The e-commerce space in Singapore has been ratcheted up by another notch as online shopping platform Shopify partners telecommunications provider SingTel to make available its services to businesses in the country.
Shopify’s platform allows new and existing businesses of any size to easily start their own online store, bypassing the need for technical know-how or the hiring of expensive web designers using one of many hundreds of templates on the front-end, as well as providing a proper back-end customer management and order management system to help manage sales. It also works as a fully featured mobile application, and retailers can manage their shop on the go through the mobile app. With subscription rates as low as US$14 a month, budding entrepreneurs can easily set up and manage an online business, and it’s also an ideal option for existing blogshop owners – and there are plenty in Singapore – looking to grow their business and employ a more professional setup.
Tapping On The E-Commerce Explosion In Asia
Online commerce has seen explosive growth in the region – data from PayPal, from example, revealed that merchants based in Singapore saw an increase of online export sales on average by 68% to China, 55% to Hong Kong, 22% to Japan and 20% to Australia in 2012 alone.
Despite this trend, while Shopify serves over 50,000 clients in 80 countries only slightly over 500 merchants in Singapore currently use the service. “Shopify hasn’t really penetrated the market in Asia,” admits Harley Finkelstein, Shopify’s chief platform officer. “As opposed to North America, countries here like Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and India need a bit of hand-holding when it comes to starting an online store, so having a partner here on the ground is important.” It was the main reason the online shopping platform looked to partnering with SingTel, which currently services over 280,000 small and medium businesses with its suite of telecommunications and digital offerings.
Perhaps coincidentally, it was a service that existing SingTel customers were looking for. “What retailers are after now is direct-to-consumer business – and the most efficient way to do so is through an online store. We were looking around for an e-commerce platform and we found that Shopify is the best fit for our customer base,” explains Xante Koh, Singtel Digital Media’s senior marketing manager. ” The key attraction they offer is a lowered barrier for entry – you don’t need technical know-how or a high cost to set up an online store, and, most importantly, you can set up one very quickly and easily.”
Finkelstein says they don’t have a figure at the moment when asked what kind of a take-up rate Shopify is targeting for the Singapore market. “(But) I’m confident our partnership with SingTel will boost the rate in Singapore,” he says.
Shopify itself was started as an online shop in 2004 selling snowboard equipment out of a garage by its founders. “It all began with the intention of scratching our own itch, really. In 2004, we wanted to set up an online store selling snowboarding equipment. We looked at many existing platforms, like Yahoo, eBay – they were inexpensive, but they were severely lacking in services and features,” says Finkelstein. “So, in 2005, we launched our very own platform. Gradually, people started asking if they could use our software to help them build online stores – and Shopify was born.