Knowledge Exchange

The Future of E-commerce

Kei Chan (Class of 2021)

Our world is changing. E-commerce will only get bigger and better as the year moves on. The coronavirus has changed things all over the world, with more and more people preferring to buy things online to avoid risk exposure. Here, we meet with Kei Chan, HKU MBA Class of 2021 Part-time Graduate and Head of Merchant Success at Shopline, Asia’s biggest smart commerce platform, who shares her industry insights and experience.

 

HKU MBA: What was your main motivation for pursuing the MBA Programme?

For many professionals, getting an MBA seems like the next logical step to advancing their career. For me, I’ve always wanted to make myself valuable to everyone around me. After I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree, I sought out a career in Tech / FinTech / eCommerce as I was fascinated by the amount of innovation required for a company to remain competitive globally. The explosive growth in the digital sector, fuelled by new and emerging players, makes this an exciting industry to be a part of. Pursuing an MBA puts me in close contact with professionals, including students and instructors from all over the world, with different work experiences and perspectives on the global economy. There is no better way to learn than from real world experiences of others: sharing real business situations and explaining what was done to drive success or failure is invaluable. Overall, it gave me a safe and effective learning environment to practice and hone business skills.

 

HKU MBA: We can see you’ve accelerated your career development within the e-commerce industry over the last 8 years. As Head of Merchant Success at Shopline, what is your main responsibility?

At SHOPLINE, our goal is to empower merchants to succeed everywhere. My role in the company is very much aligned with this goal – I build out the Merchant Success Department, including growing and developing different teams and designing playbooks to provide our merchants with guidance, best practices, and strategic help them grow and succeed. We are their partner in commerce that will truly help them grow their business.

Currently I am leading and overseeing different functions, including the account management team, growth team, merchant experience team, and eCommerce operation team (~30 team members), to help SHOPLINE’s merchants grow to the next level. While prioritising retention, I build tools and strategy to define merchant segmentation and engagement approaches with an ambition to increase merchants’ solution stickiness, thus driving company revenues. To ensure exceptional experiences for merchants when adopting our solutions, I collaborate very closely with the product team by delivering merchants’ product insights and make sure these are added to the company’s product roadmap for enhancement.

 

HKU MBA: The e-Commerce industry has been rapidly growing over the past few years, especially throughout the COVID-pandemic. Can you introduce some of the projects that you led?

With COVID-19 driving customers online in droves, it’s no secret that e-Commerce is the most preferred channel. But social commerce is also rising through the ranks – coming a close second with the majority of shoppers, who say they’ve made purchases on social media. These shifts in behaviour have evolved the way marketers craft media strategies for the various touch points along the sales and marketing funnel. There are a lot of projects going on, but here are a couple that may be of interest.

Earlier this year we launched Instagram LIVE, which allows merchants to manage livestream selling, as live-selling has been accelerating globally since the pandemic began. Along with the Facebook livestream tool integration that we launched a couple years ago, merchants can now extend their reach across multiple social media channels and engage with customers in real-time, by managing livestream video content and customer comments on both SHOPLINE LIVE, Facebook, and Instagram through one single backend system.

We also expanded our payment solutions aggressively by adding different payment methods to our system, such as Atome, that enable online business owners to onboard Atome’s buy-now-pay-later function as a payment option. The payment solution consists of three zero-interest instalments, including the first one at the point of purchase and two over time. Last week we also launched Octopus, with an aim to capture opportunities from the new round of the consumption voucher scheme.

 

HKU MBA: Can you share some of the latest market trends and consumer behaviours that you have witnessed in the e-commerce industry?

From my observation, the most popular online store industry is not those that generate the most order volume overall. According to our eCommerce whitepaper in 2022, “Lifestyle”, “Fashionable Clothing”, and “Integrated Retail” are the three major online store industries that account for more than half of the total. However, in terms of the overall annual turnover and order volume, “Integrated Retail” and “Food & Beverage” are leading. In 2021, the top 2 selling products were the Apple Iphone and healthcare products.

In addition, 70% of our merchants heavily benefited from the consumption voucher scheme – the usage rate of AlipayHK increased by 5 times in the month of issuing coupons. In terms of consumer behaviours, the main 3 keyword categories that were most searched by the Hong Kong consumers were: masks, sportswear (e.g. 327, Hoka, Nike) and famous brands (e.g. Chanel, Kangol). So, including these keywords in SEO settings and product descriptions is very important for merchants.

 

HKU MBA: Hong Kong seems to be a bit slow in terms of e-commerce development given its market size and consumer appetite. How do you foresee the future of e-commerce in Hong Kong?

While e-Commerce’s upward trajectory continues unabated, I am looking forward to a future that integrates aspects of both online and offline for the city’s retail market. With the integration of offline and online marketing, and an accelerated  for customer experience as a result of COVID-19, some brands have already combined the strength of both channels to prepare themselves for the challenges to come. Although the operating model of brick-and-mortar stores has faced many challenges in recent years, it is still an effective way to make your online store stand out in the vast online world – by increasing consumers’ confidence in the brand when they visit. Both O2O (online to offline) and OMO (online merge offline) marketing pays attention to customer traffic and data integration, regardless of whether consumers of O2O consumption can be integrated to synchronise and update member information. Collecting consumer behaviour footprints with people as the core can achieve a more accurate analysis and formulate more effective marketing strategies.

Livestream shopping is also another trend on the rise. Combining human connection with the online shopping journey, it enables gamified shopping experiences that integrate fun elements with personal connections to build emotional bonds, and in turn, increase sales.

 

HKU MBA: There are many candidates aspiring to have a career in the e-Commerce industry. How can they be equipped with the required skill sets? What would be your advice for them?

Inevitably, basic knowledge regarding is essential, such as SEO knowledge, data analysis, online payment option, and logistics flow etc. Staying on top of e-Commerce trends is a great way to start, as this is an accelerated growth and fast changing industry. I think anyone can join the industry as long as there is dedication and determination to be in this whirlwind. Thousands of consumers have now shifted online – and there are multiple service providers in each category. Thus, acquiring and retaining consumers in the post COVID-19 world is going to be strikingly different. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is that we need to deal with and adapt to change it in almost no time – I believe this applies to the e-Commerce industry. I think you are perfect for this industry if you are agile and flexible to quickly adapt to the changing norms.