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Shopee to focus on growing market share in Southeast Asia to maintain lead

Janet Ong
Finance Editor
Zhou Junjie, Chief Commercial Officer, Shopee. (PHOTO: Don Wong for Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE— Homegrown e-commerce firm Shopee will focus on growing its market share in Southeast Asia where the number of online shoppers is forecast to increase at an exponential rate, according to Zhou Junjie, Chief Commercial Officer.

In an interview with Yahoo Finance Singapore last week, Zhou said, “We believe that there should be a lot more growth potential in Southeast Asia so we should focus our effort and resources in this region.” Whereas the e-commerce industry in China is more mature, Southeast Asia markets are still at the very beginning stage, he added.

Southeast Asia’s e-commerce industry is set to exceed US$150 billion by 2025 from US$38 billion now, and become one of the world’s fastest growing areas for online retailing, according to “e-Conomy SEA 2019”, a research report by Google, Temasek Holdings and Bain & Co. The surge in the region’s growth is projected to be aided by online shopping festivals such as 9.9, 11.11 (Singles Day), in-app entertainment features and faster delivery.

Since it was founded in Singapore four years ago, Shopee has expanded into Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia and Taiwan, with each market being served by an independent localised app. Shopee is a unit of New York-listed Sea Ltd, which is founded by billionaire Forrest Li.

Shopee claimed it is the leading e-commerce platform in these markets, with over 200 million downloads of its app and over 7 million active sellers as of 30 June. The company has over 10,000 brands and retail partners on the Shopee Mall.

According to App Annie, an app market data and insights company, Shopee is the top ranking shopping app in Southeast Asia by average monthly active users.

“Our priority is to grow the market share. We will continue to invest to make sure that we strengthen our lead position, we want to make sure that we grow faster than others. I think that’s the most important,” Zhou noted.

Among Shopee’s regional competitors are Alibaba’s Lazada, as well as Tokopedia and Bukalapak in Indonesia, and Lelong in Malaysia.

In order to grow its seven markets, Shopee recognised that a one-size-fits-all strategy wouldn’t work as each market is different in terms of language, user behaviour, purchasing power, logistics and payment infrastructure. Hence, Shopee runs different apps that cater to each of the markets.

“If you launch an app, you can get some orders, but to build up you really need to run locally,” he stressed, adding the team in each market runs its own marketing campaigns and hires local brand ambassadors.

To attract more users, Shopee in June introduced a live streaming service to let its sellers - including brands, small-and-medium sized enterprises and microentrepreneurs - directly engage and interact with shoppers. It also holds live trivia quiz shows, where participants can win digital tokens, in addition to offering 15 self-developed games.

“Consumers in Southeast Asia are not looking just for a simple transaction of buying a product. They are looking for more content and entertainment and be treated in a personalised way,” said Dong Hyun Kim, Proctor & Gamble associate director of e-business for Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa.

In May 2018, Shopee launched its first Super Brand Day in Indonesia in partnership with P&G. Since then, it has organised 70 Super Brand Days around the region .

Regional headquarters

The lobby of the new Shopee headquarters in Singapore. (PHOTO: Don Wong for Yahoo News Singapore)

Last month, Shopee opened its new regional headquarters in Singapore in Science Park. The six-storey building spans 244,000 square feet and can house up to 3,000 employees.

Within four years, Shopee has grown from just 10 employees to over 1,000 staff. The company is looking to expand its technical team, especially data scientists and programmers, said Zhou, without elaborating.

According to the “e-Conomy SEA 2019” report, mobile internet users in Southeast Asia are the most engaged in the world, with about 90 per cent of the 360 million users in the region connecting to the internet mainly through their mobile phones,

So it is no surprise that Shopee is always thinking about making mobile shopping a smooth and enjoyable experience as 95 per cent of its orders are from mobile users, Zhou emphasised.

Shopee’s “mobile-first” approach has paid dividends. It reported that second-quarter gross orders rose 92.7 per cent to 246.3 million, compared with 127.8 million a year earlier. The gross merchandise volume increased 72.7 per cent to US$3.8 billion and adjusted revenue surged more than 200 per cent to US$177.8 million over the same period.

Gearing for Singles Day

Cristiano Ronaldo for Shopee's 11.11 Big Sale. (PHOTO: Shopee)

Shopee is now gearing up for 11 November or Singles Day, the biggest online shopping event of the year. International football star Cristiano Ronaldo, who has been appointed as Shopee’s regional brand ambassador, will appear in the 11.11 promotion materials just he did for the “9.9 Super Shopping Day”.

Shopee CEO Chris Feng speaks about the 11.11 event. (PHOTO: Don Wong for Yahoo News Singapore)

The 11.11 Big Sale is expected to surpass last year’s, according to Shopee CEO Chris Feng. It will kick off in all seven markets from 22 October and run until 11 November.

Shopee last year recorded 11 million orders, a 24-fold increase from its first 11.11 event in 2016, and saw a total of 42 million visits, Feng revealed.

He added, “In the coming years, we want to build an e-commerce platform that is not only about shopping but is engaging and also social for our buyers and sellers.”

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