The first digital locker will launch at Gala Place as part of a pilot project that aims to replace the analog redemption centres currently in use in Hong Kong. Long wait times in queues, accessibility of locations, limited operating hours and a paper trail that can’t be tracked digitally are among the limitations of the traditional centres. The digital locker will only be available in Hong Kong for the time being.
“We don’t have a strategic map drawn out with plans on where we’ll place [additional] lockers,” said Rico Chan, Yahoo's vice president and general manager. “But our plan is to gather data from the lockers and expand locations based on behaviour.”
Like others in the digital and e-commerce space, Yahoo is recognising the significance of big and small data and the opportunities that exist on consumer-journey touchpoints, as well as the need to connect and correlate behavior between them.
Noting the digital skills gap, skepticism and slower rate of adoption of digital marketing and e-commerce among Hong Kong businesses and marketers, Harris Chan, Yahoo director of e-commerce, highlights the potential for the future.
“The consumer journey is transforming," he said. "We’ll partner with Morning Express for logistics so the digital lockers can be a 100 per cent mobile e-commerce experience along the consumer journey." The service will be available for selected deals from mid-November, he added.
The lockers' operating hours will be from 11 am to 11 pm, seven days a week, much longer than the redemption centres. To redeem goods purchased online, users will need to input a 6-digit PIN to open a single digital locker, which has a specification of 18 x 40 x 48 cm—limiting the size of purchased goods to particular categories.
When asked why users don’t just have goods delivered to their door, Tania Lau, Yahoo's director of marketing, answered: “We’re seeing a lot of people who want to simply collect the goods themselves as it’s equally convenient, especially in Hong Kong where the infrastructure is condensed. For users it also presents a small saving on delivery costs.”
While the digital locker may act as a booth to promote Yahoo’s service to passersby, it also presents a chance for personalised product suggestions and advertisements. “At the old redemption centres we gave out paper promotion deals and suggestions—now we’ll be able to make it personalised based on the users shopping behaviour.”
The lockers will provide full mobile compatibility for clients and merchants and location-based and real-time advertising opportunities, Yahoo said.
Yahoo’s strongest online shopping markets include Taiwan and Hong Kong. According to the company’s figures, in 2013, Yahoo Deals sold seven coupons every minute on average.