Business As Usual

myAyala’s virtual storefront

- Janella Cacdac -
Bringing together overseas Filipinos and local mall merchants is a logical next step for myAyala.com, a joint venture of property developer Ayala Land, Inc. and the information technology arm of Ayala Corp., iAyala Co., Inc.

"Online shopping is changing the way we live in ways we never thought possible," said myAyala chief operating officer Teodoro Limcaoco. "myAyala shoppers can find a particular item using a search engineer or by selecting a category or merchant. And with a few clicks of the mouse, they can get a photo and description of a product and pay for their orders through credit card, cash on delivery or prepaid myAyala cash cards."

To protect online shoppers, the website has several layers of security, including a 128-bit secure socket layer encryption, the higher standard used for online transactions. This guards the sensitive personal information in credit cards against online theft. For added security, myAyala maintains separate servers in the United States to run the website and to process credit card purchases.
Clicks and mortar
To date, myAyala has 75 brand-named retailers selling 4,000 products. To be included in the virtual storefront, merchants must agree to keep products sold online at the same price as in actual physical stores.

"We’re very selective in bringing merchants that not only have the product mix for the online market but can also stand behind the quality of their products and services," Limcaoco said.

Merchants must make sure they have a ready stock of the products displayed in myAyala. They must also pay a fee to maintain the online catalog
Staying connected
Today, the shopping website is the latest business–after banks and remittance centers–that seek to corner the five million overseas Filipino market that contributed over $6 billion in remittances to the country’s economy last year.

Although a third of myAyala goods are ordered locally, 80% by value are purchased by Filipinos living in the United States, followed by those in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore. Advertisements in publications abroad help spread the world about myAyala in the overseas Filipino communities.

One reason why online shopping is becoming popular among overseas Filipinos is because they have money to spend and they have ready access to cheap and fast Internet connection. Overseas Filipinos order local videos and CDs for themselves as a way to stay in touch with the Philippines. Many also buy children’s and maternity clothes from local merchants because the sizes fit better than those sold in their host countries.

More important, they are able to send gifts to their families and friends back home. Flowers are all-time best-sellers, followed by books, videos, and, surprisingly, grocery items such as corned beef and potato chips. It is big-ticket products such as appliances, computers and cell phones, however, that comprise the most valuable orders from Filipinos abroad.

"Instead of sending a balikbayan box through a friend or UPS, they just visit the site, usually in the comfort of their home, place a couple of orders and it’s done. It comes off much cheaper than buying in their city and then shipping it," Limcaoco said. MyAyala guarantees delivery within 48 to 72 hours through Aboitiz One (in the Philippines) and through Federal Express (elsewhere in the world).

MyAyala’s website has regular customers who send flowers weekly or monthly to sweethearts in the Philippines or order beer party packs for their barkadas.

To give virtual shopping a personal touch, myAyala offers a value-added service. "We let them give special instructions for their purchase such as, for instance, if they need it delivered on a specific data or if they want a special message to go with it. We want to make the receiver feel as if the gift was personally sent to him or her," Limcaoco said.
Robust outlook
The positive reception of myAyala among overseas Filipinos is another indication that online shopping will continue to grow. A July study by Taylor Nelson Sofres Interactive in 36 countries, for instance, showed a 50% increase in the number of Internet shoppers worldwide over the past year.

For now, myAyala has the lead among the dozen Filipino shopping websites. It intends to keep that lead by staying attuned to the needs of its customers.

Its cinema ticketing unit, Sureseats.com, for instance, has taken advantage of the texting boom by offering cinema schedules and ticket reservations through mobile phones. myAyala also powers the online shopping facilities of other websites such as Pinoycentral.com.

Looking to the future, Limcaoco, believes that as information and communications technology develops in the Philippines, more Filipinos here will have access to the Internet and, thus, experience the benefits of e-commerce. When that time comes, it will definitely boost the online shopping industry.

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