Apps for young peo­ple re­vive an old business model

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - BUSINESS - By BAI PING Con­tact the writer at dr.baip­ing@hot­mail.com

Re­cently I’ve no­ticed that fresh flow­ers have been de­liv­ered to my house ev­ery week. One day they were red roses; an­other day they were white lilies and there were also times when I even couldn’t tell their names.

When asked, our young ayi or do­mes­tic helper told me she had or­dered all the flow­ers through a new app, just like the way she now buys clothes, gro­ceries and lunches. To me, it seems our e-shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ences have been taken to the next level, from buy­ing at the mo­ment of need to or­der­ing some­thing reg­u­larly de­liv­ered to your door.

In the past cou­ple of years, sub­scrip­tion flower apps have flour­ished, with weekly de­liv­er­ies to cus­tomers over a pe­riod of one to six months. Our ayi’s app, that charges 100 yuan ($14.38) to 800

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yuan de­pend­ing on the length of time and pack­ag­ing, claims it has re­ceived more than 5.2 mil­lion or­ders from women mem­bers.

I buy flow­ers oc­ca­sion­ally on week­ends when I visit a farmer’s mar­ket near my house that closes when I get home from work. For spe­cial oc­ca­sions, I get them at a flower shop next to my workplace dur­ing my lunch break. The thought of buy­ing flow­ers on­line has never oc­curred to me.

Per­haps I’m still a tra­di­tional cus­tomer who ap­pre­ci­ates the op­por­tu­nity to touch and feel an item at a store.

But my shop­ping be­hav­ior could change as time goes by, as I’ve started to ac­cept meal boxes that my wife and ayi or­der from apps and are de­liv­ered to my house in plas­tic bags.

Yet, I’m still star­tled by the be­gin­ning of a sub­scrip­tion-based life that comes with new tech­nolo­gies. Mind you, flower lovers are only part of a new breed of on­line shop­pers who have found it in­con­ve­nient to buy items on­line over and over again. New star­tups are quick to re­spond to the shift of con­sumer be­hav­ior:

Don’t want to skip break­fast? Apps will de­liver your plate of Chi­nese fried dough and soy bean milk or other treats to your of­fice at 8 am. Tired of think­ing where or what to eat for lunch? A daily call from a de­liv­ery­man down­stairs to pick up your bento sounds like a god­send.

There is also an app that al­lows women to try new clothes from top brands for a cou­ple of days, for 499 yuan a month.

For most of us, the con­ve­nience of on­line shop­ping prob­a­bly still means brows­ing through mul­ti­tudes of mer­chan­dise at fin­ger­tips and mak­ing a pur­chase on the cell phone or web­site when there is a de­mand. Last win­ter, I wrote about find­ing my­self un­der­dressed on my way to work and or­der­ing a pair of cot­ton ther­mal pants on­line to be de­liv­ered be­fore I went home.

For the low­est prices, we do thor­ough com­par­i­son shop­ping. As trust is still a big is­sue on­line, we’ll read on­line re­views for qual­ity con­trol be­fore we hit the “pay­ment” button.

I’m also wary of the sub­scrip­tion model af­ter shop­pers com­plain that some e-re­tail­ers, like video sites, have tricked them into sign­ing up for re­cur­ring credit card charges, through au­to­matic re­newals.

How­ever, new sub­scrip­tion star­tups only tar­get mil­len­ni­als, the dig­i­tal na­tives who grew up with new tech­nolo­gies and are more at home with on­line shop­ping. They could be lazier than us in adopt­ing a sub­scrip­tion e-com­merce. But they are savvier with an e-life and know bet­ter how to nav­i­gate its com­mon pit­falls.

Many star­tups have jumped on the band­wagon be­cause a suc­cess­ful sub­scrip­tion-based model with a loyal young user base will im­prove cash flows, pro­vid­ing a re­li­able source of in­come for business op­er­a­tion and in­vest­ment plans.

It’s a business op­por­tu­nity not to be missed and there is a lot to be learned about the new trend­set­ters.

XIN­HUA

A woman in Nan­chang, capital of Jiangxi prov­ince, takes photo of a glass bot­tle she sub­scribed via an app.

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