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Mitch Bittermann, Regional Chief Logistics Officer at aCommerce recently sat down with The Postal Hub podcast to discuss a successful B2C ecommerce strategy, logistics in Southeast Asia, and what he thinks brands should prioritize when attempting cross-border. 

The Postal Hub: From a retailer perspective, what are the challenges to get into ecommerce

Mitch: I would look into tech, customer service, warehousing and transportation. Retailers today are mainly working from a B2B perspective. This means bulky shipping and heavy-duty racking in the warehouses, which is only suitable when operating B2B. To do B2C, the requirements are completely different, because the consignments are smaller. From a transaction perspective, businesses would also need to think differently.

With transportation, it would either be light or FTL (full truck load), the size of packages are smaller with B2C, which means you have to work with parcel couriers to get the items shipped to your end customer. The biggest difference is also with customer service. If a company is running their own customer service, it usually requires them to talk to businesses, but with B2C, customer service means the end customer is contacting you through various channels, from calling to live chat, things that B2B businesses may not have.

The Postal Hub: If you are a retailer entering ecommerce, what are the key delivery considerations?

Mitch: I would go one step before that. I would think about what the location strategy is. Where is your supplier, brand, manufacturer and customer sitting? If it comes from a transportation perspective, today, you’re shipping a lot on freight. You’re shipping pallets, costs is definitely a consideration but from a cost perspective it is a lot smaller than if you have to send everything in small consignments. Someone has to pick up the bill.

Customers in Southeast Asia are more cost sensitive about shipping price so retailers will eventually need to consider setting up a hub somewhere to cut costs on shipping.

Postal Hub: Cash on delivery is popular in Southeast Asia. What are the other ways people are paying?

Mitch: Cash-on-delivery (COD) is the biggest enabler in ASEAN. This is the choice for most people, especially in tier 2-3 cities that are unbanked. If you look at Indonesia, in a place like Papua New Guinea, 90% is COD. Do we have another method? Yes, but one of the challenges is that we do not have Alipay. Banks offer platform but they are not default.

In Indonesia, a lot of banks are talking about an e-platform but nothing concrete is happening just yet. 

For now, we cannot live without COD in Southeast Asia. Potentially, a retailer could lose out 60-70% of revenue if they don’t offer COD as a payment method.

Postal Hub: What about buy vs. build? What should be outsourced?

Mitch: It really depends on retailer maturity. If a retailer is just starting, I would say do as much as possible by yourself. Pack and send off shipment by yourself, if your business scales, then look to outsource. When it reaches the stage of 100,000 orders a month, do you want to run it by yourself or outsource to a third party service provider?

With transportation, it is best to outsource. This is because Southeast Asia still has fairly weak infrastructure. There are a lot of options to choose from; DHL and Kerry are the big ones. Then we have smaller disruptors such as Ninja Van and Sendit. All the movements in the transportation industry also mean prices will be soon drop and the industry will become more commoditized.

Some of my clients run their own warehouses and some outsource. When I was working in B2B, companies were running their own warehouses and then the outsourcing trend happened. The trend is coming for B2C, but I don’t think it will take 5-10 years to take off, it will go faster.

Soon, the trend will go towards out-sourcing supply chain so that businesses can focus on growing and selling their products. 

Postal Hub: What about cross-border delivery?

Mitch: With delivery, some people request next day or same day. It’s more difficult to ship cross-border with these requirements. Companies need to consider regulations that are related to ecommerce shipment and study revenue transfer, especially if you don’t have your own entity in that country. Figure out how to get money back from country A to country B while also thinking about tax implications.

Businesses will also need to think about FDA licenses and certain regulations. For certain products, you would need a license to legally bring it into a country, including distribution and logistics licenses.

A client came to me, they wanted to ship stuff from Singapore to Indonesia, but it was taking 7-9 days and costing customers $7 per shipping order. Depending on the product, that is quite a high price point. Customers are also not happy to wait that long for a delivery.

The client wanted a local set-up and do COD shipment because they want to build up scale. The company never shipped more than 100 orders a month. When they signed on with aCommerce, we closed 1400 orders after 3 months. The only thing that changed is the country we did the shipping from.  

For businesses that are starting out in Asia, I would say for them to start their operations from either Hong Kong or Singapore. If it scales, then is the time to go local i.e. Jakarta, or hyper-local, such as tier 2 and tier 3 cities like Bandung or Surabaya for better reach. 

Postal Hub: What about parcel lockers? What are end consumers in Southeast Asia interested in?

Mitch: The interest is there, but it’s all about reach and coverage. In Singapore, the country is not that big and essentially a metropolitan location, which makes it easier to offer things like same day delivery. In Bangkok, we power SKYBOX, a pick-up station on sky-train stations that allows consumers to pick-up their parcels on the way to and from work.

In Jakarta, MatahariMall offers lockers but it is limited in terms of coverage. I would recommend looking at pick-up and return from convenient stores such as 7-Eleven, Family Mart and Alpha Mart. There is already a lot of offline coverage in Southeast Asian cities and retailers can collaborate with these stores to begin a wider distribution network. 

Listen to the full interview on eIQ’s podcast channel here.

Fashion is one of the first things that comes to mind when thinking about online shopping and nowadays, there are plenty of brands and retailers to choose from.

Yet, did you know around 60% of all Southeast Asia’s fashion and lifestyle retail is attributed to small vendors who sell at places like Bangkok’s Jatujak market, Platinum outlet mall, or Singapore’s Haji Lane?

In Indonesia, it’s even more – 85% of retail is thanks to small shops and resellers and what’s even more surprising is that most of these sellers are not taking advantage of the internet revolution.

This is exactly what Ankiti Bose realized on a trip to Bangkok a few years back and together with Dhruv Kapoor, the duo built Zilingo in 2015. The company is a fashion and lifestyle marketplace focused on helping small sellers in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and most recently, Indonesia, expand their customer reach.

Bose shares with ecommerceIQ how her marketplace competes in an already saturated online fashion market in Southeast Asia and what her newest B2B venture is all about. 

“Businesses first”

While most companies create a product for the end user, Zilingo was specifically built with the sellers in mind in order to help them create virtual storefronts and overcome the difficulty of managing large order volumes and fulfillment.

“I realized all these sellers had smartphones and probably a few had Instagram, Facebook shops or Shopee accounts. While it is a great way to be discovered, there’s a lot of noise and complexities to running a business on these platforms. We knew that writing some Magento code wouldn’t solve this problem; we needed to educate them,” says Ankiti.

Part of the reason why current ecommerce platforms such as Shopify don’t tempt small sellers to open online shops is simply because they’re in English.

Understanding that English proficiency levels vary widely across Southeast Asia, Bose aimed to build a localized backend system that allowed sellers to easily track analytics, manage inventory and schedule order pick-ups. The mobile-first site was good to go within five months.

When a buyer purchases a product on the site, the seller is notified on his app to confirm the order and provide a slot for a product pick up. Zilingo’s logistics partners, integrated in the system, then go to the seller’s shop to pick up the item and deliver it to the buyer. The company doesn’t hold any inventory itself.

Zilingo marketplace was built with the sellers in mind to make it easier for them to create an online store and help them track analytics, manage inventory and schedule order pick-ups.

For these services, the e-marketplace charges sellers 15-20% commission on their products plus a per-order fulfillment fee. According to Bose, businesses don’t mind paying the commission if they get more orders as Zilingo helps them to be discovered by buyers.

“Our seller churn is less than 7% annually meaning sellers don’t drop off once they see the value of the platform,” says Bose.

The less than two year old marketplace has managed to secure 2,700 sellers all trying to capture the attention of 1.1 million users, of which 2% are active buyers. All of this could be the reason why Zilingo managed to secure a $8 million Series A in September 2016.

New ventures

Thailand is Zilingo’s biggest market in terms of sellers and buyers; Singapore follows very closely. While around 80% of the company’s gross merchandise value comes from these two countries, Zilingo is also present in Malaysia and launched in Indonesia in the first week of February. The company also ships to other markets such as Hong Kong, Australia and United States.

“Customers from Korea, Hong Kong, Australia or the US have become an unexpectedly fast-growing part of our business,” says Ankiti. “Probably because the only supplies that were available to these buyers were typically from China and while prices were cheap, the product would arrive completely different from what was expected.”

According to Bose, Thailand is an exceptional market to find a great price versus quality and relevance balance. “If there is something on a catwalk in Milan, it will take three seasons to become available in Indonesia, but it would probably be on hangers in Bangkok the next week,” says Ankiti.

Not only are individuals exploring the Thai fashion scene, Zilingo is also seeing increased interest from businesses – wholesalers and resellers from far-flung areas who are trying to buy in bulk.

“We have many requests to buy 10, 20 or maybe 100 items so we decided to create a separate platform called Zilingo for Business where they can get a better rate from the seller,” says Ankiti. “This also keeps our cohort analysis clean.”

Marketing to millennials

Zilingo is a mobile-first platform. Bose shares that while the marketplace is available on desktop, 98% of its users are on mobile and 83% of users are millennials. Being a millennial herself, Ankiti figured early on she needed new ways to get the attention of buyers.

Zilingo is a mobile-first platform and 83% of users are millennials.

“Other marketplaces are trying to sell to me in a way that I don’t naturally consume media anymore. Majority of my phone time is spent on Instagram Stories or Snapchat and sometimes Facebook. We decided to go big on video and build a Snapchat presence and give sellers an opportunity to position themselves on these channels,” explains Ankiti.

She calls this approach “content on steroids”.

The way it works is that users see products in a video that they can click on to go to the product discovery page. From there, it’s only a few clicks to purchase.

The marketplace does allocate a large budget for digital marketing, but Ankiti ensures it’s spent efficiently thanks to her past experience at Sequoia and Mckinsey.

“Facebook is our most optimized marketing channel and although we’re spending, we recover it back within nine months. For international orders from US or Australia, the cost is covered on the second transaction,” reveals Ankiti. “VC money is quite valuable to us.”

Behind the scenes tech

Besides marketing, technology is the other big expense on Zilingo’s budget. Of around 70 employees across four countries, 25 are engineers based in Bangalore and Singapore. Their efforts are focused on applying machine learning to product discovery and image recognition technology to improve the company’s online shopping experience.

While running operations in several countries, Zilingo is keeping it light. The company has around 70 employees across four countries, 25 of them are engineers.

The Zilingo app lets a customer snap a picture of a blouse or dress and browse through similar items available on the platform. The company recently featured an article on the top 15 looks from the Golden Globes Awards and the video resulted in an 80% higher click-through-rate than any other content on the site.

The development of product discovery technology is even more important for markets such as Indonesia.

“I think people often underestimate the importance of technology required to do very relevant targeting when you have a market that wants both Western and Muslim wear. Either you have to separate the products or you have to have great machine learning that tailors content to somebody who wants to buy only hijabs and not bikinis,” says Ankiti.

The challenges faced by everyone

Zilingo is not an exception to the pain points logistics and payments poise to ecommerce in Southeast Asia. In Zilingo’s case, they might be even more profound as the company does not have its own warehouse and items must be picked up from 2,700 sellers.

“There was a time when one of our sellers from Taiwan would ship to Thailand and deliver the product sooner than an upcountry seller shipping to Bangkok. At that point we understood we had to do something,” says Ankiti.

The marketplace is open to working with logistics companies both large and small and is constantly on the lookout for new partners. It has managed to reduce delivery time in Thailand from 5 days to 2-2.5 days, yet its priority is to get it down to 1-2 days.

Payments are the second problem as cash-on-delivery and money transfers through bank branches, ATMs and payment kiosks are the preferred payment methods.

“The problem with these payment methods is converting orders to real transactions. Cancellations are common when people have to go to ATM or a branch to pay for the items,” says Ankiti.

“Marketplaces run on fintech and logistics companies. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter how great the product discovery is if the delivery experience sucks. You will hate the marketplace. It’s no wonder why so many of the successful internet companies in this region are C2C marketplaces – the problem is between the buyer and the seller,” says Ankiti.

We hear you Ankiti.

The showroom is quiet.

Fanie Fikri, Head of Marketing at Fabelio, one of Indonesia’s up and coming startups, isn’t worried, the usual mall traffic is out to lunch.

“Our experience centers contribute a healthy 15% of our total revenue.”

He’s referring to the number of customers who have “signed in” to any of the company’s two offline experience centers to view Fabelio’s line of Ikea-esque furniture before buying it online.

To promote a product such as furniture, it’s almost mandatory to have an offline presence and it must be working as the company has raised $3.5M in total funding and was a part of SPARK 40 2016 top individuals building the ecommerce ecosystem.

ecommerceIQ invited out Fanie for coffee to discuss how the company markets affordable coffee tables and artisanal items to the masses and the habit of purchasing furniture online.

What was buying furniture like?  

“A complete mess.”

Fanie explains that his father used to find a carpenter on the streets of Jakarta, attempt to describe his coffee table vision and haggle for an agreeable price. He would also need to return a few times in a week to check on its progress because very rarely would it be without blemishes or completed on time.

One could understand the frustrations with buying artisanal furniture in Indonesia and why it was such a big deal when Swedish furniture giant IKEA opened its first store in the archipelago three years back.

It also showed the shift in taste of Indonesians from traditional teak furniture to a more minimalistic and functional design.

Furniture is not dominated by one brand and Ikea only captures 18% market share in Indonesia so why not offer another option online?”  

Startups, do your research.

If a company expects potential visitors to spend at least $250 per order on its website, it would be wise to conduct extensive market research first. Furniture is one of those items that people prefer to have home delivered, but who is the audience?

Unlike IKEA, that focuses on younger people with higher education, medium income, and are not very status conscientious, Fabelio targets new Indonesian families who have the growing luxury of decorating as the average top income earners are 30-34 year olds (Euromonitor: Income and Expenditure Indonesia).

Consumer expenditure in Indonesia on household goods and services is also forecasted to rise in the next 13 years.

The company has held many focus groups comprised of young couples, with and without children, to understand what its consumers are looking for. Fanie, a local Indonesian himself, knows that many young professionals are living in “Koskosan” – temporary rooms that are already fully furnished – so they wouldn’t be Fabelio’s main customers.

The company deduced the following from marketing efforts:

    • Focus groups revealed that Indonesians prefer wooden furniture but the look cannot be too raw, it needs to be extremely well polished. Women typically decide on the household’s smaller purchases but males have the final say on larger purchases.
    • Paid search keywords in Bahasa – “furniture”, “buy furniture online”, “dining room table”, “chairs” – hold the highest marketing return
    • Showrooms “experience centers” are the company’s build trust and inspire, are able to capture names and emails in a visitor log book to track efficacy
    • Event sponsorships are important to reach the right audience, in Fabelio’s case, Indonesia housewives, who still have 78% influence over their spouse’s income. The company partnered with Femina Group, a popular magazine for women, to provide the furniture for its offline pop shop

 

Fabelio partnership with Femina Group’s fashionlink pop shop at Fabelio’s experience center in Senayan City, Jakarta.

What about the Swedish competition?

Although both companies offer minimalistic designs, Fabelio ensures competitive pricing and more room for customization.

Like IKEA, the company also offers “Fabelio Design & Build” that is a B2B interior decorating service. The offices of Go-Jek, Qraved and Singapore Airlines all contain a splash of Fabelio.

Home by Fabeliois the company’s newest venture that caters to customers with basket sizes of 20M IDR and up. If clients are purchasing multiple pieces of furniture, why not send in a professional interior designer for free to transform the entire space?

Although it’s been only 4 months since its launch, over 100 customers have currently signed up for the service.

Furniture may seem as a one-off type of buy but Fabelio sees 20-25% repeat purchases within six months. Fanie also shares other factors that attribute to the company’s success:

    • Extremely vigorous QC process that includes testing weights on the tables, balance of chair legs, polishing uneven colors and surfaces to reduce number of returns (only 10% of returns are due to quality issues)
    • More logistics control with its own dedicated fleet and free delivery and installments in West Java whereas IKEA charges for both. Fun fact: the Fabelio trucks have travelled 120,000km, equivalent to 3X around the globe’s circumference.
    • Having “Ready Stock” items delivered within 4-7 business days and “Made to Order” items delivered within 3 weeks

“We don’t see IKEA as an enemy, they are more of a mentor we can learn from. What we want to know is why our customers who’ve been at IKEA come to Fabelio,” comments Fanie.

Fabelio’s design for its own future

The company hopes to offer delivery to other parts of Indonesia beyond West Java, the country’s largest consumer market, and open more experience centers. The challenge is finding a sweet spot between high foot traffic and rental price.

Fanie shares that although Fabelio plans to expand to new markets, namely Singapore and Malaysia being the most mature and ready for furniture ecommerce, the company wants to cater to Indonesians properly first.

There is already one piece of Fabelio furniture in all 267 neighbourhoods of Jakarta, minus Thousand Islands Regency. Maybe the next coffee table for your new home won’t have to be from Ikea but Fabelio.

The Fabelio team

AUTHOR: CYNTHIA LUO

When successful, established businesses tell their story, it usually sounds all very straightforward. The founders get an idea, work hard to execute it, and miraculously, it all works smoothly from the very beginning to result in millions of dollars earned.

The reality of start-ups in today’s economy is different – the initial idea is only the starting point that almost always evolves at any point of time. The founders of TheLorry, Malaysia’s on-demand logistics start-up, experienced this firsthand and have been on the tips of their toes since deciding they would capture the market’s overlooked opportunities.

TheLorry is a technology-enabled platform that matches lorry owners and drivers with private and corporate customers who need help moving house, office and/or general cargo.

Founded late 2014 by ex-colleagues Nadhir Ashafiq and Chee Hau Goh, TheLorry was initially intended to be the “Expedia for logistics”, but then became the “Uber for lorries” to focus on the business-to-consumer (B2C) market and then later switched focus to the business-to-business (B2B) market.

Ex-colleagues Chee Hau Goh (on the left) and Nadhir Ashafiq (on the right) have reinvented TheLorry three times within two years, showing how startups can adapt to unexpected factors.

It may sound like there was a lack of vision, but this is the reality of businesses in dynamic markets, especially developing ones. The growth of any company involves adapting to unexpected factors such as new competitors, new technologies or customer demands.

ecommerceIQ sits down with TheLorry co-founder and executive director Nadhir Ashafiq to find out how his company carved out a niche in Malaysia’s competitive logistics landscape and why they decided to pivot.

The Business Model Evolution of TheLorry

2014 – early 2015: Expedia for Logistics

At first, TheLorry built a website that allowed customers to access instant lorry rental price quotes online after sharing some common variables: the type and size of the lorry needed, the start and end points of the journey, etc.

The whole business was a two-man team at that time. While Chee Hau was pumping up marketing and sales, Nadhir was running around Kuala Lumpur and Selangor meeting lorry drivers and giving them Excel sheets to fill in their prices, which would afterwards be uploaded on TheLorry website.

TheLorry initially wanted to be “Expedia for Logistics” where users could choose lorry rental on the startup’s platform from selected service providers based on ratings and prices

Right away, there were several downsides to this model, the most pressing being the scalability of the model. It was a time consuming and tedious process to acquire the price quotes from service providers that sometimes involved over 900 price points.

The other reason was that TheLorry could not prevent customers from going directly to the service provider instead of booking through the website. There were several cases when TheLorry got to know that people were searching for their providers online either by customers’ own admissions or comments from the providers.

“Therefore, around the mid-2015 we moved to an Uber-like model where we would be setting the prices ourselves,” explains Nadhir.

Early-2015: Uber for Lorries

The switch meant TheLorry would need to match providers with jobs. At first, it was done manually until the company built an app in-house and the minimum viable product (MVP) within two months. The drivers could accept the job on the app, and thus the process became automated.

TheLorry built an app for drivers in-house within two months. It automated the process of matching lorry drivers with the jobs available.

As TheLorry had attracted funding at the beginning of 2015 from pre-accelerator program WatchTower and Friends and Singapore’s venture capital KK Fund, the company started scaling up by hiring people for their team. Their obsession became to grow bookings through their website and increase their fleet size.

The need for a second major pivot came when the company realised that lorry rental aimed at individuals was mostly a one-off event as people did not often move homes or offices. And apart from customer referrals, the company would find a difficult time sourcing new clients.

Mid-2015 – present: Lorries for B2B  

This is when TheLorry decided to push for B2B sales targeting commercial cargo market – manufacturers, distributors and freight forwarders with urgent trucking needs. Now business customers make around 60% of the company’s sales when it was only expected to make up around 30% of the entire business.

But every business model, no matter how successful, has its own set of challenges.

“There are a few drawbacks for B2B. First, the onboarding process of each client is longer and sales managers have to be hired to pitch our services and build a long-lasting relationship. Then, we also have to give corporate clients a credit meaning at least 30 or 60 days to pay for the services. But chances of repeat business are high and generated revenue is healthy,” says Nadhir.

Servicing Different Customers: B2C versus B2B

Targeting B2C and B2B segments obviously require different approaches. TheLorry adopted online marketing strategy to acquire more individual customers and invested in Google adwords, Facebook ads and content marketing to drive as much traffic to website as possible.

This tactic, however, did not really work for targeting corporations where it is more effective when sales managers knock on client office doors for a face-to-face meeting – especially in the Southeast Asia business world.

“Online marketing gave us visibility, but to seal the deal, we needed a salesperson on the ground and account managers to meet customers to clearly explain our solutions. B2B sales is all about creating and maintaining relationships,” says Nadhir.

Once onboarded, corporate clients can use TheLorry app to hire drivers directly or in the case of any special needs they can turn to an account manager, assigned to each business. Through the TheLorry platform, clients can view all the past and present bookings and invoices as well as track drivers who are on the job.

As TheLorry is a technology-enabled platform, around two thirds of its business is automated. Compared to other start-ups, Nadhir says the company wants to be fully transparent with its clients and does not promise full automation because of the difficulty it entails.

“There needs to be a bit more scrutiny and a bit more manual intervention in order to get the business to run properly,” explains the entrepreneur.

As quality of service is important to any type of customer, TheLorry interviews all drivers and puts them through 2-3 test drives where their skills and professional manners are assessed. If clients give them 1-star rating after these test jobs, they don’t get the opportunity to join TheLorry driver family.

TheLorry team interviews all their drivers face-to-face and gives them test jobs before accepting them to TheLorry driver family to ensure quality of the service.

What’s in The Cards for TheLorry?

TheLorry still has plenty of room to grow. The B2B lorry rental market in Malaysia is estimated at $3.9 billion. There are no solid figures for the B2C market, but the company estimates that this segment is worth around $22.5 to 45 million based on property sales data.

TheLorry wants to become profitable in 2017 and expand to Thailand in addition to its existing services in Malaysia and Singapore.

Jumping on new and unexplored opportunities to raise revenues is one way to grow. Yet, one piece of advice Nadhir hopes other entrepreneurs remain mindful of is that potential top line revenue always carries costs.

Lured by potential revenue growth last year TheLorry took a business opportunity, which Nadhir did not want to disclose, in a field they had no experience and no clear plan to make unit economics profitable.

“In the end, we ended up in a situation where we were selling our service for 1 ringgit and our cost was 2 ringgits. And there was no way for us to increase the price to 3 ringgits,” said Nadhir, adding they decided to quit the business opportunity later that year.

On the bright side, there also have been surprising successes. In 2016, TheLorry introduced a new product – 4 wheel drive car rental, which turned out to be a hit for small and medium mom-and-pop shops who use them on a more regular basis.

As for 2017, the company’s end goal is to grow revenue by a certain multiple, not disclosed, to become profitable. In the second half of the year, TheLorry hopes to expand to Thailand in addition to its existing services in Malaysia and Singapore.

After raising $1.5 million in Series A funding early last year, TheLorry is still in touch with many investors but has no plans for fundraising as yet.

You can read more about TheLorry in SPARK40 here.

Nadhir Ashafiq’s Tips for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

  1. Validate your business idea – test the product, see whether you will have a market before spending money on it. Prior to TheLorry I spent RM 200,000 ($USD 45,000) on a thing which did not work. Don’t spend so much money for nothing!
  2. Read The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, create minimum viable product and get as many people to review your product and launch as fast as possible at the lowest cost possible.
  3. Learn about online marketing, things such as how to drive traffic, conversion rates, upsell and do email marketing, if you will be working in ecommerce space. Good resources for this are kissmetrics.com, backlinko.com, quicksprout.com, neilpatel.com.  

 

By Aija Krutaine based on an interview with Nadhir Ashafiq

Malaysia Ecommerce Landscape

Malaysia may be the second smallest Southeast Asian nation but it doesn’t lack ambition to develop itself into a powerhouse. Prime Minister Najib Razak recently out-hustled neighbour Indonesia to appoint China’s ecommerce tycoon Jack Ma to advise the country’s government on its route to develop a strong digital economy.

These ambitions don’t come out of thin air. In 2015, Malaysia’s ecommerce market was estimated at $1 billion, which constitutes 1.1% of country’s total retail sales (though these numbers may be skewed). Malaysia’s ecommerce market is on a par with Singapore not only in market size, but also in terms of the well-developed infrastructure within the country compared to the rest of Southeast Asia. This might explain why Malaysia is the origin for some of the biggest tech companies in the region such as the taxi hailing app Grab and Catcha’s iProperty Group.

In the next ten years, Malaysia is predicted to increase the online shopping market size eight-fold to $8 billion, but where does the country’s ecommerce stand now? ecommerceIQ shares ECOMScape: Malaysia to provide a quick overview.

1. Surprise, surprise, Lazada emerges as the leading mainstream platform

Lazada, Southeast Asia’s clone of Amazon, has emerged as the leading business-to-consumer (B2C) marketplace in Malaysia with around 20 million visitors per month while closest rival 11street.my, a South Korean marketplace, grew to become the second biggest online marketplace with more than 7 million visitors per month only a year and a half after launching.

Malaysia Ecommerce Landscape

Locally-run Lelong.my, which started as an electronics auction site but now turning itself into a B2C marketplace, gets around 6 million visitors per month.
While these companies are still competitors to Lazada, none of them pose a real threat to Lazada’s leading position, especially after its acquisition by Alibaba earlier this year (deep pockets)

2. Service providers are early online adopters

Malaysia’s online space is filled with service providers who choose to sell services through ecommerce to happy users. A smart move considering 50% of Malaysians in a recent PwC Survey said they shopped online because of convenience.

These early adopters include:

  • KFIT: started its fitness business in Malaysia offering a subscription model for unlimited access to various gyms, and has now expanded to other categories such as selling online spa and beauty procedures.
  • GoCar: car rental by the hour or day through mobile app that offers an alternative to car rental and car ownership in Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur.
  • ServisHero: a mobile marketplace that allows search and booking of home service providers such as a plumber or repairman.

Malaysia Ecommerce Landscape

3. Mobile shopping platforms on the rise

66% of consumers surveyed in the PwC report have used their phones to make purchases. It implies that the majority of 50% of respondents who have started shopping online in Malaysia within the last three years are heading straight to mobile marketplaces.

Among Malaysia’s most popular shopping apps are companies such as local imSOLD, Singapore-based Shopee and Carousell, Japan’s Qoo10 and global players like Taobao and eBay.

Malaysia Ecommerce Landscape

As Malaysians on average spend 3 hours per day on social media, social commerce becomes quite popular – 31% of online shoppers in Malaysia have purchased directly via a social media channel. The most common being Facebook and Instagram, which is preferred by 41% and 22% of Malaysians, respectively.

4. Good banking system means one less problem for ecommerce

Malaysia has well-developed banking infrastructure and as a result, its residents are more accustomed to digital payments than most Southeast Asian nations. 37% of Malaysia’s population uses mobile banking, while nearly 20% made digital payments and used banking cards in 2014.

According to the global payments solution provider Adyen, the preferred payment method of 42% online shoppers is online banking where shoppers are redirected to their online banking environment to complete purchases.

Malaysia Ecommerce Landscape

Source: The Global Ecommerce Payments Guide by Adyen

As a result, there are plenty of payment gateway solution providers in Malaysia, yet few companies offer mobile wallet solutions as they would struggle to change Malaysian habits regarding using online banking.

Malaysia Ecommerce Landscape

5. Newcomers fight to grab a share of logistics

Successful ecommerce in Malaysia has contributed to increased competition among logistics service providers. The country does not have major infrastructure issues such as islands or bad roads like in the Philippines and Indonesia, posing less obstacles for startups to offer straightforward parcel delivery.

Malaysia Ecommerce Landscape

Traditional last mile delivery companies such as POSMalaysia, Nationwide Express and SkyNet have been somewhat lagging behind adopting new technology and are now being challenged by newcomers like Ninja Van, who proudly states it’s “powered by proprietary cloud-based technology”.

And it’s not only rookies in logistics fighting for their share. In Malaysia, the competition is quite tough among fulfillment service providers who focus on serving the needs of online merchants.

Companies such as DHL, SP Ecommerce, aCommerce, theLorry.com and others are battling for clients not only among themselves, but also with the biggest client – Lazada.

Malaysia Ecommerce Landscape

Lazada already pushed its own logistics service, Fulfillment by Lazada (FBL) in Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines. The online marketplace offers end-to-end fulfillment solution at a fixed cost per item delivered. As the biggest player in the market and scaled operations, Lazada’s price may be hard to beat.

“Increasingly, having an online shopping functionality is becoming the norm, rather than the exception and it is only going to be more widespread,” said Jon-Paul Best, Head of Financial Services for Nielsen Malaysia.

Click here to download the full, high resolution version of ECOMScape: Malaysia and join the ecommerceIQ network to not miss out on ecommerce market trends and insights.

For more information on other ecommerce landscapes, take a look at:

ECOMScape: Indonesia

ECOMScape: Thailand

ECOMScape: Singapore

ECOMScape: Philippines

Philippines ecommerce landscape

The Philippines, although part of Southeast Asia’s growing ecommerce family, is quite the odd cousin. It’s the only market in the region where Lazada totally dominates the competition, getting around 35 million visits per month with no second player in sight. In addition, with over 10 million overseas Filipino workers and 3 million of them in the United States, Philippines’ online shopping behavior has been heavily influenced by the US, paving the way for innovative cross-border logistics businesses.

As the second most populated country in Southeast Asia with around 100 million residents, the Philippines currently has the second smallest ecommerce market. But that’s not surprising when 46% of the population are connected to and browsing the second slowest internet connection in Asia Pacific region. On top of that, the country ranks lowest among its Southeast Asian neighbors in terms of ease of doing business, which doesn’t help to boost its online trade either.

However, there’s a bright side. Ecommerce in the Philippines is on a runway and expected to lift off to reach nearly $10 billion by 2025 outsizing Singapore and Malaysia. How developed is the market now? ecommerceIQ shares ECOMScape: Philippines to provide a quick snapshot.

1. Lazada dominates over local and regional B2C marketplaces

Lazada, Southeast Asia’s heavyweight of marketplaces controlled by the Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba, is leading online shopping in the Philippines. It currently ranks as the 7th most popular website in the Philippines. More than 60% of Lazada’s sales in the country come from mobile devices. The marketplace has also doubled the number of merchants selling goods on its platform to 4,000 compared to a year ago.

Philippines ecommerce landscape

Other local marketplaces in the Philippines don’t come close to Lazada in terms of visitors so have found other revenue streams offering affiliate marketing or cashback through their platforms. Takatack, calling itself one the biggest discovery platforms in the Philippines, is one such example. It is both an online marketplace offering products and services from local ecommerce shops and at the same time features products from different ecommerce sites such as Zalora and Galleon.

Marketplace verticals also show potential for growth. The usually competitive Fashion & Apparel category is rather thin in the Philippines. Zalora, online fashion shopping destination focused on Southeast Asia, operates in the country. A small number of global brands have local online stores and only a handful of local merchants sell online meaning the space is wide open for new players.

Philippines ecommerce landscape

Other verticals, such as Electronics & Gadgets, Home & Living, Others, also aren’t too crowded indicating there is room for more sellers.

Yet, Phillipines’ online scene might not be too easy for foreigners to conquer as learned by Thailand’s online retailer iTrueMart. At the end of 2015 it opened online store in Philippines as their first point of expansion out of Thailand but eventually closed the shop in September 2016 after less than a year in the country.

2. Retailers test ecommerce waters through Lazada

The Philippines’ ecommerce market in 2015 was estimated at $0.5 billion or 0.5% of retail in the country as many brands and merchants were not yet committed to making the big investment of opening a full-fledged online store.

However, to test market potential, some traditional brick-and-mortar retailers are opening their shop-in-shops on Lazada. For example, popular local department store chain SM Store initially went online through a shop-in-shop on Lazada where it offers more than 4,000 items. It now has also its brand.com store, powered by Lazada.

Consumer electronics retailer Robinsons Appliances also partnered with Lazada in mid-2015 by opening an official shop on the popular marketplace. Even global brands like Samsung are adopting this strategy.

More brands and sellers will likely follow in these steps to tap online shopping opportunity and add to Lazada’s popularity.

3. C2C ecommerce thrives

Similar to other Southeast Asian countries, a consumer-to-consumer (C2C) market makes up a significant part of online shopping in the Philippines, likely at around one third of the ecommerce market as it is Indonesia.  

OLX is the largest platform for classifieds and peer-to-peer sales. Ranking as 17th most popular website in the country it started as Sulit.ph 10 years ago. Currently, it claims to attract 100,000 to 200,000 new sellers every month.

Philippines ecommerce landscape

In 2016, two other well known C2C marketplaces in the region – Shopee, supported by Southeast Asia’s largest gaming company Garena, and Singapore-based Carousell – entered the Philippines to fight for Filipinos’ hearts and wallets. Shopee’s strategy to lure sellers from Instagram and other marketplaces to its platform by offering merchants free shipping and cash on delivery in the Philippines increased the number of sellers by 40% and the number of listings sold on the app – by 60% within three months.

Philippines ecommerce landscape

As 55% Filipinos own a smartphone and 18% have made a purchase online via mobile, it comes as no surprise that Shopee and Carousell are betting on the Philippines as their next stop for growth.

Another driver of the C2C market is the Filipino preference of Western brands combined with limited options to buy them as international brands have started entering the country just recently and there still remains a significant number of underserved market segments. This fuels selling of popular brands on C2C marketplaces, where products usually don’t come directly from manufacturers but are obtained elsewhere.

4. Digital payments pick up

Around 70% of the Philippines’ population are unbanked and less than 3% of Filipinos use a credit card to make payments. Thus, opening an online store without a cash-on-delivery payment is not really an option in Philippines.

In the recent years, several new mobile wallet apps have been introduced first by local telecommunication companies. For example, PayMaya mobile wallet app and GCash app offer a virtual card for shopping online that can be topped up at various offline points throughout the country. Local banks are also launching mobile banking apps.

Philippines ecommerce landscape

Many of country’s fintech startups are attaining to the needs of the unbanked while also serving overseas Filipino workers who send remittances to their relatives. In 2014, two Silicon Valley entrepreneurs Ron Hose and Runar Petursson founded Coins.ph – a mobile blockchain-enabled platform aimed at the unbanked for easy access to financial services. This start-up raised $5 million series A funding just at the end of October, 2016.

Philippines ecomscape landscape

ePeso app allows to create a digital account with an email address, top it up through scratch cards, over the counter facilities and merchants to send and request funds, pay bills. Paylance allows users to pay and transfer money to Philippines through Bitcoin for free. While Payswitch through its web platform allows small enterprises to offer services such as electronic loading, remittances and bill payments.

5. Innovative cross-border solutions and competition among logistics service providers

While ecommerce is not yet in full swing in the Philippines the logistics landscape is dominated by local players like 2GO and LBC while in other Asian countries international players like Kerry Logistics and DHL lead. Several regional players like Thailand-based aCommerce, Singapore-based SP ecommerce and Quantium solutions provide fulfillment services to online sellers.

Philippines ecommerce landscape

Poor infrastructure, difficult geography and high rates of cash-on-delivery make the shipping of online purchased goods complex. While there seem to be plenty of third-party delivery providers, only two companies – 2GO and LBC – offer countrywide shipping. The rest ensure delivery within metro area of Manila. This limits ecommerce growth and leaves many of country’s potential shoppers underserved.

At the same time, overseas Filipino workers have facilitated the development of innovative cross-border shipping solutions for goods purchased overseas. Beyond family members carrying their Amazon orders back in one big “balikbayan” box, several unique cross-border package forwarding services like LBC’s ShippingCart, Johnny Air Plus and POBox.ph have sprung up to take advantage of this phenomenon.

Philippines ecommerce landscape

Click here to download the full, high resolution version of ECOMScape: Philippines and join the ecommerceIQ network for the first look at the next ECOMScape in our series.

For more insights on the region’s ecommerce landscape take a look at:

ECOMScape: Indonesia

ECOMScape: Thailand

ECOMScape: Singapore

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