Shopee's Ian Ho: Getting Ahead the E-Commerce Battle

BATTLE HEATS UP

Shopee's Ian Ho: Getting Ahead the E-Commerce Battle

The Sea Group has big ambitions - it wants to make its e-commerce platform Shopee the region's top online shop. AWANI Review’s Dishen Kumar listens to the plan laid out by Shopee Regional MD Ian Ho, on how this lofty ambition will be realised.

If the West had Boxing Day or Black Friday, bargain hunters over in the Eastern hemisphere can have China to thank for making November 11th, or known as Singles Day, as the largest online shopping phenomenon in the world.

While the 11.11 Sale originated from China, the event has found its way into local shores and have garnered a high number of interest from Malaysian consumers. 

Shopee, a Tencent-backed e-commerce platform is also gearing up up for yet another ‘super-sale’ festival this month.

But just how well will the company fare as it goes up against giants like Lazada and Tokopedia, Indonesia’s largest e-commerce firm - both backed by Alibaba Group. It is also up against 11th Street, backed by Celcom Axiata Berhad and South Korea’s SK Planet Ltd.

Southeast Asia has become the new battlefield for e-commerce platforms, says Shopee Regional Managing Director Ian Ho. Competition is intense, he admits. Nonetheless, he is positive of the growth that the region can offer.

“If you take countries like China and USA, the percentage of online retail to offline retail is upwards of 10 to 20 percent. But in the countries that we are in, particularly Malaysia, the percentage is close to two percent. This shows us the potential growth for us in e-commerce in this region.”

It is not only just growing the user base on the platform, it is about getting the user base that we have to purchase more

Shopee, operated by gaming company Sea Group, first launched in Singapore in 2015 and since expanded into seven countries in the region. It’s application has registered 160 million downloads.

“From our point of view, it is not only just growing the user base on the platform, it is about getting the user base that we have to purchase more. So, we are trying to encourage repurchasing behavior.”

According to Ho, Shopee already has around 20 product categories featured on its platform. The team is keen to bring on more retailers on board. “We need to create a wide assortment of products for a shopper to buy, because what every one of us wants to buy is totally different from one another.”

Ho says that while the platform is continuously enhancing consumer experiences, it is also trying to incentivise merchants to sell on Shopee.

“One of the main things that we did right is ensuring that our platform is free. This was done to enable the merchants to come on the platform and with various incentives given to the merchants, we were enabled to bring their prices down for our customers.”

Among one of the big complaints about e-commerce platforms is poor-quality items. Ho shares what Shopee is doing to mitigate the problem.

“We have a team that actually goes through all the listings to make sure that the merchants are not selling illegal products. We also have something called Shopee Guarantee, which means Shopee only releases the payment made by the buyer to the merchant only when the buyer has received the product. From this standpoint, we are actually protecting the buyer or customer.”

Brick and mortar and the online industry are coming together. What we are embarking on with some of our merchants is doing things like “Click and Collect”

Interestingly, while selling online, Shopee is offering shoppers the option of dropping by at a traditional brick and mortar address for pickup of their purchases.

Ho says it is part of the platform’s ambition to create an omnichannel retail experience, providing consumers access to products both online and offline.

“Brick and mortar and the online industry are coming together. What we are embarking on with some of our merchants is doing things like “Click and Collect”, where the user purchases from the platform and goes to the nearest outlet to collect the products,” Ho explains.

One such partnership that has been initiated is in Singapore. Shopee shoppers can now browse Sim Lim Square’s stores on the platform and make purchases online.

Shoppers can also choose to have items delivered to their homes for any preferred location to pick up the goods.

Watch the full interview with Ian Ho below:

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