Malaysians were craving for a solution like Shopify even before it launched here
Contrary to popular belief, Malaysian market will not require much hand-holding
THE official debut of Canadian-born e-commerce platform Shopify in Malaysia was only a matter of time.
Brennan Loh (pic), its head of business development, told Digital News Asia (DNA) that the platform already had a few Malaysia-based entrepreneurs using the product over the last couple of years, garnering respectable traffic.
“They were proactive and being scrappy entrepreneurs, [were] just getting out there, leveraging the payment options and managing their own fulfilment process -- which is great, and that was really what led us to investigate a localised offering.
“We felt that demand was already there and people in the market were craving for a solution like Shopify but didn’t see it as a Malaysia-focused product,” he said.
Loh reported that since its Oct 1 launch, the platform now has over 200 Malaysian stores in its portfolio.
When asked about how Shopify would fit into the increasingly crowded e-commerce space in the country, most notably with existing players such as Rakuten Online Shopping also offering local businesses a path to an online presence, Loh pointed to the company’s 70,000-strong client base.
“I think that’s a distinguishing factor when compared to Rakuten or Lelong.my. We service 70,000 businesses globally and as a fully hosted solution, that means even as a single entrepreneur running a t-shirt shop, you benefit from the aggregate of other small businesses and the power they bring to the table,” he claimed.
Loh added that businesses would also benefit from the same infrastructure, security and uptime reliability that other companies such as Google, Amazon and Tesla offer.
“Unlike other competitors, when entrepreneurs want to start with Shopify, they don’t need to think about issues such as PCI-compliance or finding servers. We deliver the entire hub for less than US$50 a month,” he said.
The solution’s ease of use is another point towards its value proposition, with Loh pointing to the company’s 'mom rule' when it comes to designing its user interface.
“We stand by our value proposition as the easiest platform to start a store on. We always ask, ‘Can my mom use this?’ and ‘Would it be felt as too complicated?’,” he said.
Loh also said that contrary to the belief that the local market will require much hand-holding to make the jump to e-commerce, the do-it-yourself style is not that unrealistic an expectation, with many aspects not that far outside the spectrum of what Malaysians, belonging to one of the most connected nations in the region, are already used to.
When asked what he foresees as potential challenges to Shopify’s ambitions in the market, Loh admitted that as much as the company believes that its solution is democratising business opportunities and lowering barriers to the online commerce space, there isn’t one formula for success.
“Malaysia is a pretty big country, with Internet penetration not being as high in some of the rural areas and logistics not as sophisticated. The key is how do we get Shopify to everyone?” he said.
The answer to that lies in factors outside the company’s control, such as infrastructure and Internet access, but Loh is optimistic, pointing to the Digital Malaysia initiative as one reason. “It seems like that Government gets it, and we’ll see about execution.”
Of the 70,000 stores currently on Shopify, Loh reported that less than 10% originate from the region, with its global reach driven by businesses in countries such as Canada and the United States -- however, that merely reflects the potential for growth, he argued.
“It’s one of the reasons why we’re targeting South-East Asia now. From our current list of top countries, Asian countries are just next on the list and not just in terms of numbers but also in growth potential. The scene is exploding in countries such as Indonesia and India,” he added.
In Malaysia, a PayPal survey has forecasted that by 2015, the local online commerce market will hit RM5.76 billion (US$1.81 billion). The mobile commerce market is also projected to grow more than seven times to reach RM3.43 billion (US$1.08 billion)in 2015, which translates to 60% of the online shopping market.
Loh said that what was different in this part of the world was the rate and extent of mobile adoption.
“It’s so much father along than in North America, and as a platform we have to address this,” he said, adding that Shopify has already launched its mobile app on iOS with an Android version soon to follow.
According to Loh, the company is focused on ensuring its platform is device-agnostic, allowing users to browse stores easily regardless of device; and extending mobile capabilities to business owners, allowing them to manage the store while on-the-go; along with enabling secure mobile payments which is poised for a lot of disruption.
Loh shared that all of the Shopify themes use HTML 5, ensuring a smoother experience from one device to another and to cater to the fragmented market in terms of device preferences, with no single market leader across the region.
“The market in South-East Asia is becoming very mobile and platforms like Shopify have to adapt,” he said.
Loh also highlighted the introduction of Shopify’s point of sales (POS) solution, which enables existing users to unify their online shops with their physical locations, sharing information on inventory and sales. This was launched in August.
“We realised that a lot of our sellers, about 30%, are selling via other channels as well, and many were coming online from brick and mortar businesses. POS is going to be an interesting play for us but that’s where the future of retail as a platform is heading -- it doesn’t matter how or where you sell as all the paths are going to be intertwined,” he said.
Another trend taking shape off the back of the rise in e-commerce spending, according to Loh, is that consumers are no longer looking for a one-stop shop and are proactively trying to find makers, creators and small businesses for the relationship they can have with the business.
“There’s a growing demand for discovering the best products and connecting with the people behind them. Which has been great for our users, enabling them to do amazing things that would have otherwise been restricted.
“That’s the role we see Shopify playing -- giving entrepreneurs direct access to consumers in a way that’s never been an option before. We see a lot of users take what started off as a hobby or weekend business and grow into successful online stores,” he said.
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