Yahoo tests digital lockers as redemption centers, 'data gatherers'

Yahoo locker.
Yahoo locker.

The pilot program in Hong Kong will make it easier for customers to pick up orders -- and view personalized product suggestions and ads

HONG KONG — One hundred eighty digital locker cabinets will appear in Hong Kong's Mong Kok district in mid-November as part of a plan to enhance Yahoo’s digital shopping network through a paperless, self-serve platform, linking mobile to offline pick-ups.

The first digital locker will launch at Gala Place as part of a pilot project that aims to replace the analog redemption centers currently in use here. Long lines, accessibility of locations, limited operating hours and a paper trail that can’t be tracked digitally are among the limitations of the traditional centers. The digital locker will be available exclusively 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 behavior."

Like others in the digital and e-commerce space, Yahoo is recognizing 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 percent mobile e-commerce experience along the consumer journey." The service will be available for selected deals from mid-November, he added.

The Yahoo app will work with the digital lockers


The lockers' operating hours will be from 11 am to 11 pm, seven days a week, much longer than the redemption centers. 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 doors, 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."

The challenges of existing authorized redemption centres


While the digital locker may act as a booth to promote Yahoo’s service to passersby, it also presents a chance for personalized 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.

This article first appeared on

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