The E-Commerce Class on the e-Tail (short for e-retail) Process, held on Feb 14 by the Selangor Information Technology and E-Commerce Council (SITEC), saw a strong turnout with 93 attendees.
In keeping with the new format of a coach leading the class, Adrian Oh, co-founder of eCommerceMILO, began with a rundown of the e-Tail process, and noted major points e-merchants ought to be aware of, such as the kinds of backend system used by the merchant, be it an online marketplace or their own personal webstore.
Backend remains an important portion of the e-tail process, with importance being placed in how you want to sell, through a platform or your own store, and how you intend to manage your content
According to Oh, other aspects of the backend system that should be considered by the merchant includes whether the user interface has a catchy design, its SEO and mobile-friendliness, the types of shopping cart software/solutions, as well as the choice of payment gateway, all of which need to be easy to navigate. Oh advised merchants to speak to their solutions providers, and communicate with them regarding their store’s needs.
Marketplace or Own-Brand Store?
Oh revisited the marketplace vs own-brand store debate, providing a refresher for those who have attended the first E-Commerce Class and explained to newbies about the differences between owning a personal brand store vs selling on marketplaces.
- Can promote own brand
- Can access and own customer details and database
- Can control own promotions
- No marketplace limitations
- Direct access to customers
- Can convert customer database into marketing asset in later stage
- Helps merchants to market their products
- Not much worry on reaching out to consumers
- Leverages marketplace’s database instead of sourcing out new customers
- Usually an end-to-end system
- Great for those who are starting out in e-commerce
- Takes care of operations, allowing merchants to focus on other core activities such as quality and logistics
Finding a Niche
Another bit of advice that Oh had for merchants was to pick their niche. While many places, such as Tesco, for example, have a broad range of products, their offerings are shallow, with only one or two products per brand in some cases. Oh advocated going vertical with the niche, and offering variety and quality options compared to other players in the field, in order to stand out from the rest.
For example, if the niche is coffee beans, rather than offering Tesco’s few brands of coffee beans, work with that niche and offer more variety of coffee beans
Oh also touched on the importance of knowing the target audience, as well as knowing how to reach out and connect to them through the avenues that they frequent, and the means for doing so.
Ways merchants can reach out and connect to their target audience include investing in paid reviews (a.k.a sponsored reviews) and via content marketing on blogs or media sites.
Other avenues include participating in and doing newsletter marketing in forums.
Great USP = Great Sales
Oh strongly advised merchants to define the product’s USP – i.e. Unique Selling Point (or Unique Selling Proposition), and sticking to it.
Being clear and firm on your product’s USP will serve as a main draw for the store or product as customers can easily identify what makes the product unique and hence, can decide if it appeals to them, giving the merchant advantage over other similar merchants.
However, to maintain sales, he added that further value has to be given, be it excellent customer service, free gifts, or even services such as installation free of charge. However, these depend on the product or service being sold, and merchants should be smart enough to make an informed decision based on their product knowledge and management of resources.
80% of Malaysians Shop on Mobile
Following the coach as the first speaker was Chuang Vi Vian, manager from the Seller Management – Seller & Strategic Business Division of 11street.
Chuang shared the following stats:
Percentage of Malaysians who shop on MOBILE
Average SHIPPING TIME tolerance
E-Commerce Trends in 2017: Home & Decor, Furniture, Household Items and Groceries, and Health & Supplements
From there, she moved on to introducing 11street, providing background on how they have an extensive database through their link to Celcom Axiata, as well as the celebrity brand ambassadors they have to drive traffic.
However, Chuang also stressed that traffic generation for merchant partners was a two way street, and that there were actually merchants who would sign up with a platform and expect sales with no work put in at all. As such, 11street frequently educate their merchant partners on the importance of putting in work to generate traffic, such as improving their photography skills, and uploading proper product descriptions, among others.
The market sharing session was next, with speakers from MOLPay, a local payment gateway service provider, and MatDespatch, a Klang Valley-centred last-mile delivery/errand-running service, speaking about their services/solutions to the audience.
Challenges and Opportunities in Local Logistics
The second speaker then took the stage. Low Tze Yan, Country General Manager of Quantium Solutions International (Malaysia), spoke about logistics for e-Commerce, as well as the challenges and opportunities available.
Low then introduced his company, which is a subsidiary of Singapore Post, as well as the services they provide, and went into speaking about the various challenges faced by merchants in e-Commerce, such as the aspect of time vs cost, where the merchant can either spend “four hours a day packing” or task it to someone else and pay them to do it.
Responding to a question from the floor during the Q&A session on when a merchant should consider looking for a storage partner, Low advised that the threshold is when the merchant cannot cope with the workload anymore and it starts to interfere with personal life, such as when stock overflows into non-work space.
Ignorance is not bliss, and the right partner is crucial for the success of your business.
When you feel uncomfortable about it, or when it affects your effectiveness or personal life, that’s when you should consider the options available.
The next question was about the volume of sales/business required before a business looks for a partner for logistics and storage. Low responded that there was no real formula, but was instead a balance of cost versus what you were willing to pay. As for cost-effectiveness, there are different levels and different dynamics. While delivery services can start at any level, storage solutions tend to take a different view.
On Logistics and Flammable Products
Another question then came about transporting flammable, but legal, products.
Low responded that there are a few classes of dangerous goods, and the understanding of which items are in which category is important. There are also several factors that play a large role, such as:
- Item Quantity
- Destination of item
Low advised merchants to speak to people in the freight business, as they can recommend suitable packaging types for the transportation of the product. He also touched on the importance of using flame-retardant packaging (for obvious reasons).
Low stressed again the importance of speaking to the freight forwarder, doing everything above-board, declaring everything properly at customs, and talking to people who know what to do is the way to go.
Coach Adrian Oh then took the stage again, asking if there were any further questions for any of the speakers. With no questions, Oh advised participants that there were booths outside the hall, with various companies offering their services and solutions, and that it would be a good chance to browse their offerings. The class then drew to a close with the group photo.