DBS makes foray into chat commerce with “foodster” – Southeast Asia’s first bank-led retail chatbot

Foodster enables customers to order intuitively on Facebook and Facebook Messenger.

DBS announced the launch of Foodster – Southeast Asia’s first bank-led retail chatbot that allows customers to order and pay for their meals seamlessly via Facebook Messenger and DBS payment channels, namely DBS PayLah! and DBS/POSB cards.

Developed by chatbot specialist Every Botty, Foodster has been test-bedded with seven F&B merchants around DBS’ Marina Bay headquarters and said to have shown strong results.

The initiative marks DBS’ foray into the chat commerce space. Chat commerce – also known as e-commerce using chat or messaging platforms – allows businesses to transact within platforms that already have a large and captive pool of users.

With 77% of Singapore’s population on mobile messaging platforms, chat commerce solutions such as Foodster allow businesses to literally become a part of the conversation by embedding DBS’ payments capabilities within chat platforms. In Asia Pacific, the chatbot market is forecast to generate revenues of around USD 350 million by 2024 – more than eight times that of the USD 41 million generated in 2017.

“If instant messaging is the way forward for people to communicate, then we need to help businesses find a way to engage their customers on such platforms simply, seamlessly and invisibly,” said Jeremy Soo, Head of Consumer Banking Group (Singapore) at DBS Bank. “We are aware that consumers today are more likely to have ‘app fatigue’ and have become resistant to downloading new mobile apps. And so as Singapore’s leader in payments with over four million cards in circulation and the nation’s most popular mobile wallet – DBS PayLah! with over one million users – we saw an opportunity to combine our strengths with Singapore’s most widely used social media platform.”

Foodster – How it works

Upon logging onto Facebook Messenger, customers can search for participating outlets by entering the outlet’s name and adding a “Foodster” suffix (e.g. “Kopi Ong Foodster”). The Foodster solution offers a full menu selection, accepts customised food orders, and retains the user’s order history, so customers can easily reorder their favourites with one tap. The solution also automatically offers eligible customers discounts and promotions, which can be redeemed with their purchase.

BS PayLah! Express Checkout is a one-tap payment option for Foodster customers.

At check-out, customers can choose to pay via DBS PayLah! or DBS/POSB debit and credit cards. DBS has also enabled an “Express” option where after a one-time authorisation and set-up, customers will be able to pay for all future orders with one tap.

Foodster currently supports seven F&B merchants in the Marina Bay area, including Gemstar, Kopi Ong, Local Coffee People, NUDE Seafood, Old Tea Hut and Omnivore. Upcoming merchants include Kopitiam and Holey Moley.

Merchant benefits

Kopi Ong, which sells quick-serve beverages, was the first merchant to test the Foodster solution. Since then, the business has seen daily sales grow by 20% without additional manpower or space required.

The Foodster solution was developed with Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning algorithms which allow it to become ‘smarter’ with every transaction. In addition, it allows merchants to implement targeted and personalised customer loyalty programmes on the platform with its rich data tools and analytics.

An example of customer surveys that Foodster merchants can create and implement on the platform.

Other benefits of the Foodster solution include:

  • Help merchants grow revenue by providing an automated and immediate service to consumers, without the need for additional manpower or space. Rental and manpower costs currently comprise around 47% of operating costs for F&B merchants[3]
  • Streamline merchants’ product inventory and new menu/ item launches. Merchants can conduct customer surveys to help them better understand their customers’ needs, and contextualise marketing promotions
  • Reduce customer acquisition costs – Foodster leverages Facebook’s massive user base and can handle multiple orders at a time
  • Help SMEs digitalise easily and affordably – set-up is easy using DBS’ open banking APIs and requires minimal equipment

“We see endless possibilities with Foodster’s predictive data analytics and smart learning capabilities. Merchants get an inexpensive yet wide-reaching solution to engage with more customers, which will provide a welcome uplift to their businesses,” said Soo.

Said Kopi Ong owner Alfred Tan, “The F&B industry in Singapore is highly competitive. To keep our customers loyal and coming back for more, we have to be able to offer customised orders and provide a personalised touch to every transaction. With Foodster, we can survey our customers on their preferences, which then allows us to provide contextualised offers. With its real-time order dashboard at our fingertips, it enables us to optimise our store operations and better manage inventory in anticipation of peak periods.”

The real-time tracking and data Foodster merchants can access at their fingertips (mock data).

To cater to the financial needs of Singapore-based retail F&B and food manufacturing companies expanding overseas, DBS has established a dedicated F&B coverage team to better serve these customers. F&B customers are now able to tap into the bank’s expertise in financial structures, cash management and foreign exchange solutions to help better manage their cashflow. In addition, customers can benefit from DBS’ Asian network, and its domain knowledge in areas such as rental, manpower and taxation in the markets they seek to expand into.

DBS has also supported the growth and development of F&B SMEs in Singapore and the region with a suite of digital products and services including:

  • DBS Corporate Multi-Currency Account, which helps manage up to 13 currencies in a single account and enables SMEs to manage foreign exchange fluctuations, as F&B SMEs tend to import a lot of their ingredients
  • DBS-Xero partnership, which simplifies bill payments for F&B SME customers so that vendors and suppliers can be paid on time
  • DBS BusinessClass, a global social network for F&B SME owners to seek business advice and opportunities
  • DBS TechMatch, a cross-industry, cross-border business matchmaking service in which the bank refers relevant tech solutions to companies in different industries, including F&B SMEs.

Commenting on this, Ms Lesley Fu, 30, lawyer, said. “Admittedly I was first drawn to using Foodster because of the attractive first-time user discounts offered by the merchants. What had converted me to a more frequent user was the fact that it allows me to use the same Facebook Messenger and DBS PayLah! mobile apps that I already use, without having to download a new one.”

She added, “When I help my colleagues order coffee, Foodster is very helpful as it retains our order history. Also with just a few clicks and the DBS PayLah! express checkout option, it makes ordering customized beverages easy and quick.”

Mr Vincent Cheong, Corporate Communications Manager, Kopitiam, said, “Kopitiam, which pioneered the Nation’s 1st Dining Stored Value Card in 2004, will also be introducing Kopitiam Foodster at the New Funan outlet next year. We believe in continuous innovation and are pleased to partner DBS and Every Botty in providing patrons with a new and convenient channel to Order, Pay and Collect.”

Mr Shane Kelly, Co-founder of Every Botty, “By leveraging the Facebook platform we are able to connect millions of ready customers to businesses immediately.”

“Foodster allows customers to order and pay intuitively with cashless payments, and at the same time provides merchants with increased operational efficiencies at no additional manpower cost. With triple digit growth in chat commerce to be expected year over year, we are very excited to drive value creation of the chatbot space through our partnership with DBS and the forward-looking merchants on our platform.”

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