SmarTone aims big with e-commerce platform

SmarTone aims big with e-commerce platform

31 AUG 2015

SmarTone is looking beyond the Hong Kong market of seven million even before it launches its mobile marketing platform aimed at retailers, with plans to license the system in other markets, likely starting with China.

The operator, Hong Kong’s fourth largest, introduced plans for the e-commerce platform, called Kiss, earlier this month and said it aims to go live by the end of the year.

SmarTone CEO Douglas Li (pictured) told Mobile World Live that it needs time to explain the system to the public and gain a critical mass with retailers. He said it also takes some time to integrate the platform with each retailer’s point-of-sales terminal.

It has hired about a dozen new sales people to work on merchant acquisition together with its corporate accounts sales team, which is much larger. Li said the sales team has been transforming itself from selling connectivity to selling services for a couple of years.

It has signed up a couple of hundred retailers, but he wouldn’t say the number required for critical mass.

Something bigger
Li explained that several years ago the management team asked what could be a bigger proposition in an adjacent area that would broaden its revenue potential. “The Kiss platform is the result of that deliberation and making use of the technology at our disposal to bring it to market.”

The move towards mobile commerce, he said, was driven by changes in consumers’ shopping behaviour and their habit of paying for things by mobile. Hong Kong’s smartphone penetration is over 80 per cent and almost all of them shop with their smartphones. He noted that almost all orders for iPhones are now done online.

Kiss is designed to appeal to both consumers and retailers, offering data about one to the other. The app is open to customers of other operators, and not just to SmarTone’s subscribers. Li said that as the territory’s smallest operator he was certainly not limiting its marketing of Kiss to its customer base.

The key aspect for retailers is that the platform allows them to tell a brand story and reach and engage with customers who sign up as “followers”, he said. “The idea is to improve their sales performance by stimulating footfalls and expanding their market reach. It also has a ready-made rewards system to stimulate repeat business.”

He said the platform is particularly useful to smaller retailers without the marketing resources to maintain a website, an app or regular targeted promotions.

“They can send one-to-all, one-to-many or one-to-one direct marketing messages to followers based on real-time analytics. And they can add video and graphics to the campaigns.”

Author

Joseph Waring

Joseph Waring joins Mobile World Live as the Asia editor for its new Asia channel. Before joining the GSMA, Joseph was group editor for Telecom Asia for more than ten years. In addition to writing features, news and blogs, he...

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