I travel to Taiwan very often. It’s a nice place. And it is filled with 7-Elevens. You can find one of the franchises’ convenience stores on pretty much at every corner in Taiwan. You can buy and do almost everything there: you can photocopy, use a courier service, book taxis, purchase train tickets, and make payments. You can even buy bento, hot dogs, and guan dong zhu, at any time of day.
In Taiwan it’s a mega hit franchise owned by “Tong Yi” in which aptly means “dominate” or “rule all” in Chinese. What impresses me most is that the 7-Eleven stores there are able to collect all sorts of payments. For example, if you buy an item through Yahoo Kimo Auction, there’s an option for folks to pay cash-on-delivery (COD) through 7-Eleven. The seller will ship the product to the 7-Eleven store nearest to consumer’s location. The customer will pay in cash upon collecting the goods.
Alternatively, the seller can pass the customer a unique code, say abc123, which the customer will then key into an ibon machine to generate a receipt. The 7-Eleven counter will then charge the customer based on the receipt and then transfer the payment to the seller. Once the seller receives the money, he/she will ship the product directly to the customer.
Of course, consumers can also opt to pay through rival Family Mart, another smaller chain of convenience stores. Somehow these stores have become a logistics and payment partner for e-commerce stores in Taiwan. We saw this yesterday with the events and ticketing startup Accupass.
Taiwan’s 7-Eleven ibon machine also allows customers to buy train tickets, concert tickets, pay telephone bills, top up phone and gaming credits through the machine and pay cash directly at the 7-Eleven counter after making purchase. Going through a physical third-party player makes the customers a little more confident that the deal is trustworthy, and it provides a cozier environment for e-commerce in Taiwan to flourish. Plus there’s an ATM at every store which makes cash withdrawal and payment very convenient.
It is important to note that credit card payment is pretty common in Taiwan too. But that only caters to the middle classes who have access to credit cards. For folks who don’t have them, it is common to pay via convenience stores like 7-Eleven. Paypal is allowed in Taiwan, but unfortunately it isn’t popular.
I’m fascinated by how e-payment, or rather, COD works in Taiwan. It made me wonder if a similar COD system could work in Indonesia. I’ve heard of similar solutions in Indonesia already. But they aren’t widespread or seamless.
Folks who are new to the e-payment problem in Indonesia might assume that providing a Paypal-like solution would be sufficient. It’s more than that. The problem drills down fundamentally to human behavior: Indonesians are more comfortable paying via COD or bank transfer. Credit card payment is unfortunately not that common. In fact, we actually learned and localized too to adapt to Indonesia for our next Startup Asia conference.
Ultimately, it is the confidence level and habits which explain why people prefer to pay cash or do a bank transfer upon receiving their goods. It’s a decent solution but not ideal for e-commerce businesses. China’s e-commerce market has grown a lot faster in part thanks to the prevalence of mature online payment systems such as Alipay, UnionPay, and Tenpay.
Delivering goods to homes is expensive and having to counter-check if payment has been transferred by the right person (and in the right amount) means resources are wasted. It would be perfect if convenience stores in Indonesia could shoulder the logistics of e-payment to foster e-commerce. Anyway, driving more people to the convenience stores would also encourage more purchases. This way, the e-commerce sites can focus on what they do best, which is to sell more items online. But it wouldn’t be easy. Tong Yi took about seven years to make 7-Eleven the “de facto convenience store” in Taiwan. So if this ever happens in Indonesia it would be boom time for e-commerce in the country.