PCCW has been hard at work in 2017, building an e-commerce platform that aims to take the Hong Kong market by storm. While developed as an independent start-up within the PCCW Solutions group, HABBITZZ was conceived as a low-profile business unit which aims to launch a real e-commerce platform for Hong Kong, mostly focusing on high-quality B2C products, delivered at lightning speed.
"This is a virgin market for e-commerce," CEO Alex Bono told Marketing. "An expensive one, and a premium one - and virgin."
He recognises that Hong Kong has a number of challenges standing in the way of huge e-commerce ventures. And aside from first-mover HKTVMall, the supply is indeed scarce.
"HKTVMall are doing a good job, and it fills a gap in the market, and we're very happy about that because we intend to ride on that," he said with a laugh. However, "HABBITZZ is very much for the premium customer, someone that wants something other than just groceries. Hong Kong customers want quality, and we will not hold low-quality products."
"But even Indonesia is more mature than Hong Kong," Bono said. "It's not supply-driven here. Companies mostly wait for very monopolistic business or very safe business - we need to say 'Guys, buy!' We need to create innovation and push, push, push."
But even Indonesia is more mature than Hong Kong. It's not supply-driven here. Companies mostly wait for very monopolistic business or very safe business - we need to say 'Guys, buy!'
Aside from a conservative approach by companies so far, which PCCW and Bono aim to overhaul with a more agile, flexible model by spinning the business off from the PCCW main unit, consumers are traditionally wary, but open to new experiences.
"Hongkongers embrace very fast - big brands, big products are tested in Hong Kong to see how the market behaves. And things are changing here very fast," Bono said.
One of the primary arguments about why e-commerce uptake has been lackluster in Hong Kong is "convenience", but Bono believes that view is the wrong way around - it's too inconvenient to shop online. And this is where it found inspiration for its name as well, pushing to change the shopping habits of Hongkongers.
"Getting something delivered the next day, or even in three days, is a challenge. Offline is very mature in Hong Kong, they create a pleasant experience and they know how to deal with a customer - but the struggle is with taking this online. We're positioning ourselves as the partner that can provide this for brands."
Offline is very mature in Hong Kong, they create a pleasant experience and they know how to deal with a customer - but the struggle is with taking this online.
"Logisitics is a pain," he said with a smile. "We're building a logistics company, internally known as HABBITZZ Express, with its own director for the whole ecosystem that we're trying to build. It's unacceptable that when you order something, it takes four or five days to arrive. One day should be the new standard, but we want to go to four-hour delivery."
And in terms of getting customers to come (and come back), they have a number of tricks up their sleeve.
"We want to be a company that crafts personalised experiences, and move away from just price. It's marketing through technology. The whole company should think about experiences," Bono explained. "To be more specific, we are creating close micro communities based on interest, and we create curators and so on. We want to go more in a direction like Spotify, not just highlighting the artist, but highlighting the mood - afternoon coffee, workout - what am I in the mood for? It should be personalised, constantly surprising.
"It's turning shopping from a rational activity into an emotional one."
And ultimately, they want to create fully personalised experiences and recommendations based on user data - but that will require a bit more work. HABBITZZ will soft-launch on March 6th.