Many of us aspire to run businesses online, but most of us lack the know-how to take an idea and implement it successfully. I had the opportunity to chat with Alva Chew from STRIDEC recently. Alva is an e-commerce evangelist who believes that every business can benefit from e-commerce. He has even helped the boss of a watch business in sleepy Chinatown take his business online and make annual revenues of about USD 2-3 million!
1) You have a guarantee for getting businesses e-commerce ready within 4 weeks. Could you share an overview of what happens during these 4 weeks, and whether it’s hassle-free for the SME owner?
Many business owners think it takes a lot of work and energy to get their business e-commerce ready, as even the development of a normal website can take months! STRIDEC has established a set of best practices and streamlined our processes, so we are able to deliver projects within 4 weeks.
Our “record” thus far is a project which took all of 2 weeks. It was for a company that publishes educational comics. The business owner (also the author) wanted the site launched together with new comics. For this to have happened, we needed our client’s cooperation, involvement and commitment, providing us the required information so the project could be completed in just 2 weeks.
From the client’s perspective, it is completely hassle free as the project is managed by STRIDEC and we hold their hands till the end.
We start with getting a full and in-depth understanding of our client’s business first – get to know their products, customer segment and other specifics of the business. With that understanding, we come up with an e-commerce strategy. design the site, program the site, and do the copywriting and product photography.
Clients are delighted because we offer copywriting and product photography services. Many SME owners don’t have a good understanding of what optimized copy is or how to use product photography to increase the appeal of their products online for potential shoppers.
Our fees vary, of course, depending on the complexity of the project. For your first foray into e-commerce, the investment is around 6K to 8K. Clients who require more add-ons or are ready for more sophistication can pay up to 15 or 25 grand.
2) Why do you think more and more businesses are setting up shop online and are we going to see fewer brick-and-mortar stores?
Looking at trends, whether in Singapore or in the region, that’s a logical conclusion. Most businesses are e-commerce compatible, well, unless you are selling hairstyling services, in which case personal contact is necessary.
If you are selling a product without physical contact required, then yes, every business should start online. You need not set up a physical store and grapple with the manpower crunch or rising rental rates.
With e-commerce, you require an initial investment of 6K to 8K which you can’t do much with if you were to set up a physical store as the rent and renovation will set you back by 20-30K already. Even those carts or small booths in shopping malls require rent of 4 to 5K per month or more!
It’s therefore much easier to get online and use social media platforms to broadcast your brand, and create awareness and exposure. Look at the costs involved – they are much more manageable in the online space, at probably one-third of what you’d otherwise have to pay.
3) What are some common mistakes business owners make when they want to take their business online?
Some think of e-commerce as a technical discipline that a web design company can handle, and carry over their traditional and conventional mindsets of selling in a physical environment. This doesn’t work at all.
Copywriting and photography is very important. While you have a product in a physical store for a customer to see and touch, that doesn’t translate onto e-commerce. You must have quality photography to accentuate the benefits of the product you are selling.
A lot of e-commerce businesses have poor quality photos. Compare these with the top-selling e-commerce platforms and brands, like Amazon and Love Bonito.
When you don’t have a physical outlet, the main means of communication is via the visual aesthetics which have to attract customers to buy. Ordinarily, you’ll have salespeople in the shop and customers can ask the salesperson about the product but with e-commerce, there is nobody there to ask so the copywriting helps customers to understand and get excited about your product.
We take care of the copywriting and product photography, and we’ll educate our clients about key points to look out for when writing the copy. The e-commerce platform is organic, with new products coming in all the time, so clients can pay us a monthly retainer or take charge of the site themselves after learning the industry’s best practices from us.
How you’ll sell an IT gadget will be very different from how you’ll sell a dress. So we’ll share the key points and broad strokes with our customer and essentially, “teach them how to fish”. They will gain a better understanding of what makes e-commerce work. Some may have tried e-commerce previously but were not doing it correctly or were not given the right advice so we are here to help.
4) Share with us a success story of a company that STRIDEC has successfully helped move into the online space.
One of our customers owns a watch retail outlet in Chinatown. He strongly believes in e-commerce, since the time he began trying to sell watches on eBay and Yahoo! auctions previously. He decided to set up his own e-commerce website and came to us 8 years ago. With our help, his business expanded and we also helped build his subsidiary e-commerce sites. He is now operating 8 e-commerce sites which bring in 80% of his annual business revenue, far more than that of his physical outlet! He has even converted a good portion of his store to become a “back-end office” for admin personnel to do the order processing. E-commerce has helped transformed his business operations and he is easily generating USD2-3million a year just by e-commerce alone. Not too bad a figure for an SME!
5) Which companies would benefit most from STRIDEC’s guidance?
Our belief is that every business can benefit form e-commerce enablement. Name me a business that cannot be enabled with e-commerce, and I’ll show you how to do it. Of course, due to the nature of the products and consumer behavior, some are easier to be sold online.
How about selling coffins online? There is nothing to stop you from selling coffins online. They won’t move as fast as watches, but it’s possible.
Whatever your e-commerce idea is, we can improve and enhance it. So set up your e-commerce front first, put your products on a website, advertise on social media and get people aware. It’s a good way to gauge traction – do people want to buy? You may not even want to invest further in a physical front. If you are doing well right from the get-go online, use whatever surplus to take it further online and make the transaction experience better and more streamlined for the customer.
We do non-obligatory 30-minute consultations over the phone for business owners who don’t know how to get started online or are not getting the results they want.
We have a presence in India, North America, Singapore and Malaysia. In Singapore, we focus on consultation and project management while our development team is in India – we have 20 developers working on various projects.
We can also assist with logistics enablement – if you get orders in, but have problems fulfilling them. Our team in Portland, Oregon can help in sourcing of products not available in Singapore. Our sourcing and concierge unit helps to source from US-based merchants and we can even do dropshipping. Business owners can just focus on projecting and marketing their brand and everything else can be handled on our end – from site to payment collection, order processing, logistics and delivery.
Get in touch with Alva and his team at: http://worldwide.stridec.com/