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Going International Means the World to Singapore Online Brands

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In this edition of Weekly Focus APAC: Going International Means the World to Singapore Online Brands; Lenovo Aims to Offer Customised Enterprise Products via JD.com; and Singapore Digital Banks Must Focus on Personalised Engagement.

Going International Means the World to Singapore Online Brands

International sales contribute 35% of revenue for e-commerce companies in Singapore, where 92% of business owners are ready to handle international transactions

Not surprising then that 96% of these organisations believed having an international presence was key to their success in five years, according to Visa’s Global Merchant eCommerce study. The survey polled 1,000 C-level executives and business owners who worked at companies with e-commerce capabilities in 10 markets, including Singapore, Australia, China, and Germany. The study was conducted alongside research from Wakefield Research.

It found that 72% of e-commerce companies in Singapore already were handling cross-border sales. The city-state, however, set itself apart from other markets in the study when 50% of these businesses cited cultural barriers as an issue when expanding overseas.

The study revealed that Singapore business owners expressed a lack of support in their expansion efforts, with 98% noting that business solutions tended to favour larger organisations.

They soon would have reasons to cheer, though, since 94% said the year-end holiday season generated more than 25% of their annual revenues.

Visa’s country manager for Singapore and Brunei, Kunal Chatterjee, said: “In Singapore, e-commerce sales in December last year increased more than 20% compared to the year before. Cross-border e-commerce contributes close to 25% of total e-commerce spend, likely due to many international merchants holding year-end sales during the festive season.”

Having an international presence would be critical in enabling companies to tap such opportunities, according to Visa. Globally, 66% of businesses that sold online said they had international customers, from which sales accounted for 31% of these companies’ revenue.

Some 51% of organisations that sold to international customers needed help optimising their international online sales processes.

The study also found that 44% of respondents underscored the importance of offering quick delivery in cross-border e-commerce services, while 41% cited easy checkout and 41% pointed to providing convenient payment methods.

According to the survey, 66% of companies that did not sell cross-border planned to do so in the near future, with 90% looking to do so in the next three years. Amongst 87% that had not expanded internationally, 37% pointed to accepting and processing foreign transactions as a key barrier, while 42% cited shipping issues.

Lenovo Aims to Offer Customised Enterprise Products via JD.com

JD.com and Lenovo have unveiled plans to sell ¥10bn (£1.1bn) worth of the latter’s enterprise products over the next three

years, tapping a new “business-to-manufacturer” (B2M) platform to offer customised products and services.

Already “long-time partners”, the two Chinese companies said Lenovo would offer its complete line of products for enterprise customers via JD.com’s enterprise procurement platform. They also planned to launch a B2M platform to offer these clients the ability to customise products and services.

The two partners already jointly offer customer service covering delivery and installation, hardware maintenance, equipment repair and replacement, and IT support.

This alliance now would tap JD.com’s enterprise online procurement channel, JD Business, and logistics network to enable both large companies as well as small and midsize businesses to tailor their offerings.

In addition, Lenovo’s smart service infrastructure and ecosystem of more than 2,000 service stations across 900 cities would be integrated with JD.com’s service system.

The Chinese e-commerce operator has more than 7 million enterprise customers on its JD Business procurement platform.

Innate differences amongst organisations had posed significant challenges for the business-to-business industry, resulting in a largely untapped opportunity to deliver customised products, said JD.com.

It said the new B2M platform would enable enterprise customers on JD Business to submit their individual requirements, based on which Lenovo then would design and manufacture the products according to their customisation needs.

JD Business president Song Chunzheng said: “The digital transformation has greatly impacted the enterprise procurement sector. As China’s largest retailer, JD.com is committed to efforts to streamline the procurement process for enterprises of all sizes. The partnership with Lenovo provides a pioneering solution and we expect to leverage JD’s big data ability to continuously improve the customisation for the traditional enterprise procurement sector.”

Singapore Digital Banks Must Focus on Personalised Engagement

New digital banks in Singapore will need to focus on building trust and providing personalised engagement to pull consumers away from traditional banks.

With its consumers’ growing demand for “mobile-first, real-time, contextualised, and compelling” digital products, services, and experiences, Singapore presented an “attractive breeding ground” for digital banks, said Zhi-Ying Barry, Forrester’s senior analyst for e-business and channel strategy, in the research firm’s report The Coming Upheaval In Singapore’s Banking Landscape.

The city-state said in June 2019 that it planned to issue up to five digital banking licenses to non-bank players.

Barry said digital banks were appealing to digitally savvy, mobile-first Singapore consumers. In particular, “progressive pioneers”–whom Forrester defined as consumers who were more open to trying out new technologies–were more likely to consider switching to a digital bank within the next two years.

Citing the firm’s research, the analyst said 70% of online consumers in the country already conducted banking activities on a smartphone, with 45% saying they visited a bank branch to conduct banking activities.

To penetrate the market, however, digital banks would have to overcome the trust barrier since local consumers tended to trust traditional banks more than new digital entrants. Singaporeans also believed incumbents were better able to help improve their financial well-being, Barry said. Just 51% of online consumers felt safe using their financial data online, she said, noting that this figure was the lowest amongst Asia-Pacific markets Forrester surveyed.

(Source: Forrester)

Apart from addressing consumer trust, digital banks also continuously deliver personalised value to drive engagement.

“Digital 
banks need to design their value proposition, digital experience, and operating model with the customer’s best interests in mind,” the analyst said. She pointed to UOB’s TMRW, in Thailand, which app design targeted Millennials who preferred to bank on their mobile phones. The app lacked a traditional menu, instead, learning from its users to personalise upfront functions and information to individual needs, she said.

The digital bank also set up an Engagement Lab (eLab) dedicated to using technology and behavioural insights to deepen customer engagement and loyalty, Barry said. The eLab’s cross-functional team comprised data and behavioural scientists and worked to ensure digital conversations conducted on the TMRW app were relevant, familiar, and intuitive, she said.

She added that digital banks also should focus on helping customers with their lifestyle needs.

Barry said: “Digital banks’ success will depend on their ability to partner through digital ecosystems to extend the value they can deliver to their customers or their partners’ customers. Once they’ve established a baseline level of trust, we expect new players in Singapore to engage customers with enriched banking and nonbanking offerings that focus on specific lifestyle needs like housing, travel, or health.”