credit card, online shopping

SMEs get extra rewards this year from Shopee | Source: Pexels

Shopee insider reveals 2018 plans for Filipino SMEs

ONLINE retailer Shopee is steadily establishing its presence and building its reputation in the Asian market, with the e-commerce firm continuing its push into countries such as the Philippines.

Recently, Shopee Head of Regional Marketing Agatha Soh sat down for an interview with Tech Wire Asia, where she answered questions about the company’s strategy for expansion, its focus on small businesses, and its plans for the immediate future.

What makes Shopee perfect for small-and-medium scale business owners in the Philippines?

We want to make sure that we will be able to break down barriers for all entrepreneurs, regardless of the size of their business operations. We all know that Internet penetration is on the rise in Southeast Asia. We’re focusing on mobile, so even SMEs with very little infrastructure can grow and thrive.

One interesting trend in the region is the transition from offline to desktop to mobile shopping. This is something important. Mobile is more accessible. Thus, it’s very easy for entrepreneurs to sell their products.

For us, we believe a lot in the sellers. We want to make sure that we can cater to small businesses. In terms of the kind of support, we try to customize the solutions we provide as well.

What advantage does Shopee have over its competitors such as Lazada or Zalora?

First of all, our focus on mobile is significant. At Shopee, we have a laser-sharp focus on user experience for mobile customers and merchants. We believe this is the future and we have allocated resources for both buyers and sellers in this regard.

Along with this, we have a strong focus on localization. I don’t just mean tailoring our message for each market, either. Every market is so different in Southeast Asia. Thus, in any country, we provide localized support for buyers and sellers alike. We also make it a point to hire local talent for each country’s operations.

What security measures are in place for consumers? Does Shopee enforce sanctions on merchants? If so, when and how is this done?

Shopee takes this really seriously. If we want to provide a good user experience, we have to provide a good, secure system. We have a very big team in place that controls quality for all our listings. If there is an item that does not fulfill regulations, we might even ban the seller. We also have an ongoing effort to educate our merchants.

The concept of security is very important to us. We provide the Shopee Guarantee, an insurance-type offering for our buyers that has been very successful on our platform. This reduces any barriers or reservations in the minds of users. We have found that once users experience Shopee, they do not leave.

One of the things customers love about Shopee is the fact customers can decide when merchants receive their payment? Is this feature unique to Shopee or was it inspired by another firm?

It’s something we partly modeled after successful businesses. However, we enhanced it, built it, and rolled it out over time. In countries that have not fully warmed up to the concept of online shopping, we focus on educating consumers and merchants on the benefits of e-commerce.

Shopee’s payment options are quite interesting in the way that a credit card option is unavailable. Will Shopee be open to the idea of using cryptocurrency-based payments in the future?

So far, we do not have plans for this [cryptocurrencies] yet. In the Philippines, we are still investing resources to develop our infrastructure. We are working on introducing other payment options in the near future, however.

What is Shopee’s primary target for 2018?

I think for 2018, we would like to be the No 1 online shopping destination in the Philippines. We would continue to focus on improving the product and user experience we offer by introducing new features. We would also aggressively expand our number of sellers to keep pace with the market landscape.

We want to focus on our sellers. Whether you’re big or small, we want to bring you online. There’s a lot of education to be done. We have to educate everyone and show how easy it is to use our platform.