Crisis-hit bike-sharing company Ofo added an e-commerce feature inside its app in China, presumably to offer its users a channel to cash in their deposits, which had become difficult to withdraw, 36Kr, KrAsia‘s parent company, reported.
Users that still have deposits in the Ofo app can turn this deposit into “gold coins”, with which they can buy goods from this e-commerce site, called Ofo Store. It offers 48 goods, including cookies, honey, wine, and cosmetics.
After the transformation, these people will be classified as “deposit-free users”, meaning they can still use the yellow shared bikes without depositing any new cash into the Ofo app.
Information on Ofo Store shows that this store was set up by Beijing FIT 24 Technology Company, which received an investment from Ofo in 2016. However, according to the public information that’s available about FIT 24’s licenses, these do not cover e-commerce or the sales of food and alcohol.
Perhaps in an effort to make the whole thing look more trustworthy, each item says “this product is secured by Youzan, please feel free to buy”. Hong Kong-listed Youzan is a Chinese e-commerce third-party vendor that helps merchants establish, operate, manage, and promote their online stores.
Late last year, over one thousand people gathered at the Ofo headquarters in Beijing to claim back their deposits, while millions filed online requests to do so, a blow to the tech startup, which was once an investor darling but fell into operational difficulties. Currently, over 10 million Ofo users are still queuing for deposit withdrawal.
Its rival Mobike was acquired by Meituan at US$2.7 billion in April last year, but Ofo itself failed to raise new funds and also so far hasn’t been able to find a buyer.
Ofo has tried various ways to monetize its business, including offering peer-to-peer lending products on its app and offering on-bike advertising.
Editor: Nadine Freischlad