Whether you are an aspiring entrepreneur, online seller, or a brick-and-mortar business owner looking to pivot your venture online, navigating the world of eCommerce may seem daunting despite the dazzling opportunities it can bring.
This International Women’s Day, we brought 12 female founders across Southeast Asia together to draw on their successful journeys and share tried and tested tips to grow an eCommerce business.
1. Use social media to build-up your customer base and to drive traffic to your online store
It’s no secret that social media is a powerful platform for sellers to bring their brand story and products to life. Social platforms can open your brand up to millions of potential customers, and help you to build a loyal base of followers at the same time. The key to success on social, then, is to make it a primary traffic driver to your online store with interesting and engaging content.
This technique is exactly what led Manasawee Suangkaew, owner of fashion store Loonnystore in Thailand, to realise eCommerce success. By using her social media platforms to showcase her products, the latest fashion trends and celebrity styles, she converted curious eyes into first-time buyers, and loyal social media followers to regular customers. For Manasawee, social media is an integral part of her success, and the best part – it is a free advertising tool where other buyers can share their purchases too!
2. Use livestreaming to educate consumers about your products
We’ve all tuned in to watch livestreams on eCommerce platforms, and for sellers, livestreaming can be an effective marketing tool to reach new audiences instantaneously. In just a few minutes, sellers can capture the attention of their audiences by sharing entertaining and engaging information about their brand and products, giving viewers a more ‘hands-on’ experience that replicates the experience in a traditional brick-and-mortar store.
Pattiya Thanasrivanitchai, who runs Happi Cup in Thailand, uses livestreaming sessions not only to showcase her menstrual cup products, but also as a way to have discussions on women health and well-being with her customers. Similarly, Farica Edgina Yosafat, owner of Berry Baby from Lazada Indonesia, sees livestreaming as an important channel to educate and inform customers about her mother and baby products.
3. Leverage mega campaigns to supercharge sales
Mega campaigns such as 11.11 and 12.12 are essential time periods in the eCommerce landscape. They drive sales, boost retailers’ fortunes, and offer customers access to great deals and products on a regular basis. More than 800,000 brands and sellers participated in Lazada’s 11.11 Shopping Festival last year – this figure was twice as much compared to the year before.
One entrepreneur who was able to leverage mega campaigns to increase their sales is Liang Wee Ling, owner of 8miles, a mother and baby store. She credits her quick business expansion to double-digit sales campaigns (9.9, 10.10, 11.11, 12.12), which helped her to drive more sales and expand her customer base.
4. Integrate the brand experience across offline and online channels
With more consumers shopping at physical stores amid the relaxation of pandemic restrictions, many businesses are doubling down on an omnichannel retail approach to engage customers across both offline and online channels. However, it is important that the brand experience remains the same across all touchpoints on the customer journey, as this is what drives brand recall and loyalty.
Pauline Ng, co-founder of Porcelain, Singapore’s luxury facial spa, digitalised and brought the full range of their skincare products online when the pandemic struck. She focused on delivering top-tier customer service experience similar to her in-store operations, maintaining the same look, feel and intimacy that her brand offers. As a result, she maintained her loyal base of customers while attracting new ones through online channels.
The same strategy was adopted by Elyse Janina P. Juan in the Philippines, who is the fifth-generation owner of Papemelroti selling original, eco-friendly and locally made gifts, stationery, craft and home décor items across more than twenty physical stores. Elyse took additional steps to ensure her online store had the look and feel of the physical outlets, so that her customers immediately recognises her brand and know that they are buying from a trusted and established seller.
5. Make data-driven decisions with the use of sellers dashboard analytics
Data is an essential part of business – it’s the key to knowing what works, and what doesn’t. By accessing data-driven insights, indicators and numbers, sellers can better understand the purchasing habits of their shoppers, and in turn make informed decisions to generate more revenue.
Two sellers from Malaysia and Vietnam credit their eCommerce success to the use of data. Nurul Izzan Zamzuri, who owns Niz Craft in Malaysia selling yarn, arms herself with insights on her customers’ purchasing behaviours and search requirements, so that she can list her products to cater directly to her customer needs. Đoàn Trần Thùy Linh, who owns Light Coffee in Vietnam, similarly uses data tools to understand her customers, enabling her to anticipate demand and introduce new flavours, products and sizing options that different consumers are looking for.
6. Experiment with vouchers, discounts and free shipping to drive conversions
Consumers in Southeast Asia love a sale, and giving back to your customers goes a long way to build loyalty in the long run. Vouchers, discounts and free shipping are some ways sellers can use to entice new customers and retain existing ones.
Kong Wai Theng, owner of Big Care Mart in Malaysia, experiments with a mix of vouchers and free shipping options to drive customer conversion and bigger carts when they shop at her online store for her pharmacy products.
This strategy is also replicated by Monalisa Gao in the Philippines, who owns Lucky HR selling consumer electronics. Her online store homepage is filled with banners of attractive discounted products and special deals, especially for new product arrivals. This has made her one of the top online sellers in her category.
7. Respond to retail trends quickly to drive sales
In eCommerce, businesses that can identify, adapt and tap in to consumer trends are able to diversify and expand both their sales revenue and customer experience. The pandemic has transformed businesses, jobs, and livelihoods of many, but having your finger on the pulse of retail happenings, and staying open-minded about exploring new angles and trends can really help your business expand and your sales skyrocket.
Nadjani, a fashion brand started by Nadya Amatullah in Indonesia, pivoted their production lines to manufacture reusable fabric masks, aprons and gardening kits for those staying home during the pandemic. Like Nadya, Nguyễn Thị Kim Oanh, who owns 1994food in Vietnam, noticed the rising interest in health-related products amid the pandemic. She quickly capitalised on this trend and started to import health food products from multiple sources, including the United States. On top of that, she also pivoted her factory production to produce what has become her best-selling product today – her diet biscotti.
These inspiring tips of female eCommerce founders from around the region come from the winners of Lazada Forward Women Awards 2022, an initiative that celebrates the range of accomplishments and milestones women in the region have achieved by overcoming challenging circumstances in their personal lives, communities and cultures.