In this edition of Weekly Focus APAC: Singapore Marketplace Opens Up for Maritime Community; Alipay to Jointly Drive QR Payments on EU Mobile Wallets; Chinese Consume More Media Online Than Offline; Alibaba Goes Rural for June 18 Sales Festival; and JD.com Membership Programme Goes Global with 15K Hotels.
Singapore Marketplace Opens Up for Maritime Community
Singapore-based Marine Online has unveiled an e-commerce maritime marketplace that features more than 10,000 product listings and 4,000 service providers, offering more than 10 marine services.
These included bunkering, port agency, ship supply, crewing, and chartering, according to the marketplace operator, which added that the site aimed to bring down operating costs and drive transparency for the industry.
Marine Online COO Stephen Qi said: “Shipowners form the core of the shipping industry and is the source of business for all marine suppliers. However, recent global economic uncertainties place tremendous strain on shipowners to maintain their operations and this vicious cycle continues downstream to their suppliers.
“Marine Online spent three years developing eMarineOnline.com, with great ambitions to cut operational costs, improve efficiency, and promote transparency within the maritime ecosystem and, eventually, to bring sustainable profitability back to the industry,” said Qi.
He added that the online marketplace was available online and via its mobile app–on Google Android and Apple iOS–enabling sellers across the globe to list their products and services.
To meet the “highly specialised” needs of the marine industry, Marine Online said its marketplace was designed around two key components: an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered request-for-quotation (RFQ) platform and an online payment system developed by fintech company, M-DAQ.
The AI-powered RFQ tool aimed to help shipowners more quickly find the right suppliers through product comparisons and quotations, bypassing potential hurdles brought about by language and cultural differences.
Transactions and evaluation data also could be viewed in the sellers’ credit system within the online marketplace, which would serve as a critical function since transactions in the maritime industry typically involved hundreds and thousands of dollars, said Marine Online.
In addition, the M-DAQ online payment system would facilitate guaranteed foreign exchange rates and provide an escrow service.
Marine Online’s vice president Tiger Cai said: “Every supplier in Marine Online has an equal opportunity to take their business to the next level on the platform by gaining access to potential clients and providing excellent services to their customers. Credit has been the cornerstone in the marine industry for centuries. We hope to be able to develop a robust system and database, leveraging data science to support a holistic financing system that helps business development, especially for small and midsize businesses in the industry.”
Alipay to Jointly Drive QR Payments on EU Mobile Wallets
Alibaba’s mobile payment business Alipay has inked an agreement with six mobile wallets in Europe to jointly promote QR code-based transactions amongst travellers in the region and China.
The Chinese vendor would work with Bluecode, ePassi, Momo Pocket, Pagaqui, Pivo, and Vipps to drive the adoption of a unified QR code, as the partners looked to bring together Europe’s fragmented mobile payment market.
The partners would adopt a compatible QR code format provided by Alipay, while ePassi and Bluecode would offer technical services to simplify the integration process.
When deployed, the six digital wallets would support QR payments made via their mobile apps, at local merchants across 10 European countries. Alipay users also would be able to make payments using the Alibaba digital wallet at the same European merchants.
Helsinki-based ePassi and Oslo-based Vipps have already begun deploying the QR code payment platform across several Nordic countries, while Spanish Momo, Portugal’s Pagaqui, and Austria’s Bluecode would begin supporting the QR code payment in their local markets later this year.
Together, the six European mobile wallets boast a user base of more than 5 million and a merchant community of some 190,000 in the region.
Chinese Consume More Media Online
Chinese consumers will spend more time on digital media this year, setting aside 3 hours and 54 minutes a day online, up 12 minutes from 2018.
In comparison, they are expected to spend 2 hours and 44 minutes on traditional media in 2019, according to eMarketer. The market researcher said online media consumption had outpaced traditional platforms in China since 2016 and the gap was expected to continue widening over the next several years.
This growth was fuelled in large to increased government efforts to develop communication infrastructures in the country’s lower-tier cities and rural areas, eMarketer said, adding that this had driven online adoption in regions that previously were underdeveloped.
The firm’s research analyst Cheung Man-Chung said: “Currently, lower-tier cities and the rural areas of China represent the biggest untapped opportunity for brands and marketers, and [the government’s focus on] building out the telecom infrastructure is only the beginning. More education and nurturing of consumer habits will help to realise the internet’s full potential in these parts of the country.”
eMarketer predicted that, through to 2021, consumption of traditional TV and print media would dip, with time spent on radio remaining stagnant. Time spent on digital media, particularly via smartphones, would continue to see double-digit growths through to 2020.
With 31.9% of Chinese consumers yet to come online, eMarketer noted that there still was room for growth in terms of online consumption.
Alibaba Goes Rural for June 18 Sales Festival
Taobao and Tmall are focusing on consumers outside China’s major cities for the upcoming annual June 18 shopping festival, according to Alibaba, which operates the e-commerce marketplaces.
The sales event this year had been designed to help more than 200,000 brands and retailers tap smaller cities and rural areas across the country, and would include the launch of 1.5 million products and Alibaba’s Daily Deals feature. These efforts were part of an initiative aimed at enabling factories in China to sell directly to consumers, tapping Alibaba’s data insights and technical support.
The aim were was to provide less-developed markets easier access to more affordable goods, as well as offer merchants tools and data insights to better engage consumers and meet customers’ demands, Alibaba said.
President of Taobao and Tmall, Jiang Fan, said: “In addition to rising discretionary spending, consumers in China’s less-developed regions are becoming more-sophisticated shoppers who are looking for lifestyle upgrades. This increased consumption potential could mean bright prospects for our merchants.”
According to Alibaba’s latest annual results, 70% of its 654 million annual active consumers are based in China’s less-developed cities. In addition, more than half of the sales of Tmall’s Luxury Pavilion–which features luxury and premium brands–are generated from customers outside of the country’s first- and second-tier cities.
JD.com Membership Programme Goes Global with 15K Hotels
Customers of JD.com’s membership programme, JD Plus, now can enjoy more privileges at 15,000 hotels worldwide as part of the e-commerce site’s June 18 annual sales event.
These members would be able to receive discounts, lounge access, extra loyalty points, amongst other benefits, at 19 international hotel brands including InterContinental Hotels and Resorts, AccorHotels, and The Ascott.
This marked the first time JD Plus members would be able to enjoy privileges outside of China.