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Global Perspective - News Worth Sharing

  • Royal Mint of the U.K. and CME Group of the U.S. are teaming up to create a digital platform for dealing in gold, based on blockchain.

    According to a report, the idea behind the new platform is to reduce the costs associated with trading gold. The platform is slated to launch next year. Royal Mint will issue Royal Mint Gold, or RMG, which will be traded on the platform that is being created and operated by CME. The report noted that Royal Mint will place gold bars in its onsite secure vault, which will then be digitized to create RMGs. Ownership of the RMGs will be recorded on the blockchain, and traders will be able to trade in and out of RMGs.

    “While things have improved in terms of gold trading over the centuries, it’s our view that it still remains difficult and relatively expensive as a commodity to invest in … Gold is known in the industry as a negative-return investment,” said David Janczewski, director of new business for the Royal Mint, in the report. “What we’re trying to do with the announcement of Royal Mint Gold — or RMG — is to really address this issue and offer a better way to invest in solid digital gold.”

    According to the report, the platform will be in operation 24 hours a day throughout the year. There will be no cost to convert the RMGs into physical gold by Royal Mint. Royal Mint plans to issue up to $1 billion worth of RMGs with plans to add more later depending on demand. The platform will be available for retail and institutional investment firms.

    “We spent the greater part of this year with the Royal Mint working through the fact they wanted to launch a digital gold product and looking at all the available technologies that were out there. This is not about just applying blockchain just because it is blockchain,” said Sandra Ro, executive director of digitization at CME Group, in the report. “This is about looking for what the best delivery mechanism is that could also help us to scale at a global level over time.”

  • As Chinese tourism booms, the global luxury travel industry has been especially interested in understanding the evolving demands of China’s high-end travelers—whose tastes have been rapidly changing thanks to a combination of factors including travel experience levels, generational differences, and the massive influence of social media and online research. This segment is a key topic of discussion at the inaugural New York Times Luxury Travel Conference that started today in Singapore and takes place through December 2, gathering a wide range of experts to discuss the trends shaping the industry with a particular focus on Asia.

    Ahead of the conference, we checked in with panelist Paul Hicks, who is the CEO of GHC Asia, a communications agency with offices in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Chengdu, and Singapore that works with luxury travel and tourism-focused retail clients including St. Regis, Raffles, Visit Finland, London Luxury Quarter, and McArthurGlen. In a Q&A via email, he discussed the latest evolutions and trends he’s been seeing in China’s luxury travel industry, including the importance of social sharing, the influence of KOLs, the travel habits of Chinese millennials, and more.

    As Chinese travelers are increasingly looking for new experiences, what role does public relations play in getting them to pay attention to the brand? 

    PR has a very important role to play in helping to educate Chinese travelers about the many exciting travel experiences around the world and the different brands that can help them experience it. We have found that media in China are very receptive to good content from PR agencies like us if they know we are a source of good and reliable stories. Would-be travelers in China still tend to be less experienced as travelers and so have a genuine hunger for knowledge. Compared to Western travelers ,they will do a lot of research in advance of their trips, and often know exactly what they want to see and what they want to buy before they go. Once Chinese consumers have made their travel decisions, they research the destination/experiences/shopping online, but their travel ideas and inspirations are usually coming from print media and key tastemakers.

    When it comes to resonating with an audience of Chinese luxury consumers, is social media or traditional media more important now?

    Social media is becoming more and more important all over the world, but nowhere is this trend more dominant than in China. The younger generation in China don’t “go” online, they live online. Most of the key print titles in China have also had to develop a strong online presence, build apps, and some have their own video channels and are experimenting with virtual reality and augmented reality. Even strong names like The Bund, The Beijing Times, and Travel+ have or are about to close down their print version in China and focus solely on their online platforms and apps. It may sound alarming in a Western context, but their influence in the travel space remains as strong, and they still have the same editorial team; they are just providing content in a medium more tailored to the constantly on-the-go smartphone-based lifestyles of their audience. This is a relatively easy one for PR agencies to get their heads around. We still engage with them on the same “storytelling” terms; the results just come out in a different medium. More challenging for us is the ever-changing landscape of social media KOLs, where followings and influence can be strong, but where the rules of engagement invariably blur the traditional lines between paid and earned media.

    What types of stories are most inspiring to Chinese luxury travelers? 

    GHC Asia recently organized a roundtable discussion on behalf of The Ritz-Carlton chaired by famed broadcaster and United Nations Goodwill Ambassador James Chau at which we asked some of China’s top travel editors and influencers that very question. The results are not really that surprising: Chinese luxury travelers, like most others, are looking for truly unique experiences that they can share with their friends and family through social media. One editor told us about staying in an underwater hotel room in Dubai as a unique and mesmerizing experience, which while extremely expensive, was totally worth it for being so totally removed from his normal day-to-day life. 

    What are the differences in ways luxury travel brands are communicating with Chinese millennials in comparison to the older generations?

    A friend of mine in Hong Kong, a young lady from a good family in her late twenties, would often joke to me about an upcoming PFT trip to an exotic luxury location: PFT stood for “Parent-Funded Travel,” an annual family reunion trip paid for by the parents so the family could spend quality time together. What is interesting and unique about China, is that it is the younger generation of 20- and 30-somethings who are often for the first time in their families affluent enough to travel, and it is their desire and aspiration to share the joys of international travel with their parents who have never before left China. This is something that international hotel and travel brands should pay attention to as it is phenomenon largely unique to China—but quite powerful.

    In terms of communicating to millennials, what many travel brands, like the fashion brands are doing, is using KOLs who resonate with the younger generation as guest managers of their content channels. This way, they still build their own following, but they are also able to “borrow” the influence of these KOLS. Live-streaming is also quite a phenomenon unique to China, still mostly for the very young generation with lots of time on their hands, but I predict this will be used a lot more by brands in future and is certainly something we are recommending our travel clients to consider for the China market. But it is not yet regulated by the government, so there may be changes in the rules of engagement.

    How has the communications industry responded to the massive rise of online travel review sites in China?

    As always with a massive proliferation of new channels, you can really only do so much—and just focus on the key sites that dominate most of the market.

    3Can you give an example of a successful case study for one of your luxury travel clients in the China market? 

    One that I think was very successful was a Destination Canada initiative to produce a “reality TV show” about traveling to Canada. Families were invited to audition to be “presenters” of the show and create their own ideal dream trip to Canada. The winners were then flown to Canada to record their travel itineraries, which were broadcast on TV. Thanks to a tie-in with an OTA, viewers could then also book the same itinerary they had watched if they found it interesting. It was a great combination of PR, broadcasting, social media, and O2O marketing all rolled into one. We worked closely with Destination Canada and digital media specialists Dragontrail to promote this campaign on multiple platforms.

    How do you keep up with evolving luxury tastes in the travel market? 

    We are the PR partner in China for the International Luxury Travel Market (ILTM) and as part of that, there is an invaluable pre-event summit which presents the latest global insights into the luxury travel industry. The event also brings together the top names in the travel industry with those at the frontline of booking travel for luxury travelers. So it’s a great time to ask people what trends they are seeing. Other than that, I read lots of travel industry news reports and spend a lot of time asking hoteliers and travel media what new trends and tastes they are observing.

    The post Chinese Luxury Travelers Seek out ‘Truly Unique’ Experiences That Will Impress Friends on WeChat appeared first on Jing Daily.

  • Cyber Monday was a record day for online retailing, including for web-only retailers Wayfair, eBags and Newegg.
  • The main reason, according to Euclid Analytics’ head Brent Franson: consumers aren’t yet using their smartphones the way beacons assume.

    Please visit Marketing Land for the full article.
  • Close to 50 percent of cross-border digital buyers age 18 and over have made purchases of clothing, apparel, footwear and accessories from cross-border eCommerce sites during 2016.

    Citing data from PayPal and Ipsos, eMarketer said in a report that nearly one-third of digital buyers age 18 and over said they made purchases of electronics, computers, tablets, mobile phones and peripherals from websites outside of their country. But it doesn’t end there. EMarketer reported a quarter of those people surveyed purchased travel or transportation from cross-border eCommerce sites, and close to as many purchased digital entertainment and education items, such as eBooks and digital music. Finally, 23 percent said they spent money on toys and hobbies on cross-border websites.

    As a result, eMarketer is forecasting that retail eCommerce sales worldwide will hit $1.9 trillion this year, excluding travel and event tickets. That’s an increase of close to 25 percent compared to a year ago. What’s more, eMarketer projects worldwide retail eCommerce sales will near $2.4 trillion in 2017, when, for the first time, retail eCommerce will make up 10 percent of total retail sales. By 2020, eMarketer is forecasting sales will surpass $4 trillion, nearly 15 percent of all retail sales worldwide.

    Last month, eMarketer said cross-border eCommerce is gaining in popularity in China. A quarter of the Chinese population will be shopping either directly on foreign-based websites or through third parties, like Alibaba’s Tmall Global and JD.com’s JD Worldwide, by 2020, according to eMarketer. That emerging trend represents a big opportunity for global entrepreneurs, said Cleveland Brown, CEO of Payscout, a global payment processing provider in October.

    “We encourage small to medium-sized businesses in particular to prepare themselves for taking advantage of the growing Chinese appetite for goods from abroad,” Brown said, noting that cross-border digital shopping in China, according to eMarketer’s figures, grew by more than 70 percent in 2015 alone. This is partly due to a higher standard of living in China, along with a greater exposure to foreign products, the company said.

  • A mutual fund managed by Morgan Stanley has slashed its estimate of Flipkart’s valuation down to just $5.54 billion, which is about two-thirds lower than the company’s peak valuation of $15 billion and nearly 40% lower than Morgan Stanley’s previous estimate.

    The mutual fund holds 1,969 shares in Flipkart and disclosed in a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission that it reduced the value of its holdings in Flipkart by about 38% to $52.13 a share, as of 30 September, down from $84.29 a share at the end of the June quarter.

    “Mutual fund mark-to-market is a purely theoretical exercise and is not based on any real transactions. We are seeing a strong traction in our business momentum and operating performance. We continue to be focused on innovating for the customer, growing the market and executing on our long term growth agenda,” a Flipkart spokesperson said by email.

    While Flipkart has seen its valuation marked down earlier (four times by Morgan Stanley itself in nine months), the magnitude of the latest cut by Morgan Stanley is particularly worrying. It comes as Flipkart is on the verge of hitting the market for a new round of funds and at a time when the demonetization exercise has hit sales at all online retailers including Flipkart.

    If Flipkart’s valuation isn’t marked up quickly by at least some of its other investors, the company may have to accept a significantly lower valuation in its next funding round than its preferred price of $15 billion, experts said. Already, cab-hailing service Ola, another top Indian unicorn, is facing a so-called down round as it is likely to raise its next round at a lower valuation than the $5 billion it fetched in its previous round, two people familiar with the matter said. (Ola didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.) The Economic Times reported Ola’s funding round on Friday.

    “ New investors will be more reluctant to meet Flipkart’s terms, but we also need to wait and watch what other institutional investors and mutual funds say in their reports over the next few weeks. If we see markdowns from all of them, it becomes tougher for Flipkart. But if the top two or three investors hold firm, there is still a chance of getting a decent valuation . Still, it will be a down round in either case,” a Flipkart investor said on the condition of anonymity.

    Markdowns by existing Flipkart investors may help new investors drive down the company’s valuation, said Harish H.V., partner, Grant Thornton India.

    “But no investor puts in money just based on these things. If an investor is bullish on Flipkart and on e-commerce in India, it will invest in Flipkart regardless of markdowns. What the valuation will be is the question,” he added.

    Five mutual fund investors at Flipkart now value the company in the range of $5.54 billion to $11 billion. The marketplace, which is India’s most valuable Internet firm, last raised cash at a valuation of $15 billion some 18 months ago.

    The company plans to hit the market before the end of the year to raise $500 million to $1 billion in fresh capital.

    Morgan Stanley’s latest markdown comes at the end of the worst-ever quarter for Flipkart. Its monthly sales fell to a yearly low in July and it was overtaken on a standalone basis by arch-rival Amazon India in July and August. Flipkart bounced back in the festive season and beat Amazon by a clear margin. Then, as Flipkart was drawing up plans to maintain its momentum, it and other online retailers were hit with the unexpected snag of demonetization, which was announced by the government earlier this month.

    This article was first published on Livemint.com

    The post India: Will Flipkart markdowns hurt its fundraising prospects? appeared first on DealStreetAsia.

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