Rely, a Singapore fintech company that provides shoppers with an interest-free ‘Buy Now Pay Later’ service for online retail, recently announced a seven-figure Pre-Series A funding round led by Goldbell Financial Services. Additional funding comes from Octava, a family office based in Singapore and strategic investors from the financial and technology sector.
Rely will use the fresh funding for regional expansion, to scale up their team, as well as support more partnerships across the region with leading retailers.
Tapping on this immense growth in the e-commerce industry, Rely offers retailers and shoppers a way to manage their spending and access credit, without using traditional credit cards.
Rely uses its proprietary decision engine, which harnesses the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning, to help determine shoppers’ repayment capabilities for each transaction. With the use of this technology, spending limits are determined for each consumer. Safeguards are also put in place to ensure that shoppers repay on time, and further purchases cannot be made if payments are not made on time.
With Rely, shoppers can use the ‘Buy Now Pay Later’ service upon checkout and enjoy their products without having to pay the full sum upfront. By linking a debit card to their Rely account, shoppers can split their purchases into three equal, interest-free monthly payments. The initial payment is collected at checkout, and the remaining sum is collected over the next two months.
Based on initial data, this service appeals especially to Millennials, who have distinctive spending habits from past generations. They know what they want, and they seek instant gratification when it comes to their purchases. At the same time, they are cautious when it comes to their spending, and are wary of falling into credit card debt. Rely caters to this audience and the relationship between what they want and what they think they ought to do, allowing them to stay in control of the way they chose to handle their finances.
Exciting times for the fintech and e-commerce sector in Singapore.
The friendly folks at Meltwater have just released a new report titled ‘E-commerce in SEA: Supercharging Holiday Sales Through Social Media’ analysing consumer sentiment across South East Asia during the year-end shopping period last year to help e-commerce companies better reach their audiences.
The report found that Christmas shopping pulled in 56% of chatter, while Black Friday represented 22% of buzz. Fast-growing Singles’ Day – a shopping holiday started by internet company Alibaba in 2009 – is credited with kicking off the nearly two-month shopping period, and accounted for 20% of social media conversations.
Within the region, Indonesia drove the highest volume of conversations (57%), which isn’t surprising considering the country’s increased internet penetration and smartphone usage in recent years. Philippines and Malaysia represented 30% and 12% respectively, while Singapore brought in 1% of the buzz.
While the top brands varied from country to country, it’s clear that the marketplace model emerged the real winner. In Singapore, Amazon dominated social media with 51% of online conversations; Shopee led the buzz in Indonesia; Qoo10 was the most talked about in the Philippines; and Lazada emerged triumphant in Malaysia.
There’s more at the full report below.
E-commerce in SEA: Supercharging Holiday Sales Through Social Media [PDF]
Using customer relationship management (CRM) or data management platform (DMP) data to accurately target audiences across web, mobile browser and apps, Criteo Audience Match provides marketers with a new way to re-engage their customer base with paid display campaigns. Criteo has built a foundation of deterministic IDs within Criteo Shopper Graph, enabling beta customers to see a match rate of more than 60 percent of their existing client lists with online profiles.
Criteo Kinetic Design with Video automatically optimises every visual aspect of an ad to inspire and engage a shopper. Kinetic Design already allows for more than 17 trillion variations from one base design in display ads. This has been now expanded to incorporate video, creating personalized video ads that feature relevant products based on Criteo’s complete understanding of the shopper. These video ads are created automatically, on-the-fly, and appear across web and mobile.
“Collaboration in an open ecosystem levels the playing field and paves the way for commerce companies to shape their future. This is especially crucial for eCommerce companies in Asia-Pacific where the market is expected to grow to more than US$3 trillion by 2021,” said Huang Hanming, “We have developed Criteo Commerce Marketing Ecosystem to unleash the value of collaboration and the power of data to all who participate.”
As consumer video consumption continues to grow, Criteo’s clients can now use video to relevantly re-engage shoppers without production time, resources, or costs. Video is delivered in a non-intrusive manner to provide a seamless browsing experience – in app, in feed or on a website. Criteo’s video capability also allows marketers to take advantage of video ads on a cost-per-click basis.
“Understanding consumer purchasing behavior is challenging for retailers given that shoppers are on more platforms than ever before, with collected data being difficult to integrate and analyse, at scale,” said Alban Villani, General Manager, Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan, Criteo. “To help retailers and brands overcome this challenge, Criteo Audience Match and Criteo Kinetic Design with Video, as part of a robust suite of commerce marketing technologies, will support the full shopper journey, enabling brands to create relevant and engaging experiences for customers online and offline.”
According to a recent Razorfish digital marketing report, Asian Marketers must be more innovative and forward-thinking than their western counterparts, to meet the technology-driven expectations of consumers in our region. Asian consumers are not only reporting higher ownership and usage of technology, they also hold higher expectations of brands and technology overall.
We talk to Joanna Kalenska, Managing Director at Razorfish Hong Kong, about Asian consumers, brands’ challenges and opportunities.
DIA: Hi Joanna, how are you?
JK: Doing fantastic, thanks.
DIA: So we’ll leap right in there. Marketers are underestimating the digital divide between Millennials and Gen Xers. How do you think this applies in Asia? Can we even say that Gen X exists in Asia?
JK: What’s fascinating about this region is the fact that when it comes to technology the differences between the generations are minimal. And this came as a clear finding during our global research report Digital Dopamine. It seems that enthusiasm towards technology is age independent in markets like the US or UK, where the differences are more prominent. But not in China for example, where despite a relatively low internet penetration people are more savvy and demanding when it comes to their technology expectations. This lack of legacy has allowed Asian markets to leapfrog directly to quite advance digital behaviors.
Also, culturally, in China, peer-to-peer purchases are part of everyday life, and so social commerce has become a widely accepted, very normal practice. And it is this that has also led to less of a gap between Gen X & Y in China, in so far as digital usage is concerned. Generation X in the West, has had to learn to trust new platforms from the start, compared to Generation Y, who grew up with this practice.
DIA: Brands need to focus more on being useful than on being interesting. Can you talk about how this applies to Asian markets? In markets where a lot of basic infrastructure is missing, do you think brands have more of a role to play?
JK: Absolutely, and precisely for that reason. To win, brands as a service must deliver meaningful utility / value everyday to stand out from the crowd. Digital Dopamine showed us Asian consumers adopt and embrace technology quickly. Often, quicker than brands are able to implement the correct infrastructure to enable experiences at the expected level. Consumers won’t wait for brands to catch up. This means that at the point where longer-term strategies are already defined, brands need to think in a fresh and innovative way. Tech-savvy consumers are not as much interested in a brand’s reputation as before, their loyalty is determined more by the total satisfaction of the brand’s omni-channel experience. Especially in Asia where there is a lot of noise and a lot of choice.
DIA: Omni-channel customers still encounter a number of friction points as they dip between online and offline platforms in search of cross-channel convenience. Do you see any interesting trends or consumer behaviours emerging specific to Asia to solve this issue?
JK: This remains a big challenge for most brands, and therefore consumers. Considering how long this concept has been on the table it’s quite surprising how slow brands are at adapting. The biggest obstacle for real omni-channel is a single view of the customer, which has been restricted because of legacy systems. Smaller, more agile brands have more chance to succeed but they often lack resources and funds to make a real and noticeable difference. To enable a smooth transition and be able to deliver on an omni-channel promise, businesses need the right data and technology infrastructure. This does not, however, stop brands from moving towards platform integration in smart and simple ways. Each business can deliver a short, medium and long-term solution to surprise and delight their customers, examples include extending catalogues online, order online & collect instore initiatives, pick in store & deliver to home or office, and more.
DIA: While we sometimes focus on the rational benefits of technology, digital interactions affect us on a biological and emotional level. Do you see marketers moving brand budget to digital yet at scale? We often think Asia is especially tech obsessed. Is this a more relevant trend here than anywhere else globally?
JK: Nowhere in the world are people as obsessed with their phones as here in Asia. Mobile first – brands have got to be mobile and social, because social proof makes the decision for the buyer.
Secondly, buying online here is very emotional and seen as gifting yourself, providing a digital rush of sorts.
DIA: What’s the future for agencies in a fast, nimble, social media world?
JK: A never-ending funnel of smart and simple ideas. We rely on clever people – that’s our IP. Being curious, quick, yet diligent and considerate has been keeping Razorfish at the top of the consideration list for our clients.
DIA: Do you think Asia has a talent problem in digital marketing and media?
JK: I think the talent problem in digital marketing is not only an Asia issue. Experienced marketers have not caught up with the ever-changing technology, and younger generation often believe that being a native user makes them know what’s required. There are very few professionals who can think and talk at the brand and business level, being at the same time connected to the target audience and the way they engage and embrace technology.
We also live in the time where everything is instant and there seem to be less time for understanding market, product or target audience context. I don’t think WHY is considered before the HOW is agreed. But this takes confidence and experience. In a world where people change jobs every 18 months, there is very little know-how building and seeing the results of your decisions or recommendations – both on the agency and the brand side.
DIA: Is advertising all about the algorithm now? Do you see data and automation emerging as serious trends in your markets?
JK: Yes and No. It can never just be about the algorithm. Real time marketing does require a deeper understanding of the audience and uses programmatic targeting and retargeting to reach them in context, when and where our message is useful. But it also requires smart human truth creative in order to be really effective.
The big problem we have in Asia is a real lack of data-led insights, because firstly, companies have never needed to collect data, they had it very easy until now, and secondly, if they have data, they are very reluctant to share it, because it might give away a competitive advantage. This will change in time once a few players have realized how great data-led insights and briefs can drive transformational execution.
DIA: We see a lot of hype around mobile, but is it really a channel to be taken seriously yet?
JK: Is this a trick question?!
DIA: Not a trick question! We are interested in both the buzz and the reality on the ground. How much attention are your clients putting towards mobile?
JK: Mobile as a content provider, mobile as a device, most of us can’t imagine life without or another channel to push advertising onto. We are asking about rational benefits but aren’t we past that, mobile is affecting us on a biological and emotional level. You can read about these effects in our report, Digital Dopamine. Digital Dopamine points out 87% of Chinese consumers report often feeling dependent on technology, that’s a pretty extreme demonstration of its importance.
Mobile-Mad is Asia, even more than the Middle East. Asian consumers are way ahead of brands in terms of how and what they use their mobiles for. Brands think that a mobile enabled site is enough, well it’s not nearly enough. Content has to be rethought to fit the smartphone screen in its entirety, and still too many clients are thinking about big screen content, which ends up looking ridiculous on the small screen. What’s worse, it doesn’t deliver the value consumers are looking for.
DIA: Oreo famously made a splash during the Super Bowl with a clever tweet during the blackout. Does something like that move the needle, or is it just something we talk about for a tiny cycle and then forget?
JK: I don’t think it’s always about moving a needle. Sometimes it’s about quick, fresh and clever thinking. Oreo did exactly that, clever thought using a popular platform. There was nothing groundbreaking about it, but it was spot on, real time marketing. So few brands are ready for it.
DIA: If you could choose between working in the sleek tech-driven world of modern advertising, or the days of Don Draper and Mad Men, what would you do?
JK: Without a doubt in the sleek tech driven word. I think the task is much more interesting and challenging on many levels. We are being challenged every day, by new technologies, by changes to legislations, new platforms, hardware software, we have to be engaged and interested or we will fall behind very quickly. 15 years ago it was easy to be an expert in a particular field. It took ages before anything changed so you could gain deep experience. We now need to be experts in a new area every day, that’s not easy and it takes a lot of intellectual openness and fresh thinking. Having said that, the creativity and courage of Mad Men mixed with the curiosity and connection of digital would be perfect.
DIA: Thank you for a hugely interesting discussion. Looking forward to chatting again soon.
The latest MasterCard Mobile Shopping Survey covering Asia Pacific finds consumers embracing the convenience of mobile shopping. Almost half of consumers – around 45% in total – made a purchase using their smartphone in the three months preceding the survey.
Exactly 50% of respondents across Asia Pacific cited convenience as the most compelling reason for shopping on their smartphone. Other motivating factors include the ability to shop on the go and the growing availability of apps that make it easy to shop online.
Fig 1: % consumers who have made a purchase using a smartphone
In addition to using their mobile phones to make purchases, shoppers in the region are also using it to compare prices between physical and online stores. Close to half (45%) of respondents have conducted price comparisons, with a similar proportion (44%) also stating that they have conducted research online prior to making a purchase in-store.
Overall, consumers from China (70%), India (63%) and Taiwan (62%) are the most likely to shop using their smartphones with the most popular mobile shopping purchases amongst Asia Pacific shoppers include clothing and accessories (27%), followed by apps (21%) and daily deal coupons (19%).
Asia Pacific consumers are also adopting new mobile technologies, with 28% of respondents saying that they use mobile banking apps. Group buying apps (40%) and digital wallets (28%) are the most popular amongst Chinese consumers.
Increased smartphone ownership is clearly having a massive impact on the way people across Asia Pacific shop and spend. Brands and online shopping portals need to continue to develop easy and simple ways to browse and pay, as convenience remains paramount to consumers whether they are shopping on their phones or in-store.