Making money while jetting around the globe
Calyn Yap 
Cross-border shopping is forecast to make up 20% of e-commerce in 2022 with sales of US$627 bil, according to a Forrester Data report

Frequent travellers are often tasked by family and friends to purchase a variety of items when they travel overseas. Now, there is an option for these travellers to earn extra income by doing so via a digital platform.

For instance, Jetspree Sdn Bhd’s platform helps to connect travellers with shoppers digitally. The platform, which moderates cross-border e-commerce transactions between the two parties, enables shoppers to purchase items unavailable locally through those travelling abroad.

For travellers, they are able to earn extra money by fulfilling shopper requests during their travels.

Jetspree co-founder and executive director Alexander Le, who travelled frequently across Asia and the United States, often had family and friends requesting him to bring certain items back for them.

“At first, it was small stuff like food items. Then people started asking if they can order from an online platform and have it shipped to my hotel for me to bring back,” he shares.

With a constant flow of requests, Le realised there was no proper platform for shoppers who wanted to purchase items from overseas. Shoppers who did not have personal contacts to frequent travellers would have to either rely on agents or pay expensive shipping fees for overseas purchases.

Moreover, cross-border shopping is forecast to make up 20% of e-commerce in 2022 with sales of US$627 bil (RM2.66 tril), according to a Forrester Data report.

Although Le realised there was big potential in cross-border shopping and had the idea of doing something within the space, it was only when he met an angel investor willing to fund the idea early this year that he started formalising the idea for Jetspree.

 “That’s when we were born and we spent one to one-and-a-half months coming up with the right solutions for multiple parties to benefit. The goal we’re really looking for is unlocking value for shoppers and travellers.

“The big challenge was to come up with a solution for that. We spent a long time on it … going through what the idea looks like, different designs and user journeys,” he explains.

Once the design was finalised, Jetspree started beefing up its technology team to build the first prototype of the platform. The team also talked to users and tweaked the design further to come up with the minimum viable product.

The platform was launched in August and has attracted more than 10,000 sign-ups since then. At least 80% of its shopper sign-ups have come back to request for items through the platform.


Offering added value

“These days, consumers are expanding their shopping outside their geographic region. Jetspree drives cross-border e-commerce by offering a strong value proposition, product technology and logistics infrastructure,” Le says.

Its first pool of travellers are those who fly frequently such as cabin crew members and business travellers, who are conversant with the localities they travel to and know where specific items can be purchased.

Encouraging “stickiness” for shoppers and travellers through building trust and reputation, which is key in such business models, takes a lot of effort.

Jetspree believes it is important to handhold shoppers and travellers through the entire process as well as cover the last-mile fulfilment. Going that extra mile is how it wants to build up trust and reputation among shoppers.

The process is relatively straightforward. Once a shopper makes a request through the platform, Jetspree verifies and clarifies the details. Every request is automatically matched to world-wide trips posted by frequent travellers, who have the option to accept and “claim” the request.

Payment, which includes a service fee, can be made via debit or credit card. The platform uses a pre-authorisation method via payment gateway Stripe, placing a hold on the money instead of charging immediately. The customer’s card will only get charged once a request is fulfilled.

Le shares: “All shoppers have to do is make a request and we’ll do everything possible to get the item. We try to solve it as far as possible upstream with technology and schedule everything in advance.

Besides posting requests for specific items, shoppers can opt to select items from Jetspree’s curated lists which boast over 3,000 products across 10 categories, says Jetspree marketing manager Trisha Ang.

For last-mile fulfilment, Jetspree has a convenient arrangement with its staff on standby to meet travellers at the airport on their arrival. The staff will inspect the products and deliver them to customers.

“There is this feeling of security for customers, that what they ordered are personally checked and handled by a real person,” she explains.

Moving forward, Le says there is much to do in terms of enhancing new iterations of the platform, such as improving the requesting process and selecting the right rewards for travellers.


Using data analytics

He wants Jetspree to focus on what people are looking for so it can build up the lists of items the platform can offer. It also wants to provide the best experience for shoppers, which means making extensive efforts to improve the user experience and front-facing aspects.

The main goal is to unlock value for shoppers and travellers, 
says Le

“A big growth opportunity is to have good curated lists. We post products we think people want and ensure they can get them. It’s still very challenging to make homogenous inventories.

“We’re focusing on assortments and once we’ve collected enough data, we can forecast trends and leverage data analytics (for growth),” he adds.

Jetspree’s vision is to make global shopping as easy as everyday shopping.

Overcoming stumbling blocks

Jetspree Sdn Bhd co-founder and executive director Alexander Le says there were unique challenges in the design for the cross-border shopping platform as it was not the typical e-commerce or marketplace platform.

“It wasn’t a proven model. Coming up with how to execute it took many leaps of faith and smart guesses using some data, but there’s a lot of risk in that. Designing that solution and process was all about testing the hypothesis and coming up with the smartest guess possible.

“From our research, most of our competitors are what we consider a ‘soft’ marketplace. They’re very tech-oriented and hands off; buyers must interact with the sellers themselves. We didn’t see the hard value in that.”

Today, the trickiest aspect that Jetspree has to solve lies with logistics. It is still figuring out the best and fastest way to deliver the goods to the customer after collecting the items from travellers at the airport.

Jetspree marketing manager Trisha Ang says another challenge would be in its curated product lists, as it has to ensure it keeps up-to-date with market and seasonal trends, as well as new and soon-to-be-released products.

“A challenge is also first mile to us in a sense, since requests come in blind unless shoppers are using our curated lists,” she adds.

This article first appeared in Focus Malaysia Issue 258.