Consumer confidence, convenience really matter in online trade

Updated: 2016-08-25 07:13

By Peter Liang(HK Edition)

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Just as Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah is calling attention to the need to promote online services, Uber is planning to bring its UberEATS meal delivery service to Hong Kong.

The San Francisco-based company - better known for its online taxi app - is reportedly recruiting e-commerce professionals with experience in marketing and catering to prepare for the launch in Hong Kong. Uber introduced its food delivery service to Singapore, the first in Asia, in May last year.

Unlike its controversial online taxi app, which is facing stiff opposition from traditional taxi owners and operators, UberEATS would be seen as a pioneer rather than a disrupter in a business that's relatively new. There are only a few meal delivery service operators in Hong Kong. Their clientele, so far, is limited to higher-income executives and professionals living in upmarket residential districts, including the Mid-Levels and Wan Chai.

Consumer confidence, convenience really matter in online trade

In contrast, the service, dominated by the top three e-commerce companies, is already well developed in some major Chinese mainland cities, particularly Shanghai, Shenzhen and Beijing. But, it's not without controversy. Frequent complaints about food quality have prompted the authorities to order an industry-wide shakeup to prevent the signing up of unlicensed caterers with service providers.

The usage of online shopping and other services in Hong Kong has failed to attain the same level of popularity as in other cities for a number of reasons. Topping the list is Hong Kong people's concern about security, especially after allegations of inappropriate use of clients' personal information by a number of service providers.

The government is known to be mulling new laws to provide greater protection of privacy. That should help enhance consumer confidence in using online services which are as available and convenient as in any other city.

Harder to change are consumers' habits and preferences. PPS has been around for a long time. Yet, there are still long lines of people at banks' ATM machines and convenience store counters at the beginning of each month waiting to pay their utility and other bills.

It's hoped that UberEATS and other newcomers to the business can offer a level of convenience to consumers that will make them believe, as Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos famously said about one of his company's innovative services: "You'd be irresponsible not to be a member."

(HK Edition 08/25/2016 page8)