The first EC Class of 2017, held on the 17th of January, was an introduction to e-Commerce, with the feature of a Coach, who led the class with the provision of the background, framework and knowledge required for individuals to fully understand the material presented by the speakers that followed. A total of 113 attendees showed up for the class.
The Coach for the class was Adrian Oh, CEO of Webshaper and Co-founder of eCommerceMILO, who spoke at length about his life before his foray into e-Commerce in the early 2000s (which involved selling air conditioning units) as well as about the basics of e-Commerce from his own experience.
Oh spoke about matters such as basic components for a budding online business, which included matters like a payment gateway and a business model. He also spoke about the history of e-Commerce in Malaysia, and spoke about the separate waves that have led e-Commerce to where it stands today as a major contributor of the national GDP.
He also fielded a discussion that always seems to come up whenever a merchant is about to delve into e-Commerce, and that question was about whether a merchant should start selling with a marketplace, or develop their own online store.
“It all depends on your knowledge of marketing and doing business,” explained Oh, pointing out a matrix chart which balanced the two variables (pictured, below).
Decision Making matrix by Adrian Oh
To put it simply, if you have good marketing knowledge and understand your product well, proceed to starting your own store. The advantage of marketplaces is that they come with the marketing assistance that helps sellers reach out to customers, especially when they do not have a brand presence yet.
On Common Mistakes in E-Commerce
Oh also warned aspiring merchants about common mistakes, such as discarding the notion that traffic will drive itself. Traffic needs to be built and driven, and is also not free, costing more as time goes on. He also stressed the importance of product sourcing, and how, if managed well, can provide a merchant with an edge against their competitors.
“It is allright to NOT be perfect, as long as you actually take action and start your business. Work and improve as you go along, and remember to have opening promotions! If a physical store throws a celebration when it opens, why would an online store not require the same to drive traffic?” quipped Oh, who sought to illustrate how the concept of traditional marketing should still apply to online selling.
The first speaker to follow Oh was Sunny Ooi, the co-founder and managing director of ClickAsia Malaysia and ClickAsia Singapore. Ooi spoke about his experience with starting up ClickAsia, as well as the importance of having the right business partners.
Ooi noted that the company made it to where it stands today due to the collaborative measures taken with its partners, and Ooi urged merchants to be on the lookout for partners that can help their companies to achieve maximum potential, while cautioning against partners that would bring ruin to the partnership.
On Homogenizing Aspects of Talent Management
Ooi also stressed the importance of bringing in talent that is suitable for the company. Looking to his own company as an example, Ooi noted that all of his staff are tech-savvy and have some knowledge of IT, and by extension, the business, rather than only the front staff who deal with customers and the products.
This, according to Ooi, makes it easier to work with the company, and each employee has an appreciation of the business, while also bringing their various talents to bear in ways that would benefit the company.
On joining marketplaces or developing one’s own e-store, Ooi differed from Oh, noting that it was not just about a merchant’s knowledge about marketing, but also a matter of best fit for the business, which is ultimately the decision of the merchant, considering they decide the direction of the business.
The next speaker was Adeline Tan, an Evangelist from Panpages. As the first local partner of Chinese conglomerate Alibaba.com (a high traffic B2B e-marketplace based in China), Panpages has been assisting local SMEs expand their business overseas and becoming global exporters since 2007.
In this segment, attendees asked interesting questions, such as how much admin fees should a company set aside when partnering with a marketplace.
According to Ooi, the rates differ according to item category and marketplace platform, from as low as 0.5% commission to a whooping 25% commission. Generally, higher margin items have higher commissions on them as well.
Another question was on the ease of entry into marketplaces by newbies.
Oh noted that almost all marketplaces offer attractive zero-entry fees, which, in his words, were “You can’t get any easier than free”.
The third question was on the legitimacy of suppliers on the site Alibaba.com, and the attendee asked if there was a way to verify a supplier’s authenticity, as she personally recounted her experience of being solicited by a highly suspect supplier of dubious origins on the site.
According to Tan, Alibaba.com takes legitimacy issues very seriously, and asserts that all Global Gold Suppliers on Alibaba.com are verified and authenticated through a third-party audit system to ensure the legitimacy of the suppliers and their businesses.
A seal of authenticity is awarded to suppliers upon completion of the Authentication and Verification Check (A&V) process. Additionally, the number of years displayed on a Global Gold supplier’s Seal of Authenticity in their profile further adds to the trustworthiness of said supplier.
Following the Q&A session was the market sharing session, with the first sharer coming from Shopee to talk about a completely free mobile shopping app for B2C, which is not just free for shoppers, but sellers too. It also boasts a partnership with PosLaju while allowing individual branding for stores, with the sharer likening it to a “Facebook for stores”. Shopee is backed by regional gaming giant Garena, as well as several high-level investors such as Khazanah Nasional.
The second sharer was YouBeli, a multi-category marketplace that offers operations in three major languages. It promised a comprehensive backend support system, along with training and photostudio facilities for its partner merchants.