5 tips for e-commerce merchants


Don’t just sell at a single place anymore. It’s also important for e-commerce merchants to have a presence in multiple online marketplaces

Carrying on with our coverage of e-commerce in Malaysia, both in terms of the opportunities and experiences of the existing players, today’s article sees one of the leading e-commerce enablers in the country, Adrian Oh, who has been in e-commerce since 2005! Oh, shares with Business Circle his five top tips to get a running start in e-commerce.

Tip #1: Go big or go deep
As a merchant, you either grow big offering everything under the sun, which requires substantial capital investment or you can choose to focus on dominating a niche. For most small businesses, starting small and staying focused is the best way to succeed online. Let’s say you are a fashion retailer. Instead of any high street fashion, you choose to focus only on men’s swimming trunks. Then you can easily offer 1,000 different styles of swimming trunks which can easily beat what the big boys are offering. Furthermore, customers can easily associate with your new brand and earn you a unique position in a crowded market. An example of this can be seen at avalonsarees.com (which specialises in selling Bollywood-inspired sarees), which is one of our customers.

Tip #2: Customer service is king
Never compete only on price, as it is only one of the reasons why people shop online. There are many other reasons why people buy from you and the top reason they are coming back for more should be excellent customer service. Take note that for e-commerce, the whole online shopping experience will be used as a benchmark to judge your customer service quality. It all starts with the accuracy of your product information (e.g., stock availability) to the tune of how fast and accurate you get the orders reliably shipped to the customer’s doorsteps. Bear in mind that an e-commerce business is built on repeat customers. Invest in customer service and you will go a long way.

Tip #3: Multichannel selling
In today’s hyperconnected, globalised world, you don’t just sell at a single place anymore. While it’s most important for small businesses to build their own branded store using solutions like those offered by service providers such as webShaper, it’s also important for you to have a presence in multiple online marketplaces or even setting up your own brick-and-mortar store. Each online marketplace will attract different buyers with different buying power and demographics and not all will suit your business. But selling at a combination of these channels will prove to be a successful strategy for years to come.

Tip #4: Facebook page to build trust
Lots of small businesses use a Facebook personal profile to promote their products or website. But, this is so wrong! Remember, you can only have a maximum of 5,000 friends. Worse, Facebook actually disallows a personal profile to be used for any commercial purpose. So, make sure you create a Facebook page instead of a Facebook personal profile (Google “Facebook page”). Once you have the right start, make sure you actively promote it to your prospects (Facebook Ad is the easiest way to start). Try not flooding the wall post with only products as it will be too “hard sell” and it is not helping at all to build trust. Engage them with quality content (such as funny quotes, useful product tips, special deals, etc.,) and the way you do it will greatly influence the “trustworthiness” of your online business.

Tip #5: Mobile eats the world
There were two significant milestones that happened in 2011 which signify the way things are moving forward. Firstly, smartphones beat PC shipments with 487 Million smartphones sold vs 414 Million PCs. This means 73 million more smartphone units were sold versus PCs. (source: digitaltrends.com). Secondly, since April 1 this year, Amazon sold 105 books for its Kindle e-reader for every 100 hardcover and paperback books sold. This was without Kindle versions and excluding free e-books. (source: Amazon PR).

What does this mean for merchants? These two milestones offer solid proof that consumers are already embracing mobile phones (and we still have yet to take tablets into account) into every aspect of their lives and means that you just have to have a mobile storefront for your webstore in the coming 6 to 12 months! It can either be present in a mobile optimised e-store or a native iOS or Android app.

The future is indeed exciting!


The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.

Photo credit: Flickr user HASLOO

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