in Southeast Asia

As Alibaba may have noticed, Southeast Asia shares a lot of similarities with China a decade ago, especially in terms of a nascent and fragmented logistics ecosystem.

Because of the pain points in logistics, plenty of investor funding has gone into this space. Companies like Ninja Van, Deliveree and the now-defunct Zyllem have raised millions to tackle the last-mile challenge in SEA – even Lazada invested in its own delivery fleet as part of Lazada Express (LEX).

In this kind of environment, introducing a platform like Cainiao would make a lot of sense. A central platform with large address database and route optimization would improve the efficiency of logistics in the region.

On the other hand, it could also spell bad news for last-mile delivery companies in the region because Cainiao would end up controlling the supply of packages, the data, the rules, and potentially turn last-mile logistics into a price-driven, commodity play.

Alibaba was able to get Cainiao off the ground due to the massive order volume from Tmall and Taobao combined. In SEA, there’s no single dominant player who commands the bulk of all orders making Alibaba’s acquisition of Lazada a likely first step towards introducing Cainiao. As we’ve seen with Alipay and Ant Finance, Cainiao in Southeast Asia may not be a matter of “if” but rather “when”.

The original first appeared in Chinese on Yunbao88. Concluding excerpt by Sheji Ho, editing by ecommerceIQ team.

Here are the ecommerce headlines you should know for today.

1. Tmall integrates flash sales site to make it easier for merchants

Juhuasuan, Alibaba Group’s flash-sales marketplace, is being integrated with Tmall.com, the company’s flagship B2C shopping site, in a business reorganization aimed at making it easier for merchants to transition to digital retailing.

Formed in 2010 as an independent Alibaba business similar to U.S.-based Groupon, Juhuasuan has over the last six years evolved into a marketing platform for flash sales and daily deals used by merchants with virtual storefronts on Tmall and Taobao Marketplace, Alibaba’s giant C2C site.

Read the rest of the story here

 

2. New technologies to enable greater supply chain efficiencies in Singapore

Singapore is set to enjoy greater supply chain efficiencies in near future, thanks to the Urban Logistics technology roadmap for 2020 that was unveiled by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) on 28 November 2016.

The Urban Logistics programme is dedicated to analysing challenges in the logistics sector, identify technologies that can significantly improve Singapore’s supply chain processes, and improve efficiencies.

Read the rest of the story here

 

3. Indonesia’s KinerjaPay announces the launch of KinerjaMall as it expands its ecommerce platform

KinerjaPay has a particular focus on the middle- and low-income markets, which management believes represent a largely untapped opportunity. To that end, management has developed a targeted launch strategy for KinerjaMall, including a focus on everyday needs and premium locally produced items and a manageable inventory featuring around 150,000 unique products by a few thousand merchants.

Read the rest of the story here.

Ready for the weekend? Check out today’s top ecommerce headlines first.

1. Tmall is turning black Friday into a Chinese phenomenon 

Chinese consumers will get some of the same bargains that Americans do after Thanksgiving, from the same retailers with just a few taps on their mobile phones.

Tmall Global, Alibaba Group’s cross-border e-commerce platform, for the first time has partnered with several U.S. brands including Macy’s, Costco and Target to launch the “Same Products, Same Time, Same Price, Same Black Friday” campaign. Starting with a pre-sale that launched on Monday and lasting through this coming Sunday.

Read the rest of the story here

 

2. Lazada CEO: Southeast Asian startups need core strategies to survive

Entrepreneurs need to know their core strengths and “it has to be something that only they can be good at,” said Maximilian Bittner, CEO of ecommerce firm Lazada.

But succeeding in building up core strengths might not be enough to stay relevant, especially with new and disruptive businesses constantly popping up.In the past, companies would have to invent something, whereas today, successful companies are those who meet a need at just the right time. Lazada’s Bittner shared that disruption in the competitive ecommerce space is something he has concerns about.

Read the rest of the story here

 

3. Walmart tackles food safety through block-chain trial

Like most merchants, the world’s largest retailer struggles to identify and remove food that’s been recalled. When a customer becomes ill, it can take days to identify the product, shipment and vendor. With the blockchain, Wal-Mart will be able to obtain crucial data from a single receipt, including suppliers, details on how and where food was grown and who inspected it.

Read the rest of the story here.

Amazon’s rapid expansion into private label brands

Earlier today, TechCrunch published an article titled “Amazon to Expand Private-Label Offerings—From Food to Diapers” detailing Amazon’s successful push into private label brands covering lucrative categories ranging from batteries, mom & baby to even perishable food items. The concept of retailers selling their own private label brands has been around for ages, mainly adopted by grocery chains with the goal to increase margins for often low-profit consumer packaged goods (CPG) categories. It’s not so much players like Amazon are doing this but how and why they’re doing this that should ring some alarm bells with brands.

The ultimate bait and switch

Global ecommerce giants like Amazon and, increasingly, local Southeast Asian players like Lazada and MatahariMall are offering perks to entice brands to open stores and sell through their platforms. This strategy resembles Ladies Night at clubs, where women are offered free drinks to indirectly lure men, who, more often than not, end up with a headache, alone and having burnt a hole in their pocket at the end of the night.

With aggressive promotions and subsidies from their hosts, brands often see quick short-term gains in online sales. The extreme example here is 11.11, a man-made online shopping festival during which retailers compete in the Discount Olympics. Obviously, brands benefit from spikes in sales but little do they know that they’re actually selling their souls in the long-term. It’s like crack, it makes you feel great for a while but sooner or later it’s hollowing out your body.

With the massive amounts of data generated on a day-to-day basis, these ecommerce platforms can easily identify consumer trends, such as best selling products and categories beyond what brands are able to see themselves. This data is then leveraged by retailers to develop and introduce their own private label brands to compete with the brands they partnered with in the first place.

Once launched, these platforms could favor their own white-label brands by giving them more visibility through favorable product placements as well as top rankings on internal search result pages.

The bigger picture

Players like Amazon and Alibaba’s Tmall aren’t really traditional ecommerce retailers. Their main objective is to use competitive pricing, often subsidized, on retail products to acquire more and more users, which they then monetize through other means such as Amazon Prime subscription fees for Amazon and onsite advertising and Alipay transaction fees for Tmall.

Amazon’s new CPG brands like Happy Belly and Mama Bear are only available to Prime members in a move to incentivize joining its $99-a-year unlimited shipping program that’s fueling Amazon’s retail growth behind the scenes.

In a post-Alibaba acquisition world, ecommerce power-players like Lazada could potentially increase awareness of their own private label brands through better placements on their marketplace, eventually forcing other brands to pay more for advertising to rank higher and get traffic.

With private labels, Amazon and the likes of Lazada also have more “room” to play in terms of pricing, allowing them to maintain sustainable low prices, keep driving more users and spinning the flywheel.

Strategies for brands

Brands like P&G, Unilever and Nestle should look at ecommerce marketplaces as a relatively easy way to test selling online but in the long-term, brands are arguably better off selling direct-to-consumer where they have full control of the brand image, customer experience and, most importantly, user data.

A case in point is Coach. The luxury brand was one of the first brands to set up shop on Tmall in China but recently closed down its official flagship store, leaving the brand with only a brand.com and WeChat presence. Many luxury brands have expressed concerns about the mass-market image of some of the bigger marketplaces.

Brands don’t have to pick between marketplace and brand.com only. Some brands like L’Oreal have adopted a multi-channel approach where their marketplace presence generates sales for their more mass and lower price point items whereas their brand.com site sustains long-tail and higher average order value sales.

At the end of the day, marketplaces are a great way for brands to jump into ecommerce. However, brands should be aware of the pros and cons and especially long-term implications of such a decision.

BY SHEJI HO

For online shoppers, 11.11 has become a shopping phenomenon. The biggest online sales event of the year in China is co-opted by ecommerce giant Alibaba, where discounts from participating sellers range from 25% – 70% off, and a record $5 billion of products were sold in under 90 minutes last year.  

The company, which owns online marketplaces Tmall and Taobao sold $14.3 billion worth of goods during the sales period last year, targeting 386 million annual active buyers – a number greater than the US’s general population.

According to Fortune, the campaign is quite accurately labelled “Black Friday on steroids”.

The combined earnings of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, North America’s famous sales period, amounted to $7.54 billion last year, and while impressive, only amounts to half of Alibaba’s earnings in the same sales period.

11.11 southeast asia

11.11 Cultural Backstory

Singles’ Day originated in Nanjing University in 1993 where groups of young single friends would get together and celebrate their unattached status by shopping. In 2009, Jack Ma, chairman of Alibaba Group, saw an untapped opportunity and created an online shopping event around young peoples’ behavior, framing it as a day of personal indulgence.

‘Singles’ day’ was made famous and monetized by Alibaba, turning the obscure day into an online shopping extravaganza on its online marketplaces and boosting business during China’s slack period between October’s Golden Week and Lunar New Year in January to February. It was also introduced around the time ecommerce exploded in China, leading to a 5,740% growth in Alibaba’s “Double 11” sales event between 2009 and 2013.

11.11 southeast asia

The company has since trademarked the term in December 2012, meaning that it can take legal action against media outlets that accept advertising from competitors who specifically use this term.

11.11 sales also reach hundreds of millions of Chinese shoppers beyond large cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, who rely on Alibaba’s Taobao and Tmall because they are without big shopping malls in their towns.

The event’s offline marketing impact also contributes to 11.11 success thanks to appearances from global celebrities such as Daniel Craig and Kevin Spacey for the launch event, which has been the company’s way of turning the shopping extravaganza into a sort of event to be celebrated.

For the first time since the launch of 11.11 campaign, Alibaba Group has announced that this year’s campaign will last for 24 days instead of 24 hours. It will also mark the first introduction of Alibaba’s virtual reality technology, Buy+ , which promises to transport shoppers to retail stores overseas through a VR headset. This year will also see the expansion of 11.11 to Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Alibaba’s 11.11 success means it comes as no surprise that Southeast Asia has followed in the footsteps of China. Despite it not being a day to celebrate single-hood, large online marketplaces have each adopted their own customized versions of Alibaba’s 11.11 campaign such as Lazada and Moxy (now known as Orami).

11.11 southeast asia

Online players are under pressure to perform and participate during this period as bigger brands and retailers begin offering better sales and greater discounts thanks to deeper pockets and larger number of merchants.

In Southeast Asia, marketplaces are using their big 11.11 spin-offs as a litmus test of how well they’re performing against competitors in local markets.

How Southeast Asia makes 11.11 their own

From hiring more manpower to ensuring that shoppers are well aware of the sales event, marketplaces push out social media strategies months before the actual sales event and calculate stock predictions to ensure the region’s largest sales event is a success. Here are how Southeast Asia’s biggest players successfully take advantage of the 11.11 buzz: 

Marketing blitz: Social personalization is key

As the largest ecommerce marketplace in the region, Lazada has adapted 11.11 by extending it with their very own 12.12 event on December 12th and coining it ‘The Online Revolution’, which started in 2012.

Lazada Thailand has seen a rise in their gross merchandise value (GMV), chalking up $40 million during 10th-12th of December 2015 and reflecting a gradual increase in participation from consumers.

Lazada Thailand saw a 300% increase in orders when compared to 2014.

“In Thailand, we notice that successful marketing channels are very social,” says Baptiste Le Gal, CMO at Lazada Thailand. “Customer relations management is the key channel to reach out to customers with personalized offers that match their interests.”

The consumer trend has shifted slightly in Thailand. Baptiste noted that electronic goods used to reign as the top selling category, but now more lifestyle centric segments such as health&beauty and home&living are moving faster on the platform.

Thailand’s high mobile adoption is also contributing to how consumers shop on Lazada.

“Mobile transactions accounted for 70% of the 400,000 items ordered during Lazada’s online festival last year,” commented Baptiste.

The mobile first market means that Lazada is focusing on the mobile aspects of its channels, and ensuring that Lazada’s mobile app is optimized for the best customer experience during the campaign period. The marketplace has also launched an advert, ‘make your dreams come true‘ in Singapore, gearing shoppers up for the big event.

Zalora, Rocket Internet’s fashion portal, also follows the Rocket formula by offering sales up to 80% off for both 11.11 and 12.12. Zalora Indonesia’s marketing strategy promotes online campaigns from October until the grand finale of 12.12, starting with Zalora Great Sale currently ongoing now, which shoppers can treat as a warm up to the main event.

“In 2015, overall sales for 12.12 increased by 30 times more than an average day, with participating brands seeing a drastic increase in sales even after the campaign was over,” says Priyanto Lim, Head of Marketplace at Zalora Indonesia.

11.11 southeast asia

But slapping big discounts on jeans and jackets isn’t enough. Zalora Indonesia also holds online competitions, provides extra giveaways and uses celebrity endorsements on social media as part of the big push to generate buzz around the sales event. Essentially, every customer facing channel is jam-packed with purchase incentives and triggers to drive sales.

It appears that speculations of brands feeling pressured to participate and make deliberate cost cuts to compete with other merchants don’t hinder the impact of the campaigns.

“Contrary to what articles suggest, brands are very willing to partner with us as they benefit from the extra traffic,” Priyanto adds.

Female centric marketplace Orami is focusing on curating original ‘Singles’ Day’ themed content and community to drive traffic to the site and engage shoppers rather than launch a big promotional campaign.

“To drive social media engagement, Orami will also use Facebook as a tool to create engagement with users through online games related to Singles Day,” says Shannon Kalayanamitr, co-founder and CMO of Orami.

Targeting a mobile centric region

Shopee, Garena’s mobile shopping platform, released its own version of the mega sale for the first time this year, coining it 9.9 on September 9th. Benefiting from a fast accelerating mobile market in the region, the platform targeted Thailand’s mobile first shoppers by progressively releasing specially marked down products throughout the day to keep shoppers anxiously clutching their mobile phones.

Shopee’s website even publishes a discount schedule ahead of time so shoppers can set up an alarm for the product they’re eyeing, creating a ‘ready-set-go’ mentality for shoppers to encourage competitiveness and in turn, more shopping.

11.11 southeast asia

Niche service providers jumping on the bandwagon

11.11 has also inspired online service providers in Southeast Asia to cash in on the online flurry.

Groceries on demand service provider, HappyFresh Indonesia, offered up to 30% off its most popular products in its marketing campaign last year.

11.11 southeast asia

And a recent addition to the online grocery scene in Thailand, honestbee, is currently working with popular Thai supermarket chain Villa Market to tap into the ‘necessary goods’ sector that includes everyday items such as water, fresh food and meat. These items will all be a part of the delivery service’s big sale campaign.

When groceries go on sale, shoppers tend to ‘stock up‘, especially when purchasing online as the selection is wider.

“We look at the purchase patterns of our customers to see what kinds of items are popular among shoppers. For example, customers in residential areas often order large volumes of mineral water and fresh fruit so we have to anticipate that these orders may spike during our 11.11 campaign,” said Piyawat Laiphithak, Marketing Manager at honestbee, Thailand.

honestbee is also playing directly on China’s ‘Singles Day’ gimmick as they plan to give away snacks such as gummy bears and popcorn for shoppers.

11.11 Logistics: What happens behind the scenes?

The phrase “it takes a village to raise a child” is fitting here, if we swap the child for a large scale online campaign. How do ecommerce companies ensure optimal functioning during this hectic time?

For ecommerce solutions provider aCommerce, the company plans approximately two months ahead to accommodate the spike in orders for clients that participate in the sales event.

“We increase our manpower by three times through temporary contracts and run 24-hour operations during spike times such as 11.11 to ensure customer demands are tended to,” says Phensiri Sathianvongnusar, COO at aCommerce Thailand.

The temporary staff are hired through an agency and receive 2-3 days of training for their specific tasks prior to the sales event.

During the spike period, aCommerce also uses its multi-shipping platform to tap into over 20 courier networks to ensure that deliveries are made on time, for the best rate and no order gets dropped, as time and speed are the most crucial things during the campaign period.

11.11 southeast asia

“Inventory planning is crucial to campaigns such as 11.11 and 12.12, so we use historical data from previous years’ events to determine what types of products tend to be popular during big sales and avoid stock shortage,” adds Phensiri.

For brands that are not participating in the 11.11 campaign, they are part of the express line which ensures that their products still remain a priority during the campaign period.

A league of our own

Using China’s 11.11 as a backdrop, Southeast Asia’s online marketplaces are carving out their own versions of the mega-sale but they cannot simply replicate Alibaba to find success.

Southeast Asia can potentially leapfrog China with the region’s explosive mobile growth and gaining middle-class. Big campaigns such as 11.11 can only grow in success every year as more consumers move online. Mobile first platforms such as Shopee are already moving fast and capturing the surging mobile market in Southeast Asia, mirroring the rise of mobile shopping in China, where 72% of purchases during last year’s 11.11 came from mobile.

The positive reception and the duration of the campaigns is a testament to the region’s growing appetite for ecommerce, perhaps an indication that we are positively inching away from China’s shadow.

By Anutra Chatikavanij