Amazon to Enter Vietnam in Challenge to Alibaba; Sending Money to Friends Through Alexa

RetailTechNews’ weekly Amazon Watch brings you some of the company’s biggest moves from the past seven days, analysing how the giant is revolutionising the retail space. In this week’s edition: Amazon to enter Vietnam in challenge to Alibaba; Sending money to friends through Alexa; and Amazon wooing small businesses.

Amazon to Enter Vietnam in Challenge to Alibaba

Amazon is to officially launch its e-commerce services in Vietnam, with the aim of taking on Chinese rival Alibaba in one of the fastest-growing e-tailing markets in the world.

The American company has partnered with Vietnam E-commerce Association (VECOM), which, with its 140 members, forms one of the biggest groups of local online businesses. This will be the first time VECOM has joined hands with an e-commerce player. The partnership will enable Amazon to beef up the products available on its platform and allow local small and medium-sized enterprises to sell and export their goods through the platform.

Amazon has been lagging behind its Chinese rivals in cultivating Vietnam. Alibaba officially entered the country last year, and claimed it had accumulated tens of thousands of business members after just half a year. By comparison, some 200 Vietnamese companies are currently selling their items on the Amazon platform.

The Asian market is shrinking for Amazon. Alibaba controls the online retail space in China and surrounding markets, and deals like Walmart’s prospective deal with Flipkart mean markets such as India are becoming more competitive. Amazon has typically struggled to gain a foothold in APAC, and it will be interesting to see how they establish themselves in the Vietnamese market, with Alibaba already embedded there, and with more brand affinity in the region.

Sending Money to Friends Through Alexa

Daon has created a way for financial institutions to let their customers send money to friends using Alexa.

The company, which helped Mastercard develop its ‘selfie pay’, couldn’t yet name any banks planning to use the technology, but it said it’s under contract with several “major financial institutions that are interested in pursuing it as a new service”. Daon said these banks have plans to release the new Alexa payment tech in the next nine to 18 months.

The new Alexa capability shows the potential of the voice assistant becoming a more powerful agent for consumer banking. The tech could also help Amazon become a bigger player in the banking world, a new area it’s expected to pursue.

Payments via Alexa would face a lot of competition in the mainstream. Consumers are now comfortable with sending and receiving money by smartphone, with the help of online banking services, as well as technologies like PayPal, Venmo, and Apple Pay Cash. The benefit these techniques have, in comparison to payments via Alexa, is the screen. The added feeling of security this offers will mean Alexa’s payment methods start on the back foot.

Amazon Wooing Small Businesses

Amazon is planning to offer a new credit card tailored to the needs of small business owners. The card, which would be co-branded with JPMorgan Chase, would offer rewards and points on purchases to SMEs, and has the potential to expand to business insurance plans.

To support the scheme, Amazon will reportedly be able to tap into customer transaction data to better customise the perks attached to the card.

However, with so many credit card offerings to small businesses, what will make Amazon’s stand out? In short, it’s the fact that they already have such a strong relationship with many SMEs.

With over half of the inventory sold on Amazon being provided by boutique retailers, Amazon has already established itself as a key third-party platform to many of these businesses, and one that many will rely on to remain competitive. That familiarity could be crucial when it comes to the retail giant gaining a foothold in a market that is already well-established.