Hong Kong-based entrepreneur Tony Wong professes to be an engineer at heart.
He likes solving problems, and even as a young lad, would often build products and solutions to help his family’s businesses run better. He once designed a simple digitised ticketing counter using a TV monitor after seeing how his mother struggled with strained-voice when calling out customers’ numbers.
“My passion to solve problems is a key to what drove me to where I am now,” says Wong, CEO and Co-Founder of Shopline, a DIY e-commerce platform to help sellers create shops online with minimal hassle.
“I like to build products with technology, and then provide this technology to people to help them compete in the industry.”
Shopline - A DIY E-Commerce Platform For Creating Online Shops
Six years ago, Wong along with his friends Fiona Lau and Raymond Yip, started Shopline to solve a problem often faced by merchants who want to set up shop online - how to get a store up and running without programming or coding knowledge? And how to ensure the website promises good user experience for customers?
Shopline’s all-in-one platform offers everything from website development, product order and management to payment and logistics services.
“With our product, they (merchants) just pay a subscription fee and our team regularly updates the product,” adds Wong. “We make it affordable so they can launch a store really quickly. We want to lower the barrier of technology.”
Since its inception, Shopline has grown into a 200-staff company in five locations, Malaysia included. It has assisted over 150,000 merchants start their online shop across ten countries.
We make it affordable so they can launch a store really quickly. We want to lower the barrier of technology
“We have about 10 to 15 people in Malaysia since setting up last year and we hope to continue to grow in this region. China will be our focus next, but we also want to go deeper into our core markets which are Hong Kong and Taiwan,” says Wong.
Shopline does not stop in helping merchants to build, and manage their businesses it also helps retailers grow their reach and visibility through marketing and analytical tools.
“We provide very robust Customer Relationship Management (CRM) module that enables merchants to manage customers.”
“And the data that we amass from all over the region, we are able to provide really good analytics for our merchants,” Wong adds.
“One of the pain points that some merchants have after creating their online shop is that they don’t know how to drive traffic. We’re a Google premium partner. We help merchants place ads on the (platform). We work with Facebook to help them drive traffic to (the store). We also work with Paypal and in Malaysia, we work with MOLPay. Soon, we are going to add more partners on Shopline too.”
Shopline on Expanding into Malaysia
Wong is acutely aware that Shopline needs to move fast if it wants to secure a stronghold in the region. “We do see a few players doing similar things in the region,” says Wong.
We have a lot of Taiwanese brands entering Malaysia and we’re helping in that segment
“But we are in a good position to target this market because we have a good international team that have experience in e-commerce and we’ve proven that we are able to localise in different regions,” he says, referring to Shopline’s foray into Taiwan in 2015.
“After entering the market, we were able to localise our product very well. We were helping merchants not only sell in Taiwan but sell outside of Taiwan as well."
Wong, whose mother is Malaysian, believes in using a market-by-market approach to expansions, expansion, taking account the different business languages in each market.
“We believe that we are able to localise in Malaysia too. This is a huge market for us. We have a lot of Taiwanese brands entering Malaysia and we’re helping in that segment.”
Shopline on Helping Merchants to Strengthen Online and Offline Presence
Having previously lived in Venezuela, Canada, Singapore, Taiwan and the United States, Wong says it is crucial for entrepreneurs to be highly adaptable and to move fast - and test fast.
“For every entrepreneur, when you create a product, you always think that it is your baby and it has to be perfect,” says Wong. “At Shopline, we created our first product in six weeks time.”
“But we had to pivot because we realised that merchants something more, they wanted to build their brand from the website.”
“This is most entrepreneurs’ pitfall - they continue to build the product without releasing it. I think it’s very important for us to continue releasing the product and test it. That’s still part Shopline’s DNA.”
“We develop features and products really quickly and release them to a small number of merchants. We test it, get the feedback and continue to evolve."