Aeon Group has big plans for new cashless solutions
By Chong Jinn Xiung December 12, 2018
- Cashless solution readily implemented at all Aeon retail outlets nationwide
- Aims to aggressively grow its user base and hit 1 million users in next 10 months
IN 2018 alone, there have been numerous e-wallet launches almost every alternate month. Bank Negara Malaysia estimates there are 40 e-money issuers in the market to date.
But just when you think there wouldn’t be any more room for players in the market, Aeon Group threw its hat into the ring, launching its Aeon Member Plus Visa Card and Aeon Wallet mobile app in November 2018.
Aeon Co (Malaysia) Bhd general manager of corporate marketing Thong Poh Wah said that the main reason Aeon decided to introduce a physical card along with the wallet app was that there are still plenty of users who prefer to hold a physical card.
“In the initial roll out period, we expect that there may be those who resist the idea of going completely digital. In a way this is like a transition before the wallet app itself becomes the main method of performing payments,” he said.
Aeon Credit Service senior general manager and head of payment systems and digital business Jayabalan Ramakrishnan explained that Aeon’s product offering is unique as it has both a physical card and app that links with the card.
With integrated Visa functionality, the Aeon Member Plus Visa Card allows Aeon customers to make purchases easily with a tap by using Visa payWave.
To this effect Aeon BIG (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd senior general manager of business administration Yoshizo Hirano claimed that the implementation of the cashless payment solution had helped reduce long queues at the checkout counters as each transaction was quicker.
But in a situation where a customer does not have the card on them, the app also allows them to make payments via QR code at Aeon retail outlets. This includes Aeon, Aeon Big, MaxValu and Wellness outlets.
On the matter of whether Aeon will only exclusively accept e-wallet payments from its Aeon Wallet, Aeon said that as a retailer it needs to ensure that it accepts all forms of payments. Hence, they are open to accepting payments from other wallets such as Alipay and WeChat Pay in their stores in the near future.
Even so, Jayabalan makes the case that its membership perks would attract users to use its wallet over others. This includes added benefits for members such as the ability to earn 2X Aeon Points for every RM1 spent. These points can then be converted into e-money stored within the card.
In addition, members would be entitled to enjoy special promotions and discounts at over 200 participating merchants.
Thong did stress however that Aeon Member Plus is not a closed ecosystem. Having fully implemented the solution at its Aeon retail outlets the group’s next target is to push it out to merchants, particularly the tenants within its malls.
“We already have over 2,000 merchants that are accepting card payments and now we are enabling them to accept payment from our wallet,” he said.
Aeon Group said it is quite positive on its solution as it believes it is in a better position than most other wallet players as it has both financial and retail services under the same group, allowing them to gain greater synergy from the two.
Adding to that Thong said Aeon Co has 27 shopping malls and 35 stores while there are 21 Aeon BIG outlets across Malaysia. “With just one card, a user who signs up in Kuala Lumpur can carry and use his or her wallet even in Kuching all the while earning points that can be later redeemed,” he said.
Going the distance by going cashless
While many e-commerce players are looking towards an online-to-offline (O2O) strategy, Thong believes that Aeon is bringing the online world to the offline one.
“These days a lot of consumers gather information and do a lot of research on a product online before making a purchasing decision such as looking for user reviews,” he said.
“But once they are comfortable and certain, they can come to our physical stores to have a look and feel of the product. If they are happy with it, they can make the purchase there and then without having to wait a few days for it to be delivered.”
One method Aeon is hoping would attract online users to its offline stores is implementing a deep integration of the app with its stores to the point that it would be able to implement a self-checkout system for customers.
Jayabalan explained that users of the app can step into their store, scan a QR code of a product they want to buy with their phone and make the purchase and walk out of the store without having to take it to the cashier.
“I would say that Malaysia would be the first country for us to try this concept. We see that mobile adoption and using mobile wallet is much higher here in the Malaysian market. Aeon stores in Malaysia will be the first ones to introduce this service to our members,” he added.
Thong did, however, add that this concept is not likely to take place any time soon but it is within their roadmap.
When asked why Aeon opted to use QR codes instead of using Near Field Communication (NFC) to facilitate cashless payments, Jayabalan explained that currently that QR codes were more widely accepted as compared to the latter. He did, however, add that Aeon plans to introduce NFC by the second half of 2019.
Aeon claims the solution, which has been in development for over a year, presently has over 200,000 users that have signed up for the card while there have been 60,000 downloads of its wallet app.
While the figure may seem deceptively small, Jayabalan pointed out that Aeon Group has a database of five million members. Naturally, their first target is to convert its membership to use the card and wallet app.
“We are planning to convert at least 90% of our five million members within the next three years. We also believe that over the next 10 months we can hit our target of one million users,” said Jayabalan.
Apart from Malaysia, Aeon Wallet was launched in Cambodia last year and is looking to expand its reach throughout Southeast Asia to Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines.