Analysis: Does Lazada's integration of ComfortDelGro taxi rides signal super app ambitions?

Lazada and ComfortDelGro Taxi have inked a deal that will allow shoppers in Singapore to book ComfortDelGro cabs within the Lazada app. With digitally-savvy Singaporeans turning to online services and solutions to suit their lifestyles, the latest partnership between the two service providers means that customers can book taxis without exiting the Lazada app, allowing them to browse and shop uninterrupted.

Integrating taxi-booking services within the app is a first for an eCommerce platform in Singapore, boosting Lazada’s offerings and relevance as a one-stop destination for customers’ daily needs. The partnership also sees ComfortDelGro Taxi expand its reach by tapping into Lazada’s wide customer base - particularly the younger demographic of shoppers who frequent the platform.

“We are excited to be the first and only eCommerce platform in Singapore to offer customers taxi-booking services within a shopping app, and through ComfortDelGro Taxi, a familiar and trusted homegrown taxi operator no less,” said James Chang, CEO of Lazada Singapore. “This will enrich the shoppertainment experience for customers who are already browsing, playing games, and watching livestreams on the app, and with the added convenience of booking taxis, customers can utilise one app to shop, play and travel. We look forward to a successful partnership with ComfortDelGro Taxi, to explore more value-adding services that our shoppers appreciate.”

Ang Wei Neng, CEO of ComfortDelGro Taxi said: “It has always been our aim to have our taxi booking services within reach of shoppers. What better way to do it than to have our booking services readily accessible through the Lazada app, one of the most popular platforms today. We hope that shoppers will find the experience – from shopping to travelling – a seamless one.”

As part of the collaboration, there will be a six-month long promotion that gives Lazada shoppers 4% off all ComfortDelGro taxi booking trips. Shoppers can book ComfortDelGro taxis directly from the Lazada app, accessible from the homepage by clicking the tile “ComfortDelGro”. Meanwhile, earlier this year, ComfortDelGro also launched a new lifestyle and mobility app titled "Zig", stepping into the ring with competitors Grab and Google Pay. The app allows users to make a reservation at a dining venue, purchase tickets to entertainment outlets and attractions, and plan journeys from one point to another.

While the global lockdown and local circuit breakers would have undoubtedly had an impact in businesses such as ComfortDelGro's, the problem faced by the company began much earlier with the entrants of players such as Uber, Grab and Gojek in the Singapore market.

However on the flip side, Alibaba-owned Lazada has stealthily seen a growth in its user base. In the first quarter of 2020,  Lazada saw triple-digit order volume growth across Southeast Asia due to the paradigm shifts in shopper behaviour as people turned to eCommerce for their shopping and grocery needs in a time when countries were in various states of lockdown. ECommerce was also embraced by businesses as a means to diversify revenue streams, with the number of LazMall Singapore stores increasing by 140% year-on-year.

Sharing his view on the partnership, Kabeer Chaudhary, APAC managing director APAC of M&C Saatchi Performance said that this is no doubt Lazada’s latest play at achieving its super app ambitions. The integration of Redmart and Taobao on the Lazada app, the food delivery partnerships in Vietnam, the bill payment and mobile top up partnerships in Indonesia and the Philippines have been clear strides in that direction, he explained. Now, with the Comfort Delgro partnership, Lazada can leverage on ComfortDelGro’s significant engaged user base and seamless payments “to make their platform more sticky for users while at the same time attracting more dollars flowing through their system,” he said, adding:

For ComfortDelGro, I feel this partnership would be complementary as it would offer a seamless option to Lazada’s huge user base to book cabs from another provider without having to download another app.

Nishant Kaushal, head of data, strategy and solutions at ADNA added that a recent research study done at ADNA showed that transportation services are an integral part of Singaporeans' daily life and this partnership should help significantly uplift the frequency and duration of usage of the Lazada super app in Singapore. This will in turn further embed Lazada into Singaporean life.

He was of the view that the partnership was a win-win as Zig has over 10k downloads on Singapore Play Store within a month, and Lazada is in millions. “Nonetheless, Zig can still carve a space for itself. It just has to differentiate itself by further building its core theme of ‘discovery and exploration’ with travel, attractions and food services,” he said, explaining its current claim to be a broader “lifestyle app” does not help users slot it into the multitude of lifestyle-related apps they already have on their phones.

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE’s in-house digital, technology and media consultant Kestrel Lee said such collaborations are representative of the third stage of digital transformation. The first stage is where brands start to build digital assets such as websites and banners. The second stage is where brands start to link their digital assets into digital ecosystems to drive innovative brand, retail and social eCommerce experiences.

The third stage is the API economy where different digital ecosystems collaborate with one another via APIs or mini gateways into each other platforms to create more innovative experiences and to grow each other's user base.

“Since there is so much competition for people’s fragmented attention, collaborations such as these actually uplift both ecosystems,” said Lee. He added that in today’s economy, the saying of “What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is yours” no longer holds true. Moreover, with everyone taking a slice of each other’s pie, digital ecosystems that collaborate are clearly trying to find a win-win situation and the worry of cannibalisation of their own business and market share should not be at the top of their minds.

Lee added that this particular collaboration builds on the 2018 success story of Starbucks China allowing Chinese consumers to order coffee and online delivery via Alibaba's app ecosystem, even though Starbucks had its own mobile app and WeChat mini programme. This was a win-win partnership as it allowed Starbucks to tap on Alibaba's online user base of one billion consumers.

Lee also added that with the move, it wouldn’t be surprising if Lazada is indeed trying to be a super app as it is the ambition of most tech players. The partnership between Lazada and ComfortDelGro could also potentially open up payment gateways for the former and there is aspiration for Lazada to grow itself to contend with Grab in the gateway space, he explained. “The transport scene is more of a secondary focus. For ComfortDelGro, it needs to ride on a bigger ecosystem to promote its own apps. So it’s a win-win situation for both."

"Most digital ecosystems are strong in certain services and experiences so it is not easy for any super app to replace or co-opt them. However digital ecosystems can grow strong alongside each other if they keep innovating new and better experiences for their end users," he said,

Collaboration is the name of the game for this third stage of digital transformation.

Kyriakos Zannikos, Digital Commerce Intelligence's founder and CEO agreed that this would potentially be Lazada’s next move to realising its super app ambition. Zannikos explained that the move was potentially inked for both parties to hunt for more user data and direct access that drives and surely pays off for these initiatives. He added that while this is “a very small step towards the super app goal”, it is a clear statement from Lazada that it is entering this space.

“We shall expect to see more of these partnerships forming across Southeast in the coming months and this isn’t surprising as the mothership Alibaba in China is on the same strategic direction for a few years now,” he said, adding that nevertheless is very interesting to see players in different industries getting so big and holding so much user data that they can simply step over each other’s turf. Sharing his views on ComfortDelGro’s Zig app, he said: “I think is very smart for Comfort DelGro group to reinvent themselves and capitalise on what they must have realised is their strongest asset going forward - user data!” He predicts that in the upcoming months, there will be a burst of such consolidations under the big players.

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