Alibaba unit en­lists Uber, Net­flix to lure cus­tomers

Business World - - WORLD BUSINESS -

ALIBABA GROUP Hold­ing Ltd. has cre­ated a loy­alty pro­gram for online shop­pers in Sin­ga­pore that it may ex­pand to other mar­kets, team­ing up with Uber Tech­nolo­gies, Inc. and Net­flix, Inc. to lure cus­tomers.

It’s the first time Uber and Net­flix have jointly cre­ated an online re­wards pro­gram, said Max­i­m­il­ian Bit­tner, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Lazada Group SA, the Sin­ga­pore-based e-com­merce op­er­a­tor Alibaba ac­quired for $1 bil­lion in 2016. The trio’s “LiveUp” pro­gram starts Thurs­day and links their ser­vices, from UberEats and Net­flix to online gro­cer RedMart and Alibaba’s Taobao online mar­ket­place.

Con­sumers pay S$28 ($20) a year to get ben­e­fits such as six months of Net­flix stream­ing, dis­counts on Uber rides and free delivery on Taobao or Lazada pur­chases. A mo­bile app will be rolled out in the sec­ond half of the year.

“Sin­ga­pore is the mar­ket on the cut­ting edge of val­i­dat­ing what we think con­sumers might want, so we will fo­cus on Sin­ga­pore first,” said Mr. Bit­tner, who ex­pects to add more part­ners. He drew a com­par­i­son with code-shar­ing among car­ri­ers, which gives con­sumers a range of ben­e­fits like flight re­demp­tions.

Alibaba and its US part­ners are bet­ting on the growth of online re­tail in Sin­ga­pore. The city-state’s in­ter­net re­tail­ing mar­ket, which ac­counted for just 0.9% of to­tal re­tail there in 2003, went from 2.4% in 2013 to 4.8% in 2016, ac­cord­ing to data com­piled by Euromon­i­tor.

Faced with the prospect of Ama­zon. com, Inc. making a big push into South­east Asia, Lazada has been seek­ing ways to de­fend its slice of the re­gion’s e-com­merce mar­ket.

Bit­tner and RedMart co-founder Vikram Ru­pani hatched the loy­alty pro­gram over break­fast on Christ­mas Eve be­fore ap­proach­ing Net­flix and Uber to get in­volved.

“Their de­ci­sion to do it was very fast be­cause they have the same goal,” Mr. Bit­tner said.

PEO­PLE RIDE a dou­ble bi­cy­cle past a logo of The Alibaba Group at the com­pany’s head­quar­ters on the out­skirts of Hangzhou, Zhe­jiang prov­ince Nov. 10, 2014.

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