New digital marketplaces seek to reshape economy

business January 02, 2018 01:00

By NOPHAKHUN LIMSAMARNPHUN
THE NATION

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Regulatory approval sought for sweeping changes based on e-commerce.



THE AGE of digital transformation is dawning on Thailand’s economy and society as evidenced by crucial developments in banking, retail and other sectors.

The Bank of Thailand reported that commercial banks had shut down nearly 300 bank branches in the country in 2017 as customers moved towards Internet and mobile banking services, ushering in a new era of digital banking.

In the meantime, Siam Commercial Bank (SCB) is leading the pack by launching its “SCB Express” concept – fully-automated banking centres in various Bangkok locations.

SCB and Kasikorn Bank are seeking regulatory approval to operate e-commerce platforms to link millions of mobile customers with vendors of various goods and services, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). In the retail sector, SCB is working with The Mall group, one of Thailand’s biggest retail and shopping centre chains, to introduce an automated cashier-less supermarket service at selected locations.

Central department store group has joined forces with China’s No 2 e-commerce giant, JD.com, to create an “online marketplace”, and the country’s top e-commerce sites, led by Lazada (part of the Alibaba group), 11 Street and Shoppe, have been challenging traditional retail models with disruptive technologies.

With many payments now possible through the ease of touching a mobile-phone screen or waving a card, consumers are expecting more from goods and service providers.

E-commerce, mobile payments using QR Codes, digital banking on the go, cashier-less grocery shopping and other innovations will start to become the norm this year as traditional business models merge with digital technology to stay relevant. Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming the new tool for banks, retail chains and other service providers to stay ahead of their consumers’ expectations.

Since machine-learning technology is now cheaper and easier to manage, it is likely that predictive analytics that capitalise on the abundance of consumer and other data will be more widely used by Thai businesses and industries.

AI will soon usher in a new term, “machine commerce”, in which transactions are automatically generated by computer software using the huge amount of available data in real time.

This will happen this year if the major commercial banks get approval from the Bank of Thailand to launch e-commerce platforms that automatically match millions of bank customers with SMEs and other vendors.

Kasikorn Bank has said it has about 7 million mobile customers and is enlisting SMEs to join its proposed e-commerce platform pending regulatory approval, while SCB has about 6 million mobile customers and is planning a similar marketplace platform.

AI and machine learning will become more commonplace in other sectors, especially in logistics and warehouse management as well as in food, beverage and other manufacturing sectors in which the use of robots and automation systems is rapidly replacing human workers.

To facilitate the advent of a digital economy and society, government and private sector organisations have joined forces to launch the National Digital ID programme to provide reliable online confirmation of personal identities for various activities, including online government services and financial transactions. For example, a person may open a bank account online using the government’s demographic database to verify his or her identity based on the 13-digit ID number assigned to each person.

Such a use will be sanctioned by law to ensure that this and other online activities are legally binding in the digital age.