Digital identity in the future looks very different to how we understand it right now. And that change will be driven not by privacy regulations, or the death of the cookie, but by the rise of the Internet of Things (IOT).
The idea of one or two personal devices giving us access to individual consumers will disappear, to be replaced with a range of potential devices – from mobile to voice-activated speakers to connected TV to fridges.
Across those devices a range of different digital identities will exist – some individual (like now), some family/household, some work/B2B, and some more generic.
It’s a paradigm shift – and it’s why the idea the cookie is crumbling as the web shuts down consumer tracking, isn’t actually that big a deal. The medium-to-long term view of how we deliver and measure marketing in an increasingly automated and digital world looks very different, whatever happens to cookie based targeting right now.
Digitalization of Asia’s commerce brings choice to consumers and opportunity to businesses. It also provides the region’s societies with a path to greater economic growth and prosperity. Better government and business support of the digital economy is needed though, to fully reap these benefits. Greater public and private sector collaborations are also key to unlocking digitalization’s full potential.
While it can appear that the surge of digitalization in Asia – driven by better digital infrastructure, deepening internet and mobile penetration, and rapidly increasing discretionary incomes – is already successfully driving market growth and development, there is tremendous untapped potential ahead. According to Bain & Company, the digital economy contributes just 7 per cent of GDP in ASEAN and 16 per cent in China (as compared to 35 per cent in the US) and stronger digital foundations could contribute an additional $1 trillion to the GDP of ASEAN alone.
To open new markets, the millions who are still excluded from digital marketplaces – particularly the elderly and the poor – must be addressed. Factors such as lack of access to the internet and training and education have left millions unable to participate in this digital market revolution.
Further, according to a recent Economist Intelligence Unit report commissioned by Mastercard, the digital age divide and the digital income divide have meant that the societal gains from today’s digitalization have already been unequal. In each of the region’s economies, a greater share of those under the age of 35 has used the internet to make an online purchase or bill payment than those over 55. There’s a similarly wide gulf between the rich and poor.
Differences in regulations and the level of digital infrastructure across the region compound the issue and hinder Asia’s ability to fully reap the benefits of the digital economy.
To successfully include all of Asia’s populations in the digital marketplace, it is imperative that people have the ability to acquire the necessary technological and financial skills, and governments ramp up investment and infrastructure.
However, this can’t be left to the region’s governments alone. For one, many governments don’t have the financial resources to allocate adequately to digitalization. Two, several simply don’t have the bandwidth to look beyond other more basic problems.
This provides an opportunity for the private sector to step up and fill the void. Whether through partnering with regulators and policymakers to shape the regulatory agenda around what is still a relatively nascent industry, investing in people and businesses so they can leverage digitalisation, or helping bring digital infrastructure and services to those left behind, the private sector must play a more active role.
At Mastercard, we are partnering with fintechs as they take digitalization to the remotest parts of Asia’s economy, resulting in both digital and financial inclusion. Through our global accelerator programme Start Path Global, we support start-ups by providing mentoring, giving them access to our global ecosystem and helping them break into new markets with the help of our relationships and customer base.
We’ve also recognized the need for greater public-private collaboration. For example, in September last year, Mastercard’s Track, a global trade platform, was integrated with Singapore’s Networked Trade Platform in an initiative led by Singapore Customs and the Government Technology Agency of Singapore. This digital trade platform facilitates secure and efficient electronic transactions and payment reconciliation between buyers and suppliers, greatly streamlining and simplifying B2B transactions to facilitate more inter-regional trade.
While there is no one template for these partnerships, a number of similar ways can be found for companies to work closely with policymakers in offering digital solutions and enhancing digital skills. Governments, for their part, can also further support Asia’s digitalization by harmonizing regional regulations with the aim of supporting the creation of seamless, interoperable platforms with uniform governance across countries.
Ultimately, only a rising tide of collective regional effort that includes a combination of greater cross-border collaboration and increased financial and digital inclusion will unlock the full potential of Asia’s digitalization. It will also help create a digital economy that benefits all.
In conjunction with its 7th birthday celebrations the company announced a series of products and services aimed at helping brands and sellers, both small and large, to win market share in the region by transforming them into ‘Super eBusinesses’.
The offerings are aimed at resolving three pain points that brands and sellers face – branding, marketing and sales.
“No seller is too small to aspire, and no brand is too big to be a ‘Super eBusiness’. That is why we are thrilled to roll out super-solutions to help our brands and sellers become more nimble in digitising their businesses, and better reach customers,” said Pierre Poignant, Lazada Group Chief Executive Officer at the inaugural LazMall Brands Future Forum (BFF).
The new solutions include:
A series of ‘Super’ campaigns in which LazMall brands and sellers can choose to take part to boost their brand image and better engage with customers
A new and improved Marketing Solutions Package and Business Advisor Dashboard that can deliver more traffic to their storefronts, and arm brands and sellers with near real-time information to help them make faster and better decisions to sell more effectively and efficiently
New tech tools like Store Builder for brands and sellers to customise their storefronts to differentiate themselves on Lazada, while in-app live streaming, news feed and in-app consumer games can help win the hearts of consumers with higher consumer engagement
At the same time, Lazada has also formalised online retail partnerships with 12 leading global lifestyle, technology and fashion companies, including electronics leaders Huawei, Realme and Coocaa. These collaborations will enable brands to tap on Lazada’s industry-leading tech and logistics infrastructure, innovation and eCommerce expertise. Other brands that are set to join will include several of the world’s biggest FMCG companies.
Backed by Alibaba’s technology and logistics infrastructure, Lazada has been able to launch over the past year a series of industry-leading tech innovations like search-image function, consumer engagement games and in-app live streaming to become the region’s only ‘shoppertainment’ platform on which people can watch, shop and play.
Accelerating the growth of Lazada brands and sellers
The new solutions will also make it easier for brands and sellers to open up stores on LazMall. Qualified merchants can now take advantage of the new self-sign up feature, a simplified sign-up process that can now be completed in mere minutes. This is in line with the Lazada’s goal of enabling SMEs to become globally competitive.
“Since the launch of LazMall in 2018, we have seen tremendous growth among our key pioneer brand partners. We want to extend the benefits of LazMall to even more brands and sellers to elevate their eCommerce operations,” said Lazada Group President Jing Yin. “We want to incubate them so they can grow alongside us and become sustainable and successful eBusinesses.”
Across the region, 60 per cent of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are keen to invest in technologies to achieve sustainable growth in today’s digital economy. Business-oriented tools including online commerce solutions, customer relationship management (CRM) and business intelligence, have been identified by Lazada as the top investment priorities.
Driving ‘Shoppertainment’ in Southeast Asia
Pushing boundaries in eCommerce in Southeast Asia, Lazada is driving ‘shoppertainment’ to provide shoppers with a fun, interactive and entertaining experience. As part of its 7th birthday celebrations, Lazada is hosting a first-of-its-kind concert, Super Party, in Jakarta on March 26.
The concert, which features a star-studded lineup including British pop star Dua Lipa, culminates with Lazada’s birthday shopping event on March 27. The one-day sale promises a new online shopping experience that includes a new selection of exciting games for redeeming vouchers and attractive deals for consumers in the region.
What are the biggest changes you have seen in digital technology across APAC over the past 10 years?
There is greater customer demand for first-rate user experiences compared to a decade ago. Brands have to evolve their strategies to keep up with the customer, providing seamless interactions and a consistent experience across a wide range of platforms. This is resulting in marketers shifting their focus from the transaction to the experience, where the customer and their lifetime engagement with the brand are at the centre of every marketing strategy.
From a technological viewpoint, this customer-centric focus requires marketers to bring together the vast number of digital solutions used to optimize the customer journey over the last few years into a more manageable stack. It is also leading to an increased focus on granular first-party data to help understand the customer and their needs through detailed profiles. Where brands may once have acted on instinct, or what they felt was right, they now use data to ensure they are making the best decisions.
How has regulation such as GDPR impacted businesses in APAC and their ability to manage and use consumer data?
GDPR covers any organization that handles the data of EU citizens — and in today’s global economy, this means it impacts most companies; including those in APAC. Yet attitudes towards the regulation remain mixed. On the one hand, there is an appreciation that complying with the new rules brings many advantages: by giving individuals power over data and more visibility into usage, the GDPR can reduce privacy concerns, increase trust, and build lasting customer relationships. But on the other, following legislation that goes beyond regional law is difficult. Ahead of enforcement, more than half of firms in Singapore weren’t ready and one month later, only a quarter of Japanese companies had met fundamental rules.
Businesses must keep working towards compliance and recognize that the GDPR doesn’t necessarily require a total internal overhaul – a common misconception. Companies will often find they can make existing systems adherent by connecting them, instead of replacing them.
What can businesses do to better leverage the explosion of customer data we’ve seen as a result of the digital age?
In short, it means putting the data created by greater connectivity into action. As adoption of smartphones, tablets and wearable technology has grown — with 8.6 billion devices set to be in use across Asia by 2020 — the quantity of data produced by consumers has exploded. So, brands now have a larger pool of transactional, demographic, and behavioural information to draw upon than ever. But before they can harness this data as a basis for tailoring customer experiences, companies need to translate it into cohesive and usable insight. And this is no simple task; in fact, 34% of marketers state that the difficulty of unifying data sources is the greatest barrier to better understanding customer journeys.
The evolution from brands talking about DMPs to CDPs as their primary consumer data tool has been very apparent over the past few years in marketing. What’s the difference between these platforms from your perspective?
The answer to this lies in the history of both tools. DMPs were originally designed to gather information about online activity, categorize it and build audience segments, which then fed into other systems such as DSPs. As the complexity of consumer journeys increased, DMPs tried to meet the need for a persistent view of individuals. But because they were only able to store third-party cookies, it was difficult to effectively resolve the many identifiers created by different channels and devices. And this is where CDPs come in. CDPs can collate, synchronize, and activate data from varied sources: generating one centralized store of insight marketers can use to understand and trace individuals across touchpoints. This results in the capability to take consistent and relevant action in real time across an organization’s entire tech stack from a universal data foundation.
This isn’t, however, to say CDPs supersede DMPs; the two can be effective when used in partnership. For example, a CDP can give marketers a ‘single source of truth’ and a complete picture of customer journeys. This insight can then be shared with DMPs to produce better audience segments that ultimately boost ad targeting precision and results.
What can brands do to get closer to the holy grail of a true 360-degree view of their customers in real time?
If brands want to obtain a real-time 360-degree customer view, they must ensure data is well orchestrated. And this means following several core stages that aim to continuously harmonize data. To start, customer interaction data must be collected from every possible source — such as apps, sites, and stores — combined into a single layer, standardized, and cleansed. Simultaneously, this information should also be stitched and enriched; with smart tools used to assess incoming data and transform it into individual profiles that are linked with data from particular devices, once owners are identified.
Because all of this is done in real time, the end product is a complete up-to-date customer profile. Exactly the insight marketers need to understand customers and deliver engaging experiences across channels. Though it’s worth noting that to accommodate ever-evolving individual preferences and habits, they must also check that their orchestration platform integrates with other systems and constantly ingests new data.
How are AI and machine learning changing the way brands engage with their customers?
AI and subsets such as machine learning are already beginning to broaden the horizons of customer interaction by adding new channels to the mix. The best-known examples of this are chatbots — used to provide instant 24/7 services by major brands from Starbucks to MasterCard — and the growing presence of digital tools in physical stores. As recently seenwith the Guess and AlibabaFashionAIstore, which trialled blending real shopping and a range of intelligent tech; facial recognition, smart touchscreen mirrors, RFID-tagged items.
But it’s also important to highlight the applications that are making a sizeable difference to customer experience behind the scenes. Machine learning, in particular, is fuelling advances in data processing; giving brands the means to collect and analyze customer information at scale, and extract valuable insight. This in turn, means data can be quickly harnessed toimprove interactions by enhancing contextual relevance and personal resonance. So long as marketers are taking adequate measures to keep quality and accuracy high, including avoiding bias among the human teams driving AI and data fragmentation.
What are the biggest challenges you see with brands getting to grips with big data in APAC?
One of the most significant challenges is providing communications that keep pace with omnichannel activity. According to a Google study, the majority of APAC consumers prefer to research online and buy in store; with 70% doing so while browsing real shelves. But activity varies by market; Australia and Japan, for example, have large numbers of digital shoppers – especially Japan, where e-commerce revenue is currently more than $80 million.
So, there is no room for archetypes; marketers need all-inclusive insight into the behaviour of specific target audiences. Only by identifying which devices, shopping environments, and ad types work best for individuals can they provide personalized experiences that flow as part of a seamless cross-channel conversation. And that necessitates agile integrated tech, which can be problematic in certain markets that have historically relied on legacy systems. Despite its forward-looking approach to mobile, Japan still tends to use CRM databases that don’t necessarily have the capacity to work with other systems and therefore can’t share data easily.
Finally, how can brands intelligently pull all their data together to build a better, more personalised and more holistic customer experience for 2019 and beyond?
The role intelligent data plays in customer experience will continue to grow as more brands recognize the value of building communications around individuals. Forrester research has shown brands focused on customer experience achieve an annual growth rate of 23% and twice as much return on ad spend — and data is an integral element of this.
But to get every interaction right, brands mustn’t overlook the basics. Constructing a strong foundation of compliant, accurate, objective and perfectly orchestrated data is critical for communications to make a positive impact.
Digital transformation is expected to have the single biggest impact on Malaysia’s economy in the near future, contributing at least 20% to the country’s GDP by 2020. But what does this mean for Malaysia’s telecom industry – and its consumers?
Thanks to the government’s sustained investment in telecommunications infrastructure over the last 20 years, Malaysians are now more connected than ever – through social media networks, mobile and other digital services – with broadband penetration approaching 90%, according to the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC). The telecommunications industry has been the biggest beneficiary of this investment. Today, Axiata Group, Malaysia’s largest telecommunications company, has over 350 million subscribers across multiple Asian countries.
On the other hand, growth in connectivity has also spurred an increase in cyber attacks. While Malaysia ranks 3rd in the 2017 Global Cybersecurity Index (GCI), a Microsoftsurvey estimates that economic costs to the Malaysian economy due to cyber attacks can reach as high as US$12.2 billion.
A common target for cyber-criminals is the Domain Name System (DNS)– a first line of protection for a company’s network. Businesses that are targeted face the prospects of lost revenue as well as reputational damage due to breaches of customer trust. The consequences are perhaps most damaging for the telecom industry; EfficientIP’s 2018 DNS Threat Reportfound that the telecom industry had the most sensitive customer information stolen across all sectors from DNS attacks, with nearly a third of companies in Asia-Pacific becoming victims of data theft.
Following DNS attacks, Malaysian political party websites went down on the day of last year’s general election. In response, Malaysia’s National Cyber Security Agency (NACSA) issued an advisory to all government and private organizations that improving their network security is critically important in safeguarding the continued growth of the digital economy. At around the same time, the Malaysian Digital Economy Corporation partnered with the Axiata Group to develop greater capabilities for Malaysia’s cybersecurity industry.
While EfficientIP’s reportfound that the rate of DNS attacks is steadily on the rise, the news isn’t all bleak – many telecom companies already monitor and analyze DNS traffic in real time to detect data exfiltration attempts. Businesses can further improve their cybersecurity capabilities by adopting simple measures such as optimizing IT infrastructures with high-performance DNS servers and decentralizing the DNS architecture. These measures build resiliency to withstand attacks and more often than not, also improve the user experience.
At this critical juncture point in Malaysia’s development, the telecom industry has a critical role to play in ensuring the continuity and success of the nation’s digital transformation. The challenges being faced are high and the stakes are even higher – but such challenges can be overcome and safeguarded with a holistic approach to cybersecurity, starting with DNS.
With the continued explosion of data from a wealth of connected devices, there is more focus than ever on the way companies collect, manage, and use their data. The last 12 months have seen some big names under the spotlight, but as we shift our attention to the year ahead, what lies in store for digital marketers?
There’s no denying, 2018 was probably one of the most significant years to date in terms of shaping the data landscape. In a year where more than 3.6million Asian Facebook users may have had personal information inappropriately shared with Cambridge Analytica, data has never been more prominent in the headlines.
And data isn’t set to fade into the background any time soon. Rightly, the world has woken up to the importance of data in our everyday lives and, for companies, the ability to mobilise insights from data to drive decisions across all areas of the business is firmly on the radar.
So, amid the introduction of stronger legislation and increasing opportunity – and responsibility – to harness the power of data, plus the potential lure of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, what will the data landscape look like in 2019?
Customer-centricity is priority
In light of new privacy regulations – led by the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) launched in May 2018 – there’s been greater awareness from consumers regarding the use of their personal data. In a world where technology has fuelled rapid advances in all areas of life – from e-commerce to financial services – legislation has been somewhat slower to keep up.
But, thanks to high-profile breaches and changing laws, we’re transitioning to an era where the importance of personal data is much higher on the agenda. In turn, this is forcing companies to ensure they have a customer-centric strategy in place, which clearly places the user’s experience at the heart of all business decisions, with the power back in the hands of the individual.
Build a data foundation first
It’s tempting for companies to get caught up in an exciting digital future – we have already seen AI adoption rates across Southeast Asia grow from 8% in 2017 to 14% in 2018. And while some countries, like Singapore, are storming ahead in terms of innovations – with start-up companies such as CashShield creating noise on a global scale – the picture varies from country-to-country. Most are still working to get the data basics in place first; after all, even the most advanced of machine-learning algorithms are only as good as the data that fuels them. So, it follows that companies must concentrate on building a strong data foundation before implementing any ‘must-have’ technologies.
Many businesses throughout Southeast Asia are still facing challenges with relying on legacy back-end systems, and their priorities at the moment are focused on connecting disparate data silos. In 2018 we saw the premise of Customer Data Platforms gather pace, as companies switched on to the need for a tool to help them collate, enrich, and manage the high volume of event-level data across multiple channels – both online and offline – to create a comprehensive view of the consumer. Putting these building blocks in place is fundamental to delivering a first-class customer experience, and it’s the point from which every other business decision should pivot.
Now is the time to talk about ethics
And what about the appeal of AI, with initiatives such as facial recognition, voice-activated search, and online chatbots? There’s no denying its potential and – while companies ready their datasets with clean and accurate data to get to a point where they can successfully adopt these technologies – now is the time to talk about the guidelines we need to ensure machine learning algorithms are unbiased and ethical – rather than waiting until mistakes have been made. It’s our responsibility, as an industry, to get this right.
We have already seen the creation of theSingapore Advisory Council on the Ethical Use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Data, set up with representatives from Google, Microsoft and Alibaba – designed to develop a trusted and vibrant AI ecosystem in Singapore. And with India releasing an AI strategy discussion paper, the UK creating a Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation, and worldwide issues being monitored through the AI Global Governance Commission, there are signs of a shift across the globe which will continue in 2019.
While this reflects the need for new and updated regulations that are relevant to today’s digital landscape, it also addresses a changing approach from companies about how they view consumers’ data. No longer just an ‘asset’, we are starting to see a real understanding and respect for its true value, with focus returned to the individual – rather than a collective audience segment.
The data landscape in 2019 may follow a theme of regulation – but at its heart will be a strong emphasis on the customer – regardless of what new tech may be dominating the headlines.
The start of 2019 sees digital facing a bright future. Not only are consumers optimistic about smart technology — with 73% in China anticipating a positive impact — but the advertising industry is also flourishing. Digital spend in Asia Pacific hit $70 billion in 2018, and by 2022 that figure will reach $110 billion: over half of the total ad market.
So, what does this mean for 2019?
According to industry leaders, the popularity of automation will see programmatic become the norm, while mobile retains its advertising crown and TV becomes increasingly entwined with digital. At the same time, marketers will also start to realise that effectively mastering artificial intelligence (AI) takes more than simply tech know-how.
Let’s explore the key trends:
Rashmi Paul, Commercial Director, Asia Pacific at FreeWheel
“While the adoption of automation has been slower in South East Asia than in other regions, advertisers – in their quest for qualified and measurable audiences – are making it the driver of change in 2019 and beyond. We’ll see less media buying through a site-list or a programme-list only, but a deeper commitment to automated content, not just in standard display and video advertising, but in other areas such as outdoor media.
“With people in the region owning two to three mobiles each on average, the mobile app market will continue to grow in 2019, thanks in part to the popularity of gaming and social media. But we will also see an increase in the OTT market, which hasn’t taken off in APAC up until now – both in app, and through the TV. This will be helped by improving internet strength, making it easier to watch content on the move.”
“One of the best things about pioneers is that they blaze a trail for others to follow. China, for example, has so far led the mobile market: aggressively investing in m-commerce apps and testing new features. It is also thebiggest driver of global digital advertising spend in Asia Pacific. But due to the groundwork put in by China, there is now a booming mobile economy and programmatic advertising scene for its neighbours to leverage.
“In 2019, we can expect an influx of new players in automated mobile advertising and app development. And these market entrants will have many advantages. In addition to gaining insight from this mobile advertising evolution – such as the formats that drive high engagement, like interactive ads, and those that inspire use of blockers, like interstitials, they will have an understanding of what works well in their region. This might include offering lower app prices in particular areas and the option to pay via carrier billing. The time is coming for new innovators who have watched mobile advances from the sidelines to put their knowledge into action.”
Satoru Yamauchi, Director of Partner Services, OpenX
“Video already dominates Japan’s digital advertising landscape, with spend set to top $200 million this year. Moving into the new year, video will command even more advertising dollars especially on mobile, where consumers are increasingly spending more of their time. The number of smartphone video viewers will grow to nearly 40 million in 2019 and advertisers looking to reach these audiences will need to build campaigns with a mobile specific user experience in mind. Formats that interrupt user activity or delay content access are likely to irritate consumers and fuel negative brand associations. This is especially true in the mobile context, where large ads block content on small screens, slow down load times and eat into data allowances. To ensure a positive user experience, advertisers should harness engaging ads that give consumers a choice about how much they wish to interact with brands, such as opt-in video, which provides a genuine value exchange between advertisers and consumers.”
“With a growing emphasis on connected devices, and the subsequent explosion of data, in 2019, there will be even more demand on companies to manage an increasing amount of insights. While in 2018, businesses were keen to harness artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, they didn’t necessarily fully understand it enough to utilise it to its full potential. In 2019 we will see a greater focus on the quality of datasets behind the algorithms – which fuel tools such as these – and businesses will look to build a strong data foundation before jumping on the latest tech bandwagon. We think a mantra of ‘go boldly, tread lightly’ will be particularly relevant to many companies. They will need to put in place the tools to effectively collate, manage, and enrich data insights – and be able to connect disparate data silos, such as ecommerce, call centre, and legacy back-end systems to create a 360-degree view of each customer.
“In addition to this, we will see changes to roles within the workforce to better understand technologies such as AI and to cope with the increased focus on data as the basis for business decisions. Already, the World Economic Forum suggests the leading job roles over the next five years will include data analysts and scientists and there will be a focus on training new talent. There is evidence of this taking force with Asia’s investment in education and the digital economy, which will ensure employees are better equipped to manage emerging technologies like AI.”
With industry innovators poised to drive market diversity, efficiency, and expansion across Asia Pacific, the outlook for 2019 looks promising. Existing forces such as mobile and video will gain greater strength, and emerging developments in connected TV will bridge the gap between online and offline. As long as quality remains the foundation of progress — covering user experience and data — digital advertising will continue to offer equal value for all.
56% of Singaporean businesses believe their IT environments are more or significantly more complex than two years ago.
95% of employees are using non-business approved applications to get work done.
42% of Singaporean businesses report using over 100 cloud and on-premise business applications.
93% of Singaporean businesses believe that their organization is missing out on the full benefits of analytics due to the complex and disperse nature of their data and applications.
86% of Singaporean businesses are already adopting cloud technology, higher than the regional average
85% of Singaporean businesses are concerned that they would not be able to respond to a data breach required by law (such as GDPR). Of those concerned, the top reasons include:
48% due to data located in different systems and applications
37% due to time concerns
34% due to a drain on resources
Overlapping systems, applications, and new and old infrastructure cost time, money, and affects innovation. The rise in complexity felt by Singapore’s organizations is holding back digital transformation efforts and restricting cloud adoption.
Full studies below.
The State of IT Complexity in Asia-Pacific and Japan [PDF]
This past summer, Japan made a legislative manoeuvre that went surprisingly under the radar, particularly given a bright spotlight on the country’s innovations ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The country legalized casino gaming, with the first resorts expected in the mid-‘20s and a whole new genre of entertainment suddenly open for business.
Those who keep close tabs on Japanese politics likely weren’t surprised by the move, as it had actually been approved by the body known as the House of Councillors some months previously. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had also voiced support for the process of legalizing casino gaming both as a means of improving tourism beyond the Tokyo area (which does just fine on its own) and with the aim of stimulating the national economy. Anyone familiar with casino resort tourism around the world undoubtedly recognizes that this is a legitimate goal. Existing casino resort hubs around East and Southeast Asia already do quite well on this front, with Macau reporting 21.9 billion patacas in revenue in the month of September alone (roughly $2.7 billion, for reference). And that’s in a year of recovery following a slight downturn in Macau casino business.
What will be interesting to see is whether or not Japan’s new foray into casino entertainment extends to the digital realm. We don’t know yet exactly how all-encompassing the gambling legislation will be, but it appears that online casino growth will be encouraged, or at least welcomed. And here, we’d be talking about a far bigger business than many people who don’t engage directly with it may imagine. Most are aware that there are massive poker tournaments online, and that slot machines can be played in arcade form. However, there are also other table games in digital form, such as roulette, blackjack, and baccarat, that have become very popular at gaming sites. There are brand new sites emerging for bingo as well, not to mention betting platforms that are closely tied to online casinos. The point is, we’re not merely talking about a few poker sites, but rather a whole industry of real money gaming.
This is an industry that ropes in billions and billions of dollars on an annual basis, and whether Japan simply welcomes existing gaming platforms or spawns the design of new ones, it will seemingly be a new contributor in this market. It’s a massive boost in digital entertainment, and possibly a massive business opportunity as well.
The OnTheList flash sale platform fills a crucial gap in the Asian retail industry. By serving as a third-party vendor of members-only flash sales, it not only offers brands an environmentally friendly way to get rid of past-season stock, it also gives brands access to a growing consumer database with a more direct, D2C-style subscription consumer relationship. The two founders of OnTheList, Diego Dultzin Lacoste and Delphine Lefay, talked to Digital in Asia about their online and offline retail platform.
Digital in Asia: How did OnTheList find a niche in the Hong Kong premium retail industry?
Diego & Delphine: Prior to launching OnTheList, we worked in regional and international luxury/premium retail brands in Europe and in Hong Kong. With such a fast moving industry led by seasonal trends, there is often a lot of past-season stock occupying valuable warehouse space with few options to get rid of them. For many brands in Hong Kong, the only options available were either burning or burying the stock – both of which are not environmentally sustainable options.
That was when we saw an opportunity to launch an independent, third-party platform that would work directly with such brands to host flash sales and give life to old inventory that would have otherwise been destroyed. While this has been a concept well established and received in fashion capitals across Europe, we found that there was no such option in Hong Kong. OnTheList was the first of its kind in Asia. We have since held over 150 flash sales in partnership with over 250 premium brands in Hong Kong.
The “secret” here we believe, is our approach. Through the flash sales we host, we are able to offer consumers access to premium products at attractive prices, and brands the opportunity to clear past-season items and connect with new customers. While our sales are members-only, membership is free for sign up. Additionally, we cater to current consumer habits and preferences – opening sales from 8am to 8pm, making it convenient for shoppers popping in before work.
We also bucked the trend of going digital first – we started with an offline channel as we have always believed that physical presence creates a sense of desire for purchase – our physical flash sales are held over a short time frame of usually just four days, with stock replenished daily and sale mechanics changing. We have since extended our reach online for sales in Hong Kong, but our entrance into the Singapore market will similarly begin with sales happening in physical spaces as a priority.
DIA: Why is now the right time for expansion across Asia?
D&D: In the past two years since the inception of OnTheList, we have worked with a variety of brands, from fashion and cosmetics to wine and lifestyle, from mid-range to luxury. We have also kicked off our online platform. While our flash sales platform is well-grounded in Hong Kong, our regional brand partners are always asking for our services in neighbouring countries where there are few options to dispose of old inventory. With that, we decided it was definitely worthwhile exploring options in Asia.
Singapore was our first country in mind due to similar customer shopping behaviour and general lifestyle similarities. This coupled with Singapore’s strong economy and economic policies, makes it a great country for our first step overseas.
DIA: How are consumer retail habits across Asia changing? Any differences to the West?
D&D: There has definitely been a shift in consumer premium retail habits. Many studies state that millennials are proving to be the strongest demographic segment spending on luxury – brands must cater to this change and understand millennial shopping behaviour both in-store and online. While millennials enjoy finer products, they are also a price sensitive demographic and brand loyalty is not as easy to maintain as it was once before. In recent years, both retailers in Asia and Europe have enjoyed huge profits accelerated by Chinese shoppers, whilst Western counterparts who enjoy the luxury as well have a vastly different spending behaviour.
DIA: How do you help minimise the environmental impact of fashion retail?
D&D: On average, 217,000 kg of textiles would be sent to landfills daily in Hong Kong. Through flash sales, brands are able to dispose of old inventory in a more sustainable form as the old stock would not go to waste and brands would still receive some returns on the unwanted inventory. In the past two years, we assisted over 250 brands, across premium fashion, homeware, and cosmetics, in holding over a hundred flash sales and selling over a million items that would have otherwise gone to waste. For items that remain after our flash sales, we always encourage the brand to donate them to charity and continue to help people in need worldwide.