If digital isn’t already a core part of your business strategy in Southeast Asia, then you’re in serious danger of falling behind the curve.
The 2018 Google-Temasek report on the state of the internet economy in Southeast Asia, considered by most to be the most accurate determinant of market trends in the region, predicts a US$240 billion overall market size by 2025. The number is an upward estimate from the 2017 edition of the report, which had estimated the pie to be closer to US$200 billion.
There’s definitely more room to grow. According to the report, eCommerce in Southeast Asia currently stands at about US$23 billion after doubling in size from the previous year. These figures are fuelled by approximately 50 million online shoppers, most of whom transact on mobile. There’s an additional US$30 billion in online flights, hotels, and vacation rentals, US$8 billion in on-demand transportation and food delivery, and a hefty US$11 billion in online advertising, gaming, and video.
Aspiring online retailers understand that the internet market presents their most scalable model of future user acquisition. The challenge, however, is to determine what strategy works best. Should they opt for simple listing on marketplaces by building a shop-in-shop or decide to grow out their own web presence by using an eCommerce enabler like Shopify?
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One of the more popular ecommerce marketplaces in Southeast Asia is Qoo10. Headquartered in Singapore, the marketplace operates as an Amazon-style online store, with categories ranging from beauty, electronics, fashion, lifestyle, and food. Qoo10 Singapore is considered to be one of the top marketplaces in the country with monthly web visits of over 10 million and an Android app store ranking of 3rd position. Its monthly traffic outstrips other players like Lazada and Shopee by a considerable margin.
The benefits of being a Qoo10 vendor are manifold. Retailers don’t need to invest resources in building a customized site by hiring developers, designers, and other key personnel. The 10 million people landing on Q0010 Singapore every month means there’s already eyeballs on the site and it’s a matter of ensuring that their search queries result in your products being displayed closer to the top.
For example, if you are an aspiring Qoo10 seller looking to market men’s grooming products then you would want your brand to be displayed above competitors like Garnier, Nivea, or Gillette. Your marketing team can concentrate their energies on doing just that as opposed to driving traffic to your own site.
But in Southeast Asia there’s a looming threat which can eat into your margins and visibility. As this example of Samsung indicates, grey sellers or unofficial suppliers are prone to siphoning away search queries on marketplaces.
An analysis of Samsung suppliers on ecommerce marketplace Lazada indicated that official sellers only accounted for 2% of the products listed on the site. A colossal 98% was listed by unofficial suppliers, likely small merchants who import items in bulk from elsewhere and proceed to sell on online channels, pocketing the arbitrage fees. This means a top-tier brand like Samsung is unable to create a unified and omnichannel brand experience for its clientele. Many prospective customers might not even know the difference, and may blame the company itself for faulty goods or fake advertising leading to a dilution in brand equity.
Another problem with relying on a marketplace to power your digital strategy is the fact that you’re unlikely to get much in the way of analytics. You won’t know how many search queries there were for your product, what the click-through rate was, or the eventual conversion rate. All you would be able to decipher are monthly orders but that’s not giving you a holistic sense of your business. Marketers love data but a marketplace isn’t going to give much away.
Building out your web presence with Qoo10 Singapore and Shopify
The alternative to listing items on a marketplace like Qoo10.sg would be to build your own web presence, thereby ensuring a consistent customer experience and no chance of faulty or fake advertising.
Some aspiring online merchants are daunted by the prospect of building a website on their own as they believe it’s too technical and not within their domain of expertise. That’s where turnkey solutions like Shopify can help.
Shopify is an excellent tool if you’re looking to scale a multi-product ecommerce store as it ships with an ecosystem of supporting apps that’ll assist in things like SEO, analytics, email marketing, and payment gateways. Furthermore, you won’t have to worry about things like web hosting or cybersecurity as the platform is designed to take care of all the technical needs so you can focus on what you do best: product.
It’s quick to set up, easy to use, affordable, optimized for mobile, visually pleasing, and ships with 24/7 live customer support. And you’re avoiding some of the problems that plague marketplaces such as the lack of analytics. With a Shopify store you can track exactly how many people are landing on your page as well as the primary acquisition channels. You’re able to decipher the conversion rate and engage in things like multivariate testing to optimize your site and boost key metrics like email signups, shares, and sales.
What strategy should I settle on?
Using a ‘rented’ platform like Qoo10 isn’t without its own advantages. You can set up a web presence in a matter of minutes and instantly leverage the millions of customers that visit the site. This also means a lower outlay on digital marketing expenditure and customer acquisition.
On the other hand, if you decide to operate with an ‘owned’ platform like a Shopify-powered webstore, you’ll be in full control of the user journey, have better SEO rankings, and have access to a wealth of data. The downside is that you will have to invest more time, energy, and resources in getting the word out via customer acquisition strategies.
The answer is to opt for a combination of the two. Marketplaces have existing traffic and customers with intent to buy which is an opportunity brands cannot miss out on. At the same time, it’s pivotal to use data for customer segmentation and marketing messages which only your own webstore can provide. By optimizing both channels you’re setting yourself up for success in the long run.
—Written by Osman Husain