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Building a Thriving Online Business

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To be successful in e-commerce, being prepared beforehand is crucial to not run out of fuel mid-way.

By Bernie Yeo

Malaysia’s e-commerce industry is expected to continue its upward trajectory and rapid growth in 2020 and for many years to come. 

As an aspiring entrepreneur, the opportunity to ride on the sector’s coat tail is an intriguing and exciting one. Whether you have already launched an online business on one of the e-commerce platforms or are looking to get involved in your very first venture, now is the time to get your foot in the door. 

Indeed, data from German online statistics portal Statista reveals that Malaysia’s e-commerce market for 2019 generated a whopping revenue of US$3.68 bil (RM15.2 bil), with a prediction for annual market growth to reach 11.8% by 2023. 

DataReportal, meanwhile, revealed there were 26.69 million internet users in Malaysia as at January 2020. The number of internet users in the country increased by 919,000 (+3.6%) between 2019 and 2020, while internet penetration in Malaysia stood at 83% as at January this year.

Mapping e-commerce growth

For perspective, Shopee led the industry with the highest consumer downloads of its mobile application, according to iPrice Group Sdn Bhd’s Map of E-commerce report for the third quarter of 2019 (3Q19). The e-commerce platform also tops the list of the most visits to its websites at 25,789,300 monthly web visits. 

As for Lazada, the e-commerce platform had the highest number of monthly active users of mobile application in 3Q19, while breaking into the top five list of most visited websites is PG Mall, a homegrown online shopping mall. 

With technological advances and not to mention the growth of the internet economy, the e-commerce industry is set for an exciting ride in the next few years. 

E-commerce Malaysia chairman Ganesh Kumar concurs, saying the local e-commerce industry is expected to grow up to 30% in 2020, supported by advancement in technology and wider access to virtual buying platforms.

“Currently, we are seeing more people buying online and trusting e-commerce sites. More merchants are also starting to sell their products online,” he said recently.

Fast-changing e-commerce landscape

In the era of Industry 4.0, technological advances have had a massive impact on the e-commerce industry, transforming the way consumers connect with brands and empowering them to shop more cost-effectively. 

Driven by the convenience of making purchases without the need to visit a physical store, e-commerce has now become an integral part of everyday life. But while the shift in consumer behaviour is a given, businesses, too, are adopting a changing mindset when it comes to e-commerce. 

“Rather than seeing e-commerce as a competition, businesses have now come to see it as another stream of revenue which will complement their brick-and-mortar business,” Shopee regional managing director Ian Ho (pic) tells Smart Investor

These businesses, to cater to the increasing demands of today’s e-commerce landscape, have set up dedicated e-commerce teams to manage various facets of their operations. 

This includes manning the online store, pricing, handling orders, fulfilment, and customer service, as well as investing in warehouses that come equipped with advanced systems to organise warehouse operations. 

Evolving mindset aside, many businesses however find it difficult to grow their sales effectively after opening a store. 

“This is because of operational and marketing challenges. These businesses lack the know-how to nurture the business and run marketing efforts to increase exposure for their online stores and product offerings,” Ho reveals.

Helping hand from Shopee

In Shopee’s case, the e-commerce platform has empowered many brands and sellers to succeed online because they understand the challenges that businesses face, and offer various forms of support to help them succeed. 

For example, Shopee University, a free seller’s workshop to provide sellers with the knowledge and skills to grow their businesses on the Shopee platform, was launched in 2016. 

From the workshop, participants will learn multiple ways to boost sales; tips and marketing techniques to promote their store on Shopee; the right way to list products; and how to fully utilise all of Shopee’s features to help promote sales. 

“What has made these workshops even more resourceful is that they are also available through web seminars, which means that participants anywhere with an internet connection can join in,” shares Ho. 

To date, around 10,000 sellers have benefited from the Shopee University modules. 

In addition to Shopee University, the e-commerce platform further launched Shopee Live in 2019 in an effort to bring users closer to their favourite sellers and brands. 

This allows brands/sellers to engage their users throughout the shopping journey via a wide array of live content such as product reviews, guides and demonstrations hosted by popular local influencers. 

And the results are pretty impressive, to say the least. Tyra Kamaruzzaman’s Beautyra lipsticks, for instance, sold out in minutes on Shopee Live, recording over 2,000 orders, while Photobook’s store traffic and visibility increased by 18x after running a 45-minute live stream on Shopee Live. 

“In addition to driving orders, Shopee Live is also effective in driving traffic and followers to the retailers’ stores, as indicated by Shopee seller wanjojo of JJ70 Store who gained more than 800 store followers after a single live stream. 

“Another seller also shared that by doing daily live streams, he was able to rapidly gain followers and double his sales in less than three months, with 2019 being the first time he had managed to break the RM1 mil mark in annual sales,” Ho shares, adding the results are testament to Shopee Live’s success.

Success: an effort of both parties

Over the years, many businesses have achieved success on e-commerce platforms, but many others have also not done well. So how does a business guarantee its success online? 

PG Mall managing director Datuk Wira Louis Ng (pic, below) believes that success on e-commerce platforms stems from the effort of both parties, namely the platform operator and the merchant. 

“Successful merchants on the PG Mall platform put in a lot of effort from their end to build store awareness and visibility by participating in all PG Mall-related activities and campaigns.

“In addition to providing attractive prices, these merchants are very committed, have zero cancellations rate, are very responsive to shoppers’ enquiries, and are efficient in processing orders to ensure a positive shopping experience.” 

On the flipside, there are merchants who – after setting up their online store – solely rely on the platform to drive sales without going all out and taking the initiative to do more, he adds. 

Merchants on the PG Mall platform are supported with regular creative campaigns that partner with different e-wallets and banks to drive both sales and traffic to the stores. 

PG Mall is also the only platform to partner with all major e-wallets in the country. The vast check-out options available will in turn gives merchants a boost in capturing more shoppers. 

On how merchants can conduct a successful business on PG Mall, Ng points out that PG Mall’s mission is to be the number one choice when it comes to online shopping, and therefore, it is always best for merchants to feature all products on hand to be available on the PG Mall platform. 

“Providing a fair price for shoppers is essential, as is the effort put into managing the store by putting up clear and attractive images as well as the right product descriptions. 

While Success on e-commerce platforms stems from the effort of both parties, namely the platform operator and the merchant. these may sound trivial, these are factors that will influence a shopper’s final decision.” 

The homegrown e-commerce platform, which cites gold jewelleries, groceries and pets, as well as home appliances as its current best-performing categories, are in the midst of bringing in more brands to join the PG Mall family.  

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