When Amazon launched its Prime Now app in the Lion City in July 2017, Singaporeans were salivating at the prospect of an expanded, more competitive marketplace, pitting the e-commerce behemoth against companies like Alibaba-owned Lazada and Redmart. Now consumers have the opportunity to compare prices on food, electronics, office items and more, and benefit from retail giants slugging it out to win customers and their loyalty online.
After all, e-commerce is one retail sector that is booming—according to a report in 2016 by Google and Temasek Holdings (the Singapore government’s investment arm), the e-commerce market in the city-state will grow to S$7.5 billion by early 2026, accounting for almost 7% of all retail.
The debut of Amazon also allows businesses to improve their bottom line (thanks to more competitive pricing online) and to source through a wider variety of supply chains.
But will the arrival of the Seattle-based company, heralding what is likely to be a broader push and expansion to reach the 600 million people in Southeast Asia also have an effect on exhibition and event planners? Will it radically change their organising methods, they way that they operate?
Event planners now, for example, can enjoy a broader choice of products available to them, and as Amazon Prime Now promises a two-hour delivery service (a one-hour delivery option is also available), this enables organisers the chance to order last-minute items in a seamless, convenient method.
On the surface, there seems scope for transformation in the events and exhibition industry. However, industry experts don’t believe Amazon’s arrival guarantees radical change.
“I don’t see Amazon having any impact on event planners in terms of the way they do business,’ says Mark Cochrane, regional manager Asia-Pacific for UFI, the global association of the exhibition industry. “Lots of e-commerce companies have been around for 15 years and before Amazon came along event planners had plenty of option sourcing premiums.”
“Amazon’s expansion into Singapore and the region focuses on B2C delivery of consumer goods,” notes M Gandhi, managing director for ASEAN at UBM Asia. “As far as major trade exhibition organisers are concerned, we believe it will not have an impact.”
However, the firm’s debut is likely to provide tangible uplift in this part of the world.
Gandhi adds: “[Amazon’s expansion] will provide new opportunities in the B2B space. It will become an important buyer at our trade shows for products and services. We are optimistic that Amazon’s innovation in consumer distribution will actually create opportunities for new trade exhibitions and for existing events to reinvent themselves.”
Beyond these possibilities, Amazon’s debut in this part of the world will provide new, potentially useful data, to planners. Much has been written about Amazon’s legendary trove of information on its customers, how it mines the data with a fine toothcomb to predict what someone might buy and when, and how they might want the product shipped.
For outside companies, Amazon’s analytics arm, Amazon Web Services, can plumb data to help firms better understand their clients and even procure new ones. Again though, Cochrane is unsure of how important this will be for event marketing.
“For exhibitions, places like Global Sources, or a platform like 1688.com [the Chinese version of Alibaba], are much more useful for data because you can see what people are sourcing. For instance, you can buy a banner ad so that when someone in Chongqing is searching for mobile phone parts, it will direct them to your show.
“Amazon is more for the end-user, and that end user is usually not a corporate buyer, so B2B and trade are only marginally interested. It might have more of an impact for conferences, or to target attendees it could be a useful tool. I think you will find in 18 months or two years down the road, this will have negligible impact on the events industry and how event planners work.”