HK-based start-up helps notify customers with delivery updates for online purchases
Email notifications have a high open rate of 32%, attracting merchants for upselling
ANDREW Chan (pic, fair right, with his team), the chief marketing officer of AfterShip, met his co-founders at the November 2011 Startup Weekend held in Hong Kong. They did not just meet there but formed AfterShip when they won the 2011 Global Startup Battle and the Startup Weekend Hong Kong.
Expectations were high with the press they received after winning the two events. Life has since then settled into an intense milestones-based sprint for the start-up which aims to help online businesses track packages and notify customers with delivery updates.
The objective is that the resultant improvement in customer service will generate more business and reduce customer enquiries after shipping.
Revenues come via a ‘freemium’ model where merchants are charged based on the total number of packages AfterShip tracks for their customers each month.
Since launching its open beta in March 2012, AfterShip claims it has helped thousands of online merchants to send out almost 300,000 notifications to customers, a major milestone for the start-up. The target is one million though.
An economics and finance major, Chan, an ex-IT consultant at Accenture, enjoys bridging the needs of customers with the right products and services built by his technical team.
He had plenty of experience doing this before. “While in Accenture, we helped a bank design a new core banking system where I worked closely with bank users to collect requirements, and also the technical team to deliver the design.”
Initially self-funded, AfterShip then got government funding of HK$100,000 in January, 2012 and also a received a 5% equity investment from Australia-based Business Switch in June.
AfterShip met its Australian investors in March at DemoAsia, held in Singapore. Chan has described his investors as “having a lot of trust in the AfterShip team” and allowing them to run the show their way.
In the following Q&A with Digital News Asia (DNA), Chan delves more into the running of AfterShip.
DNA: What problem are you trying to solve and what is your motivation/ reason for wanting to do this?
Chan: Package tracking is time consuming and difficult for online merchants and online consumers.
Teddy, one of my co-founders, had been running an online store for 8 years. Surprisingly, around 70% of his customer enquiries were about order status, even though he provided a tracking number for customers.
Teddy then found a way to automatically track his packages and notify customer when any important status shows up. See the video: bit.ly/aftershipvideo.
DNA: Describe your product/ service and why it is different from what exists in the market.
Chan: With AfterShip, online merchants automatically track all packages and keep their customers informed of any major delivery updates (In Transit, Out for Delivery, Delivered, Failed Delivery Attempt).
More than tracking: Shipping notifications helps online merchants to generate more returning customers, cut operation costs and promote their brand after shipping (merchants can add a logo or advert).
Targeting B2B (business-to-business): AfterShip targets mainly online merchants and is able to track large quantities of shipments automatically and accurately.
Allow auto import: Users can connect their emails, shopping carts or CSV files to AfterShip and auto import any existing and new tracking numbers to AfterShip.
DNA: When did you launch Version 1 and how is the current version different?
Chan: We launched our first beta in mid-March 2012, and revamped in early October. The new version has a new user interface with new features requested by users.
One new key feature allows users to customize the notification messages, and also select when to send out shipping notifications ("in transit", "out for delivery", "delivered", "First delivery attempt", "exception").
Our email notifications have a high open rate of 32% which many merchants want to put a logo or product advertisement for up-selling through. We will also launch a free tracking widget that allows merchants to embed it in their site for their buyers to track packages.
DNA: How is the funding environment in your country?
Chan: I can only talk about Hong Kong. China in general is different. In Hong Kong, more angel groups have formed and government parties (Cyberport and Science Park) have helped connect start-ups with angels. I should point out that some angels only invest in start-ups that focus on the China market.
DNA: How do you keep yourself motivated?
Chan: I am motivated by my co-founders, they are fun to work with and execute really fast.
DNA: What have you learned about being an entrepreneur so far?
Chan: Try not to please everyone. Choose the most important features and cut those less important ones.
DNA: What has been the toughest challenge so far?
Chan: Choosing what not to put into AfterShip.