Mobile-first app Shopee is turning two years old in June, solidifying its status as one of the first mobile shopping platforms in the Philippines that brought an entire marketplace closer to consumers.
Macy Castillo, Shopee head of commercial business, said while there are similar platforms, Shopee remains unique because it is purely 100-percent market-based.
“This is like our second birthday here in the Philippines. We’ve been around, starting with our headquarters in Singapore. We’re now in seven countries including the Philippines. We’re mobile first, so that sort of differentiate us from those who came earlier. They are more of the desktop users. And what’s great about us that we’re very social. That’s what we really thought about when we started the business,” Castillo said.
For Shopee, being a virtual marketplace makes trade and commerce a whole lot easier and cost-neutral as the actual operations are done by the vendors themselves.
There is no capital investment needed to creating and maintaining a business like warehousing cost for physical inventory.
“Ours is just a platform. The real commerce happens between the sellers and the buyers. We encourage the buyers to be more pro-active in their buying habits, to engage the vendors to disclose more about their products to prevent miscommunication,” said Castillo who used to work for Zalora, the fashion online site.
She also worked in an e-commerce startup after her stint at Zalora.
The beauty of the marketplace, she said, is that it offers shoppers a whole range of products at different price points.
“They can compare the published prices so there’s more value for money. The more they visit and browse the app, the more they will learn about unique and novel products not yet offered in the malls and other shopping sites. What we did was we made sure that our buyers and sellers could talk to each other. If there’s a problem or question before they buy the product, the sellers and buyers can chat on the app real time. We localize everything so we have market support. And also what’s very different for us compared to other buy-and-sell stores is that we have Shopee guarantee,” Castillo said.
She said there are buyers who have concerns about buying online so the only way they can assure the buyers that online shopping is safe, secure and convenient is by providing the so-called Shopee Guarantee.
With guarantee, Shopee makes sure that buyers receive the order before the payment is remitted to the sellers.
“We created all of these features for Shopee because we know people are hesitant to buy via the web. We want them to feel secure.That’s one of the things that we tell our buyers,” Castillo said.
She also noticed that the Philippines is the only market where sellers and buyers are both very engaging and are comfortable to chat on the app.
Compared to other countries where engagement is estimated at 75 percent, about 85 percent of Shopee buyers in the Philippines actually chat with sellers before a purchase is made.
“But what also makes us different aside from being social is that we really have full support to the sellers. We have all these tools that even for new sellers, it’s very easy for them to manage their inventory, to manage their income. They don’t need the desktop. They can do everything on their phone. All they have to do is take pictures of the products they intend to sell on our platform, register with us and post the photos,” Castillo said.
Shoppe’s support to sellers have come a long way since it started operating in the Philippines.
With the Shopee University, the app helps local entrepreneurs in setting up their online business and succeed in an increasingly competitive mobile-centric environment. It is a series of in-depth tutorial modules to educate sellers.
The first Shopee University class was held in February 2016, and since then, has visited 29 cities around the country and attended by thousands of participants.
Shopee plans to further expand and improve Shopee University across the Philippines which includes extending the curriculum and getting more prominent lecturers from m-commerce backgrounds to share their expertise with Shopee sellers.
A great deal of Shopee’s buyers are very millennial, an age group who are more confident buying online. Transactions at Shopee are still predominantly female-led with beauty and women’s crafts leading the growth.
In recent months, Shopee noted that more men are actually doing their shopping online. “What is more amazing is the fact that male shoppers are actually buying beauty stuff on the net. Things like toner, facial wash, anti-aging creams, perfume, the likes,” said Castillo.
Shopee boasts of huge stock keeping units reaching 60 million at any given time, and the number is still increasing as more vendors join the market place.
In 2016, Shopee reported sales of $2.5 billion, a 900-percent growth over the previous year making it the top online shopping app in the region.
“I can’t reveal the targets but we’ve exceeded it already, I can tell you that. Midyear, we’ve exceeded targets. We’re growing it and we’re hoping to exceed the $2.5 billion this year,” said Castillo.
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