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Global Perspective - News Worth Sharing

  • Financial inclusion is among the worthiest of goals when it comes to economics, finance and payments. But making the leap from hope to reality means hurdles must be cleared with deliberation and attention to detail.

    In a wide-ranging conversation between PYMNTS’ Karen Webster and MoneyGram EVP Grant Lines, who’s responsible for regions as diverse as Africa, Russia and Asia-Pacific, among others, both noted that gains in financial inclusion have been broad and deep, and more progress must be forthcoming.

    Lines said that, for access to financial services in the parts of the world he looks after, style and distribution remain important. In the case of MoneyGram, with increasing global presence, “in many cases, we’ve entered those markets five to 10 years behind our largest competitor,” and the company has managed to gain low-single-digit market shares in several regions, with an eye on method and cultural fit taken case by case. Technology is still important and so is competitive pricing — “and technology is starting to influence the way that people have access to financial inclusion. For many people,” Lines continued, “this is their first touchpoint [to financial inclusion].”

    He offered up China as an example, where financial inclusion had been marked in large cities such as Shanghai and Beijing but has more recently also spread to smaller villages. 

    Webster noted that different countries — ranging from Africa to Russia to Indonesia — “are very different in terms of personalities” when it comes to payments and financial inclusion. Lines agreed, stating that some considerations include the availability of infrastructure in each market. In some cases, bank branches are the main option for access to financial services, and in other cases, banks are there for account holders. But microfinance or other financial conduits are available as well.

    “Markets tend to be flexible,” he said, and they also adapt across distribution landscapes.

    One of the key levers to financial inclusion has been the mobile device, the pair agreed. This can be the on-ramp to digital payments, but cash is still sticky. India represents but one recent and extreme example of just how hard it can be to displace this traditional payment method. 

    The mobile path in some of the countries may materialize as MoneyGram is still building out its global network, said Lines, with technology and distribution opportunities (including mobile) driven by the fact, at a country level, mobile payments and other options need to be balanced with an eye on just what consumers are willing to embrace. 

    “Whether it’s cash or technology,” Lines added, “language is still a very important consideration” between markets as money flows between nations as far-flung, for example, as Saudi Arabia and India. In that isolated instance, remittance activity can be shepherded through a personalized level, as reps working with, for example, QuickPay and MoneyGram, who are fluent or native in a language tied to the sender’s or recipient’s country, can help walk a customer to a physical ATM and conduct activities in those tongues.

    In some places, digital wallet usage is expanding, and Lines stated that, in other places, like South Africa, money movement remains a physical process. In that market, regulation has meant that remittances have been the province of bank branches when it comes time to sending money overseas. But amid deregulation, now, remittances can be done in retail environments (in other words, in retail stores) at the counter. Here, the physical transaction still takes place, but the locations and use cases expand without necessarily spurring people to use their phones.

    Webster noted that there are more compliance boxes for companies to check, as money crosses borders to a growing number of countries, and all happens against a growing threat from cybercriminals. Lines said that one impact has been more countries requiring money transfer operators to operate directly with consumers rather than solely through agents and local merchants, and he also said that the regulatory issues and costs tied to certain countries must be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, as the remittance industry remains “highly fragmented.”

  • by Patrick McCarthy, SVP, marketplace partnerships, AppNexus

    Global marketplaces are hardly a new phenomenon. By circumventing the Silk Road, the long overland trade road that once connected China to the West, European seafarers like Bartolomeu Dias and Vasco da Gama paved a more direct trade route to Asia and its goods. By connecting European buyers with Asian sellers more directly, these voyagers – in effect – were laying ground for a more sustainable marketplace, where supply-chain friction and overland pace of delivery were not obstacles.

    As with yesterday’s explorers, so with today’s internet pioneers. By creating digital marketplaces where buyers and sellers can transact with each other directly, without middlemen or lengthy delivery time, we see history repeating itself in a remarkable way.

    In many ways, the success of digital marketplaces like Spotify, Amazon and Zappos comes down to three governing principles. Successful marketplaces:

    1. Offer lower margins than competing platforms.
    2. Feature greater degrees of transparency – and thereby establish greater levels of consumer trust – than other would-be rivals.
    3. Minimize the supply-chain friction that connects buyers and sellers.

    If marketplaces can manage all these– and offer customers quality inventory from a net effect of vendors that are actually worth buying from – then the sky’s the limit in terms of revenue and growth.

    1.) Lower margins: Spotify

    Take a music-streaming company like Spotify and stack it up against Apple. When Apple rolled out its Apple Music paid-subscription music-streaming service in June of 2015, many in the industry saw the move as a slow deathblow to its Swedish competitor. This prediction seemed justified, especially when Apple Music announced that it had acquired over 15 million new members over the year post-launch.

    What advantage did Spotify have over Apple Music that allowed it to remain a powerful, even dominant, force in the game, continuing to match and even outpace Apple Music’s subscribership? While Apple offers more songs than Spotify, Spotify has a distinct and strategic advantage over Apple Music: Unlike Apple Music, Spotify allows its listeners the choice to stream free, on-demand songs.

    Spotify is able to provide its consumers with such a low take-rate by using streamed, sponsored audio advertising. While Apple has exclusive rights to The Beatles catalogue and Taylor Swift, but Spotify’s got over 100 million users, all of whom listen to sponsored ads.

    2.) Greater transparency: Zappos

    Few online marketplace companies in the world take greater pride in demonstrating transparency to their customers than Zappos, the online shoe retailer (and now a division of Amazon). Zappos’ CEO, Tony Hsieh, has a lot to say about the virtues of corporate transparency. He makes the case that when digital marketplaces wall away their secrets – leaving their vendors and business partners in the dark as to how they operate – they create unnecessary levels of mistrust and brand dissatisfaction.

    Hsieh’s company practices what he preaches: Visitors who opt to take a tour of Zappos headquarters can expect to be treated to exclusive question-and-answer sessions with specific marketing, UX and customer service teams. Zappos’ adventures in radical transparency have paid off handsomely: The company still makes a reliable profit of more than two billion dollars per year. The virtues of radical transparency aren’t necessarily for the faint of heart, but when employed correctly they elevate a company’s reputation above competitors in ways that would make even Warren Buffet proud.

    3.) Minimal Supply-Chain Friction: Amazon

    Few digital marketplaces have reinvented themselves as consistently – and persuasively – as Amazon has. The company began life as an online bookstore, only to mushroom into a data-driven, omnichannel, ecommerce marketplace. But running one of the largest ecommerce businesses on Earth doesn’t come without friction. According to one in-house company report, the total movement of boxes and containers from its warehouses cost Amazon a whopping $11.5 billion in 2015.

    That said, Amazon isn’t one to balk at logistical hurdles. In fact, Amazon has begun to create a fleet of its own cargo aircraft that will pick up and deliver freight from Amazon warehouses directly to cities where that freight’s destined. Not only does this save Amazon a reported $1.1 billion, but it also gives the company greater autonomy over its supply chain, from the moment a customer clicks the “Purchase” button to the minute that package gets delivered.

    While a music streaming console, online shoe retailer, and a dedicated fleet of cargo delivery aircraft might not seem to have much in common with the caravans of the silk road, they are all subject to the same marketplace fundamentals. Now, as it was then, business marketplaces succeed through increased efficiency and transparency, in order to engage and retain consumers on the open internet.

    The post How Spotify, Amazon, and Zappos built successful digital marketplaces appeared first on Digiday.

  • US-based retailer T.J. Maxx is set to open its first Australian store adding to an onslaught of global retailers.
  • Mars Inc. has launched an online store of handmade chocolate sweets in Russia. The sweets will be sold under the popular Russian brand ‘A. Korkunov,’ which Mars Inc. acquired in 2008 as a part of Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company. This brand accounted for 2.6% of the Russian chocolate retail market in 2016, with sales amounting […]
  • Photo credit: Pexels.

    Within the first minute of entering a store, many things could make you decide to leave. You could be annoyed with the layout of the store, unhappy with the inability to find ready help, the dim lighting (or neon lighting, for that matter) within the store, put off by the cleanliness of the store, or just disappointed with the way the store does not feel inviting.

    In short, the initial experience determines if a potential customer will become an actual paying customer.

    In a study by Forrester and Accenture, a slight increase in customer experience (CX) scores can translate into a large increment of revenue. But only seven percent of companies are exceeding customers’ expectations of their digital CX. With digital becoming recognized as a legitimate new tool to improve customer experiences, not investing in digital CX can be dangerous.

    The same study noted a group of CX high performers with different habits worth learning from.

    Let data influence actions

    CX high performers tend to have more sophisticated data and analytics practices, with 43 percent believing that their customer experiences are data driven. With the right digital tools, companies can tap into a wealth of data that help them understand their customer’s needs and behaviours.

    Ecommerce heavyweights like Lazada often have a data science team mine for insights, helping them make decisions about how to enhance, streamline, and personalize the user experience from the browsing stage to the point of purchase. Such optimization will improve the journey, customer experience and obviously overall sales.

    Data plays a critical role in logistics. Efficient management of data determines how quickly and affordably customers can get their products, a significant bulk of a shopper’s ecommerce experience.

    “Customers’ expectations have dramatically risen, and people now expect 24-hour customer service, fast and cheap or free deliveries. It can be hard for ecommerce businesses to meet these time and price demands and stay profitable,” said Chang Wen Lai, CEO at Ninja Van.

    To cope with these stress factors, many players like Ninja Van and Singpost often have a team of specialists dedicated to crafting computer algorithms to make decisions about driver deployments, delivery routes, and time.

    Logistics also play a large role in the success of digital concierge services like Be Malas. Unlike most online stores, concierge services deal with much more uncertainty. To streamline the process, Be Malas keeps a database of partner merchants and past transactions to enable its team to automate decision-making.

    According to Suthenesh Sugumaran, co-founder of Be Malas, big data also helps to anticipate and plan for demand.

    Every time a new request is processed, a database of partner merchants and past transactions is mined to determine which merchants are the best fit, and what is the best delivery time and method to meet customers’ needs. These efforts towards personalization help to improve the overall experience of the shopper.

    Better touchpoint impressions

    Photo credit: Tookapic/Pexels

    It is also important to ensure that the interface of customer touchpoints are optimized to improve experiences. For most ecommerce platforms, the website is the first impression that a shopper has. The website plays a significant role in earning customers’ trust. In a study, 94 percent of respondents directly related their feeling of mistrust towards a site to web design elements.

    Airbnb is a classic example of how presentation can improve a platform’s success. After realizing that user-submitted photos were affecting the effectiveness of the listings, they rented a professional camera and went door to door to take photographs themselves. As a result, they saw an increase in bookings by two to three times and a doubling of Airbnb’s revenue by the end of the month.

    Lazada also recently launched a new landing page reportedly intended to make relevant information more accessible to users.

    For special events, such as the Great Singapore Sale (GSS), Lazada creates a landing page designed specifically for their customers as a differentiated way to manage a unique experience. The GSS page was interactive, mobile optimized, and featured deals and discounts exclusively for Lazada visitors. Lazada also created another dedicated landing page for its year-end sale, Online Revolution 2016.


    Ecommerce, shopping online

    Photo credit: gregorylee / 123RF.

    Traditionally, meeting customer expectations has been in full control of the businesses and the brands. Today, the fluid expectations have evolved to require businesses to meet customers wherever they are and when they are ready. To fulfill this, companies are experimenting with contextual commerce — bringing purchasing opportunities to shopper’s natural environments — and embracing cross-channel customer experiences.

    One great example is TacoBell. TacoBell launched a chatbot on messaging tool Slack to reach out to the working crowd. The tool is still in private beta but gives us a glimpse of how food establishments are experimenting on the web.

    Integrating customer experiences across platforms ensures that the brand can meet and respond to customers’ needs quickly. The rise of chatbots does just that — bringing the business to social apps in a way that is familiar, approachable and interactive.

    Ninja Van adopts this approach by integrating mobile into their delivery process. Failed deliveries can be rescheduled with a two-click process through an SMS system, and their new Ninja Collect system helps customers reroute missed deliveries to a location convenient for them. When customers collect parcels from automated parcel lockers and retail partner stores, they do so with a verification code sent to them through mobile.

    However, research shows that although businesses recognize the need to embrace cross-channel experiences, not everyone understands or takes this change seriously. As many as 99 percent of companies interviewed acknowledge the importance of integrating cross-channel experiences and only 45 percent of businesses are taking actions to improve. In fact, half of the companies surveyed are not even considering customers’ opinions in the process of improving their customer experience.

    Planning for the future

    While improving individual touchpoints will always be important, improving CX in ecommerce should not be conducted as an isolated project.

    “Most customers weren’t fed up with any one phone call, field visit, or other interaction — in fact, they didn’t much care about those singular touchpoints. What reduced satisfaction was something few companies manage — cumulative experiences across multiple touchpoints and in multiple channels over time,” says experts from McKinsey.

    For this reason, it is important for companies to adopt a state of constant flux when it comes to dealing with CX. In truth, only 20 percent of the respondents in the Forrester study believe that digital transformation is an ongoing initiative, while 72 percent expected to be done with their digital transformation in four years or less.

    Customer expectations are evolving as fast as technology, and not incorporating agility and a culture of experimentation can make or break your business. Equally important, make sure you think customer experience ahead of making investments in new technologies.

    Accenture Interactive helps the world’s leading brands delight their customers and drive superior marketing performance across the full multichannel customer experience. As part of Accenture Digital, Accenture Interactive works with over 28,000 Accenture professionals dedicated to serving marketing and digital clients, to offer integrated, industrialized and industry-driven digital transformation and marketing services. Follow @AccentureSocial or visit

    This post Here’s how big companies like Lazada, Ninja Van are tackling customer experience in ecommerce appeared first on Tech in Asia.

  • A tax on commercial properties is set to increase in April, and critics say it’s time for a bigger change that better aligns with the growth in online sales.
  • Following its $3.3 billion acquisition of this past fall, Walmart is looking to expand its offerings beyond its own website to compete with eCommerce giants like Amazon.

    While both companies will remain separate entities and will continue to operate as such, a Walmart spokesperson has confirmed that its everyday brands, including Great Value, Equate and Sam’s Choice, will soon begin to appear on Jet’s website. Both companies will also continue to target different shoppers, including Walmart’s price-conscious shoppers and Jet’s upscale city dwellers.

    Why is Walmart making the move now to branch out with other eCommerce companies?

    The reason for the big push stems from Walmart’s slowly rising eCommerce stats over the past year. While online sales from Walmart’s direct website account for a mere 3 percent of its total revenue, the entire eCommerce arena makes up 11 percent of the entire retail industry.

    One place where Walmart is doing well is on third-party sites like Marketplace, which saw a 36 percent increase in its gross merchandise value in the past 12 months. The amount of items Walmart now offers on Marketplace has quadrupled since last year, reaching an astounding 35 million.

    Given Walmart’s growth success with Marketplace and the fact that it saw online revenue grow by double digits for the last three quarters, it makes sense for the retail giant to integrate its brands with Depending on the success of this product integration process, we may see Walmart continue the trend of acquiring third-party eCommerce sites to display its branded products.

    The big question here is whether or not this move will be enough for Walmart to compete with Amazon on a much larger scale in its quest to become the eCommerce leader.

  • The ecommerce industry in Italy was worth 19.6 billion euros in 2016. Last year, the industry registered an increase of 18 percent compared to the situation in 2015. Most of the online retail turnover in Italy was generated by services sold online.

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