Shopline helps SMEs in their e-commerce journey Startup stories

When Fiona Lau, a former retail investment analyst at Goldman Sachs, and Tony Wong, a software engineer and entrepreneur, first met at a startup event in Hong Kong in 2013, they discussed the many challenges small and medium enterprises (SMEs) face when digitizing their businesses.

Soon after, the two decided to launch Shopline, which provides software solutions for SMEs to create and manage online stores. The company’s software allows merchants to quickly set up an online platform with a centralized inventory and order management system, thanks to a selection of drag-and-drop design tools. Shopline helps companies launch social e-commerce operations as well as design advertising and marketing strategies.

“SMEs make up 70-80% of Southeast Asia’s economy. They often want to go online, but most of them don’t have the necessary knowledge and resources to do something truly comprehensive online,” said Jeff Lim, formerly of Lazada and Zilingo and now general manager of Supplyline Singapore.

The startup was part of the tenth accelerator in 2014’s 500 Startups Based in Silicon Valley. Fast forward to 2021, the company has grown to provide services to more than 250,000 SMEs in seven markets across Asia, including China, Malaysia. , Thailand and Singapore. “We’ve been thinking about international expansion since 2014. After all, in our increasingly interconnected world, it’s only logical to think about cross-border issues,” said Fiona Lau, Supplyline’s chief operating officer. CASIA.

“Our team members are spread across Asia. Having a diverse team helps us work quickly in each market. It’s much easier when you speak the same language,” Lim added.

In addition to SMEs, Shopline works with large companies such as Fujitsu, Durex and Superga.

Fiona Lau, co-founder and COO, and Tony Wong, co-founder and CEO of Shopline. Photo courtesy of Shopline.

Shopline has seen rapid growth in the past year as the Covid-19 pandemic has pushed retailers to embrace digital solutions. “We are looking at triple-digit growth year-on-year for both the number of merchants and the total cost of goods,” Lim said. “Furthermore, this pandemic has boosted digital financial services, with consumers and SMEs becoming more receptive to online transactions,” he added.

Shopline charges a monthly subscription fee for its software-as-a-service platform and offers marketing and consulting services for additional fees. The company is backed by Nasdaq-listed Chinese live streaming platform Joy Inc., which invested $20 million in January 2020. Alibaba Hong Kong Entrepreneurs Fund, the non-profit Alibaba Group, and CDB Capital Group are investors.

New business models encourage the development of e-commerce in the region

A 2019 study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development highlights that SMEs often “face significant barriers to accessing and using digital technologies that prevent them from achieving their full potential.”

The same report notes that e-commerce growth in Southeast Asia is driven in part by the “emergence of new business models that allow small enterprises to sell to consumers, particularly on mobile-first platforms” such as Lazada, Shopee, and Tokopedia.

Jeff Lim General Manager at Shopline Singapore. Photo courtesy of Shopline.

Lim does not see the company as a direct competitor to Lazada as the two firms have different marketing positions. Building a brand on Lazada is difficult as companies have to contend with millions of other products. That’s why many brands are gradually choosing to use their own ‘’ to build that mindset and brand,” said Lim.

“Companies that are willing to create their own e-commerce platform can build better brand loyalty with their customers than just run sales,” he said. Through the company’s customer relationship management software, Shopline can provide extensive data and analytics about customer behavior to help them make better business decisions, Lim explained.

Live streaming and social e-commerce are two key areas where the company is stepping up its efforts to support SMEs in their online innovation. “We saw the growth of social e-commerce in Southeast Asia by GMV was more than 300% in 2020. We realized that 40% of this total e-commerce participation is through direct business, basically live streaming,” said Lim.

Shop line
Shopline software allows merchants to set up online stores using drag and drop tools. Photo courtesy of Shop Online.

The company recently partnered with Facebook to allow customers to sell their products through Facebook Shops and Instagram Shopping. “With the increasing popularity of social commerce, the epidemic is pushing small and medium enterprises to go not only online, but to have more channels. The integration with Facebook will be our main focus to enable merchants to sell through social media.” ” said Lau.

Whether it’s powered by B2C marketplaces like Lazada or B2B services like ShopLine, more and more small businesses are selling online to respond to growing demand amid the pandemic. In the year In 2020, the e-commerce market in Southeast Asia reached a value of nearly $62 billion, and it is predicted to reach $172 billion by 2025, according to Google, Temasek and Bain & Co.

Consumers in Southeast Asia will continue to buy groceries and other essentials online even after the pandemic ends, according to research by Bay & Company and Facebook.

Shopline has been working with local governments on various digital initiatives. The organization recently partnered with the Singapore government’s Digital Resilience Bonus initiative, which aims to support enterprises in the food and retail sectors, offering up to SGD 10,000 (USD 7,560) in bonuses to companies adopting digital solutions. SMEs using Shopline’s services may be eligible for rebates offered by the Singaporean authorities, the company announced in a recent press release.

Going forward, Shopline plans to continue its market expansion in Southeast Asia while expanding its social commerce offerings. “We see significant growth potential for social business in Southeast Asia, with strong resilience across mobile and social platforms in the region,” Lau said.

Lim explained that the company is working on developing point-of-sale retail solutions as well as in-house online payment services for digital shops in the markets where it operates.

When asked about new fundraising plans, Lau said the company is open to new funding opportunities, but for now the focus remains on business development.

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This article is part of KrASIA’s “Startup Stories” series, where KrASIA writers talk to founders of tech companies in South and Southeast Asia.

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