At this point, there’s no more doubt that eCommerce in the Philippines is the next big thing. People are starting to get into the culture of making online purchases, and there are more ways than ever to make transactions. Unlike in years past, a computer is no longer necessary to make a purchase. These days, you can send products on their way to your doorstep with a few taps of a smartphone screen.
Even the big Internet players agree: Southeast Asian eCommerce is on its way to explosive growth. According to a study conducted by search giant Google, eCommerce trade in the region will amount to $88 billion by the year 2025. Being one of the most populous countries in the ASEAN bloc, the Philippines is expected to own a significant chunk of that revenue pie.
There’s no better time to be in the local eCommerce scene than now. Those who start today will be the kings of tomorrow. However, actual work has to be put in so your store can start gaining traction. Having an eCommerce site is one thing but making it succeed is another matter.
Here are some ways you can do to help your Philippine eCommerce business climb to the top in the early goings of the eCommerce gold rush:
1. Decide on Your Core Strength
According to Poundit founder Kristian Salvo, an eCommerce site has to lead its market in one of three areas for it to succeed:
- Product selection
- Lowest prices
- Customer service
Without major investments from venture capitalists, it’s tough to be a leader in the first two areas early on. If you’re a bootstrapped business, the third area may be your best bet since you don’t need capital to do business in a fair and ethical way that customers will appreciate.
2. Choose the Right eCommerce Platform
Choosing the right system that will generate your site’s pages is a crucial step when you’re in the process of building an online store. Your choice of eCommerce platform and relative to your ability to commandeer it can either make or break your operations.
The following are the most popular ways to go and who they’re designed for:
- Magento – This open source eCommerce platform is designed more for enterprise users. It offers the most flexibility out of all the options, and it can be integrated with other CMS platforms and payment portals to expand its functionality. While it’s pretty bare bones out of the box, it has a diverse set of plugins that can help you do pretty much anything you want with your site rather easily. The only drawback is that you’ll likely need a dedicated Magento development team to keep it running like a well-oiled machine.
- WordPress – The world’s most popular CMS can be more than just a blogging platform. With plugins like WooCommerce and 1ShoppingCart, WordPress can be modified into a full-fledged online store. As you may know, WordPress is easy to use but pretty powerful. You can achieve pretty much any design you want with the right amount of technical skill.
The only downside would be the fact that WordPress isn’t necessarily an enterprise-level eCommerce platform. This one’s more ideal for smaller boutique-type stores rather than ones that carry thousands of SKUs. You’ll also need ample web developer support to make sure it’s properly set up and always running smoothly.
- Shopify – Out of all your options, this one might be the best choice for non-tech-savvy people who are just looking to get started with eCommerce. Think of Shopify as the WordPress of eCommerce: all you need to do is to get a domain name, set it up with the system and choose a shop theme. Shopify hosts your eCommerce site and streamlines the setup of collection and product pages. Like WordPress, it’s extremely easy to use, and it comes with lots of cool features, allowing you to build an online store in a few days with almost no tech skills.
The only con would be the fact that Shopify hosts itself. That means you’re building your online mall on leased real estate. It’s nowhere near as flexible as Magento and WordPress, and there’s not much room to improve some elements like site speed. Still, this is the best platform if you’re just starting out and million-dollar businesses have been built using this awesome ecosystem.
Carefully weigh all your options and consider your needs, capabilities, and plans for the immediate future before choosing one.
Related: How to Start Your Own E-Commerce Business in the Philippines
3. Build it with SEO in Mind
There’s no use having a well-designed and functional eCommerce site if nobody visits and buys from it. For your online store to achieve commercial success, it has to have a steady stream of users coming over and making purchases.
On the Web, there is no driver of traffic that’s easier to convert into paying customers than search engines. Search is intent-driven, which means that the people who find you through search engines are more likely to be interested in your offerings than those who are directed to your pages by emails, social media, and other channels. To capitalize on this basic reality on the Web, your site needs to undergo a process called search engine optimization (SEO).
SEO combines on-page, technical and promotional optimization techniques to help search engines associate your pages with the keywords they represent. The more relevant search engines perceive your pages to be, the greater the chances they’ll be awarded more search visibility.
If you’re running an eCommerce site, you have the option of getting SEO services from an agency or hiring in-house personnel to do it for you. Agencies have the advantage of being very experienced, and you can set definite engagement durations with them that you can just keep on renewing for as long as you need the work done. In-house SEO teams, meanwhile, offer the advantage of working only for you. Of course, this arrangement means you’ll have to add regular employees to your payroll.
4. Try to Eliminate Risk
Psychology tells us that the biggest deterrent for a customer to say “yes” to an offer is the sensation of risk. The fear of wasting money, time or effort in pursuit of anything can make people think twice about making a purchase and fulfilling your business goal.
This principle applies to all aspects of sales, but its effects are particularly pronounced in the eCommerce arena. If a customer starts perceiving any hint of a scam, a bad deal or doubt of your capability to deliver, they’ll likely walk away and buy from your competitor.
As an eCommerce business owner, it’s your job to make sure that your customers feel secure and smart about buying from you. Here are some ways you can do that:
- Make your website professionally designed
- Display your lawfully registered business name, address and local phone number
- Display trust badges such as antivirus, BBB, Visa and MasterCard logos.
- Use secure URLs (HTTPs)
- Get reviewed on Google, Yelp and other credible business directories
- Have a testimonials page
- Have a shipment tracking feature
- Offer reasonable return and refund policies
- Advertise on other prominent websites.
- Advertise on legacy media if your budget permits it
I know it’s a lot and the investments involved could be significant. However, if you think being trustworthy is costly, try not being trustworthy and see how well that works for you.
Related: 10 Reasons Why Online Business Is the Future of Commerce
5. Be Flexible with Your Payment Methods
While the Philippines’ credit card penetration and usage rate are growing at a brisk pace, the vast majority of people in this country still don’t use this payment method. The last thing you’ll want to have is a bunch of people who want to do business with you but can’t because you don’t have a payment method that can accommodate them.
If you’re opening an eCommerce business in the Philippines, strongly consider the following payment methods to help as many people buy from you as possible:
- Cash on delivery (COD)
- Debit card
The more diverse your payment methods, the fewer the reasons why people would hesitate to buy from you.
6. Make Your Pages Shareable
Few countries are as into social media as the Philippines is. Filipinos love to post, like and comment on just about anything they feel strongly about, and that includes product and category pages in eCommerce sites. If your products and pages are shareable enough, you just might be able to get people to give you some free promotion.
Adding social sharing buttons is often a good idea. If you can incorporate it into your site’s design scheme, make it a point to add these widgets.
7. Test Everything
Marketing and user behavior are not exact sciences. If you rely on gut feel, “educated” guesses and even experience, you could end up flying blind en route to a lot of bad decisions. To make sure you’re maximizing your chances of getting things right, base your key decisions on numbers and statistically sound testing methods.
Page elements such as headlines, calls to action, buttons and layouts can have profound impacts on a website’s conversion rate. To make sure that you’re using the ones that more users gravitate to, rely on testing rather than instinct to deliver you the answers. To aid you with that, make use of Google’s Content Experiments tool. It’s easy to use, simple to interpret and is pretty accurate for something that’s offered for free.
It may be a cliché, but it’s true nonetheless: numbers don’t lie. When making marketing decisions, you stand the best chance of getting things right by leaning on hard statistics rather than hunches and notions.
Win in the Philippine E-commerce Market
Obviously, there’s a lot more to eCommerce success, but these seven tips will serve as a solid foundation for those who are starting out or are considering a re-start. As long as you put the interest of your customers above everything else, the chances of you failing will be slim to none.