Weekly Focus APAC: Starbucks Takes Voice Orders Via Tmall Genie

In this edition of Weekly Focus APAC: Starbucks Takes Voice Orders Via Tmall Genie; Japan Autonomous Delivery Service Hits the Road; Singapore Think Tank to Drive Supply Chain Innovation; Liquid Group Expands Cross-border QR Across Asia; Isobar India Releases Voice Playbook; and Shopify Partners to Guide Malaysia SMBs on E-commerce.

Starbucks Takes Voice Orders Via Tmall Genie

The coffee retail chain in China now can accept orders dished out through Alibaba’s smart speaker, Tmall Genie, allowing customers to voice out their purchase and have it delivered within 30 minutes.

The new service integrated capabilities from Alibaba’s online food delivery platform, Ele.me, within Genie to expand the customer experience within Starbucks’ digital ecosystem, said the Chinese e-commerce giant.

The two companies had been collaborating over the last couple of years to drive Alibaba’s “new retail” strategy–melding online and offline technologies–across the Starbucks network in China.

Starbucks China’s vice president and general manager of digital ventures, Molly Liu, said: “The Starbucks feature through Alibaba’s Tmall Genie ushers in a new era of digital customer engagement for Starbucks, leveraging ground-breaking digital technology to create an unprecedented experience that elevates our connection with customers to new heights.

“We are focused on ensuring that Starbucks voice ordering is truly personal, and we look forward to offering our customers more convenient moments and new opportunities to engage with Starbucks on a single integrated platform as they move throughout the day,” Liu added.

Starbucks Rewards members soon would be able to receive personalised recommendations when they use voice commands to place orders. These would be customised based on the consumer’s previous order preferences and popular items on Starbucks’ seasonal menu

A Starbucks-branded Tmall Genie also would be available on Starbucks’ online store China, bringing together the coffee chain’s offerings within Alibaba’s mobile apps, including Taobao, Alipay, and Tmall.

Japan Autonomous Delivery Service Hits the Road

Rakuten and Seiyu have unveiled a delivery robot delivery service for visitors at Umikaze Park, a popular vacation site in Japan.

Visitors at the park can tap the Rakuten Drone app to place orders for products sold at the Seiyu LIVIN Yokosuka Store located near the park. These include first aid supplies and food and beverages for barbecues.

The service was deployed on JD.com’s unmanned solutions suite and part of an existing partnership between the Chinese e-commerce operator and R

akuten, inked earlier this year, to tap unmanned delivery solutions in Japan, including drones and autonomous delivery robots.

The two partners recently unveiled a drone delivery programme to an island in Tokyo Bay, so visitors on the island could place their order on the Rakuten Drone app and have their orders delivered by a drone.

The Umikaze Park robot delivery service would end on October 27 and feature various product categories including meat, vegetables, and first aid.

Singapore Think Tank to Drive Supply Chain Innovation

A new think tank has been established in Singapore with the aim to drive innovation in the supply chain and logistics sector, including new business models and digital transformations.

The Global Emerging Supply Chain Technology (GESCT) was launched by Reefknot Investments, a Singapore-based venture capital fund set up as a joint venture between Temasek and Kuehne + Nagel.

The think tank comprised five founding members such as SGInnovate’s founding CEO Steve Leonard, Kuehne + Nagel’s head of global corporate development Simon Fich, and Reefknot Investments’ managing director Marc Dragon. Other members included Starbucks’ global supply chain director Kong Wai Wei and World Economic Forum’s former director and head of supply chain and transport industries, Wolfgang Lehmacher.

Dragon said: “As transformation within the supply chain and logistics space continues at an accelerated pace, information around new business models and technologies that influence and impact within and around this space remains fragmented, creating siloed bodies of knowledge. The GESCT aims to be a global industry think tank and centre of excellence that shares points of view on implications of new technologies and business models to the industry, that would not only be useful for our ecosystem partners, but for the industry at large.”

Liquid Group Expands Cross-border QR Across Asia

The payment services provider has expanded its cross-border QR payment partnerships to 10 Asian markets including Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, China, and South Korea.

This network represented a merchant base of 6 million, according to Liquid Group. Interoperability trials in six markets would begin in the fourth quarter of 2019, while the remaining markets would embark on the tests next year.

The payments vendor estimated that it would take between two and three years for its partner acquirers to ready the majority of their merchant base to accept cross-border QR payments.

Liquid Group said: “The acceptance network supports large-scale cross-border QR usage and acceptance, giving participating QR payment apps access to an enlarged international merchant pool. By adopting a common cross-border interoperability framework, the acquirers will be able to extend their accepted payment modes to multiple participating QR payment apps from overseas issuers.”

Isobar India Releases Voice Playbook

The digital agency has published its Voice Playbook in India that aims to explain how voice technology will impact the future of human interactions, its technical nuances, and how it can be integrated into businesses today.

Noting that almost 82% of smartphone users in the country were receptive to voice-activated technology, Isobar said its playbook identified the potential influence of voice on the media and marketing industry as well as highlighted how marketers could apply the technology.

Isobar South Asia’s group managing director Shamsuddin Jasani said: “Voice is the next big thing and will continue to grow as voice devices proliferate, 5G becomes accessible, and demand for improved user experience increases.

“Whatever you make has to enhance your brand and customer experience in a real and purposeful way. Voice enables an intimate and conversational relationship between brands and people,” Jasani said, adding that Isobar believed “this new form of marketing” could be a “big game-changer” in the marketing industry.

Shopify Partners to Guide Malaysia SMBs on E-commerce

The e-commerce services provider has inked a partnership with PayPal and digital agency Meekco.Asia to roll out a series of initiatives in Malaysia aimed at helping small and midsize businesses (SMBs) participate in the online retail market.

The Shopify Creators’ Market would include e-commerce beginner workshops and seminars for expanding merchants, during which retailers would get hands-on experience and opportunities to peddle their merchandise. Through these events, they also would be able to exchange and share insights on online-to-offline (O2O) marketing models.

Pointing to Alibaba’s lucrative Singles Day Shopping Festival held annually on November 11, Meekco.Asia’s co-founder and CEO Kah Hing said there was “a lot of room” for Malaysian brands and retailers to “take a piece of the online retail sales pie”.