In the past two years, when most of Southeast Asia’s retail sector was severely affected by the Covid-19 epidemic, e-commerce still developed like a storm as buyers and sellers gradually switched to online shopping platforms.
According to a joint report by Google, Temasek and Bain & Company, the Southeast Asian e-commerce market was worth $38 billion in 2019, up from $5.5 billion in 2015 and forecast to exceed $100 billion by 2025.
“Surfing” on this wave is Shopee. In 2015, Sea launched the Shopee e-commerce platform with the top priority being mobile users. Despite being a latecomer, it took the company only 6 years to become the number one platform in Southeast Asia. According to Shopee Commercial Director Zhou Junjie, being behind does not mean a disadvantage. On the contrary, they can observe the market more carefully and identify trends or areas for improvement.
In the interview, Mr. Junjie shared: “In early 2015, we viewed e-commerce as an industry, and even though there were players, we still saw a lot of growth potential and many aspects that were not yet understood by other players. Existing play solved well”.
How did Shopee achieve this feat in such a short time? According to experts, there are many factors that lead to where Shopee is today.
Southeast Asians are among the world’s largest mobile Internet users. According to Google, Temasek and Bain & Company, there are about 360 million Internet users in the region and 90% connect to the Internet primarily by mobile phones.
From the very beginning, Shopee has seen mobile as a rising trend and the next way of e-commerce in the region. The company focuses on optimizing the user experience and interaction on mobile. According to Shopee, online shopping must change to meet the needs of young users, especially those who grew up with technology, often communicating, working and playing on devices. This approach helps Shopee take advantage of the growth of mobile subscribers.
Shopee says that more than 95% of orders on the platform are made on mobile devices. Faced with that need, the company provides a self-contained shopping solution directly in the application. Customers can view products, place orders, pay and track orders. Meanwhile, merchants use the app to take photos, catalog products, manage performance, receive payments, and monitor shipping through built-in payment and logistics tools.
Southeast Asia is a large region, not a single market. Each country has different challenges and characteristics, and different customer segments. Therefore, Shopee adopts a localized approach in each market to deliver the most relevant shopping experience for brands, sellers and buyers. It is part of Shopee’s customer-first philosophy.
Understanding the market and user behavior means Shopee can respond flexibly to their needs. This activity is meant to build loyalty and create a memorable experience. Not only have offices and employees in each country, Shopee’s product portfolio and marketing campaigns are also flexible. For example, in Indonesia, Shopee launched Shopee Barokah to cater to Muslim users, especially during the fasting month. On holidays and Lunar New Year, Shopee also runs programs with themes associated with these days. Shopee has 7 different versions of the app and multiple payment options to meet the needs of each country.
Shopee cooperates with banks and local logistics services to take care of customers. For example, in Malaysia, realizing that high shipping costs affected users’ transactions, the company responded by offering free nationwide shipping for items weighing up to 5kg.
When it comes to engagement, another effective Shopee approach is to invite stars and influencers as brand ambassadors. In the Philippines, Shopee invited singer-songwriter Jose Mari Chan, who is known for his Christmas carols and is a perfect fit for a country known for celebrating the longest Christmas in the world. In other markets such as Thailand, users love many multi-racial stars, and in Vietnam, Shopee also invites actors, singers, and comedians to participate in advertising campaigns.
More than just shopping
A key initiative of Shopee is to provide a personal and social experience for users. In terms of personal experience, Shopee relies on data and artificial intelligence (AI) to identify patterns and insights from users’ browsing and shopping history. Instead of just focusing on increasing orders and competing on price, sellers can win by interacting with customers and building relationships through these experiences.
Shopee integrates shopping with social networks, building a community strong enough for users to connect and interact with others. The features offered by the platform are Shopee Live (live broadcast), Shopee Games (in-app gaming), Shopee Feed (a message board for users to share content about items), Shopee Live Chat (live chat, allowing buyers to interact with sellers directly and find more information before a transaction).
In addition, data and AI are also used to identify suspected cases of fraud, counterfeit goods, and counterfeit goods, helping users feel secure when shopping. At the same time, e-wallets like ShopeePay and AirPay offer convenient and secure payment methods, helping businesses seize new opportunities.
Shopee is committed to strengthening the sales partner ecosystem. At the most basic level, Shopee continuously upgrades and introduces new features for sellers to effectively track and manage sales, payment, inventory and delivery. For example, in marketing, Shopee provides a range of visualization tools and data to capture customer habits, and allows sellers to create coupons and other promotions. Recently, Shopee teamed up with Google to launch “Google Ads with Shopee”, a one-of-a-kind marketing solution to boost online sales. To ensure more businesses take advantage of the wave of digital transformation and combat the Covid-19 epidemic, the platform introduces courses and support packages for sellers.
Thanks to a methodical marketing strategy for each active market, Shopee has achieved success both domestically and internationally, becoming the leading e-commerce platform in Southeast Asia. Continuous innovation and strategic planning are essential to adapt to the constantly changing needs of users.