Rural entrepreneurs turn to e-commerce for income

by FAYYADH JAAFAR / pic credit: shopee.com.my

E-COMMERCE platforms are seeing an increase in sales with rural entrepreneurs turning to e-commerce to make ends meet.

Shopee Malaysia head of marketing campaigns Kenneth Soh said the socio-economic landscape has changed dramatically since the Covid-19 outbreak, pushing a more diverse range of products to be sold online.

“We have a clear goal of assisting the rural community as much as possible and providing them with the opportunity to gain benefits from e-commerce.

“Through Shopee’s initiatives like our collaboration with the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) and the Program Pemerkasaan Pendigitalan Usahawan Kecil [email protected], trains and guides hundreds of rural micro-entrepreneurs at over 800 Malaysia Family Digital Economy Centres throughout the country,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) recently.

He added that it enables the rural entrepreneurs to leverage on a space equipped with Internet connectivity and empower themselves to transition from traditional businesses to marketing on an e-commerce platform.

Soh said as the company has always tried to find ways to integrate better into their users’ lifestyles, Shopee has launched several initiatives like the Shopee Premium featuring luxury brands and products, and new features such as ShopeePay Near Me and ShopeeFood, which further strengthen Shopee’s offering in the market and provide better convenience to Malaysians.

“On top of this, we put local sellers’ products front and centre through our #ShopeeSapotLokal initiative, providing them with added exposure to assist in boosting their sales.

“One of our more recent initiatives to help sellers get back on their feet after the hardships of the pandemic is the handover of ShopeePay push carts to local traders in Terengganu, Sarawak, Kuala Lumpur, Perak and Penang,” TMR was told.

The new equipment and the adoption of ShopeePay provide sellers an opportunity to start fresh and embrace the convenience of using an e-wallet for their business.

“All in all, we see both the online and offline retail channels complementing each other to meet the various needs of Malaysians,” Soh added.

He also said demand for various categories of products continued even as the economy began to open up.

“Shopping online has become a habit for many, including consumers outside of big cities.

“Keeping in mind this growing familiarity that Malaysians have with shopping online, we continue to upgrade the user experience beyond their immediate needs,” he added.

He gave the example of the partnership between Shopee and Agoda, Airpaz and Easybook.com to facilitate travel bookings during the Chinese New Year (CNY) period through the CNY Travel Campaign.

“Through this campaign, users could book their way home for a reunion while enjoying a 10% discount (capped at RM20) on bus tickets, hotel bookings or flight bookings via the Tickets, Top-Ups & Bills in-app portal on Shopee.

“This is a timely partnership as more Malaysians are confident and optimistic about travelling,” he said.

Noting the trend in customer behaviour, Soh said consumers have become more accustomed to omnichannel shopping and are increasingly more empowered when they shop to discover new interests and make lifestyle choices.

He noted that shoppers outside of big cities are also more aware of the benefits of online shopping.

“Online shopping has definitely grown to become more social over the years. Users want to interact and connect with other users in real time. This was very clear especially in 2021, when we saw over 13 billion engagements across our social media channels throughout the region as users enjoyed our content, commented on our posts, participated in giveaways and more.

“Consumers have had the opportunity in the past two years to truly embrace omnichannel shopping, and now they expect fresher, more seamless shopping experiences from online and offline channels. Examples are virtual showrooms or livestream product demos with in-store merchandise trials and returns,” he added.

As the new normal continues to evolve, Soh said it is important for retailers to stay relevant to their customers’ needs and expectations.

“The new normal has certainly resulted in more Malaysians reaping the benefits of e-commerce. Moving into the post-pandemic period, e-commerce will remain relevant as it should not be seen as competing with but complementing the offline retail industry.

“As the trend for mobile-first continues to grow, we are leveraging our e-commerce platform and mobile wallet to connect online customers with offline merchants,” he concluded.