With over 600 million people, Southeast Asia is a large and still relatively untapped market for many industries. eCommerce has been growing steadily for many years and with 380 million internet users in the region, it is unlikely to stop its growth in the near future.

However, the challenge exists with how to stand out in a crowded market, especially in commodity markets where you’re competing with a global market.

In the years we’ve been doing this, we’ve spoken to hundreds of amazing entrepreneurs, including successful eCommerce business leaders, who shared some interesting insights. We’ve updated their thoughts and done our research to come up with some simple and straightforward ways to stay ahead of the competition in the eCommerce industry.

The challenges all eCommerce entrepreneurs face

Word of mouth is still powerful

Word-of-mouth is still one of the most highly effective methods to reach out to new customers. It comes down to trust and our ability to connect with those we know. We are more likely to make a purchasing decision based on recommendations from friends and loved ones.

This is where you can use affiliate marketing. Referral programmes that are commonly used are a great way to offer discounts and promotions to customers who recommend and get their friends to sign on. This helps you keep your cost of acquisition reasonable because it brings in new customers and purchases for there to be any commission or discount.

Partner with a good delivery company

Hiring a delivery company and putting them on retainer is the easier and faster option. It is also expensive and puts you at a disadvantage against companies with fully integrated services. Vertically integrating with the delivery company would allow greater focus on the core business rather than spending immense time and energy on making sure the goods are delivered.

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This also gives you the flexibility to offer payments options like cash on delivery, which is great for certain markets where credit card or online payments are still not as common as you would think. Finding the right partner and then working together to provide a seamless process for customers is a great way to build a powerful eCommerce platform that offers multiple payment options, faster and more secure delivery and eventually even cost savings when the volume starts to increase.

Don’t dropship products, partner with a manufacturer

If you’re reading this, you may not be at the same level as the big guys like Apple, Xiaomi or basically, any brand who can afford to have factories devoted to their brand, it is important to own or produce the products that you want to sell.

Finding the right manufacturer, sometimes having to live in their factory, is a necessary evil if you really want to get it right. This partnership can make or break an eCommerce company in the first month. Production delays, faulty manufacturing and other aspects can spell the doom for even large companies, so make sure you find the right partner.

Don’t ignore the UI & UX

The number of times we’ve seen tried to buy things from eCommerce websites only to be confused by the interface is far many to count. Often, people focus on getting their product right and don’t think about the fact that having the best product doesn’t mean anything if people don’t buy it.

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The importance of turning a website visitor into a customer is crucial in the eCommerce business, so make sure you have the best talent working on creating a site that really converts. You have to take into account the search capabilities, product relevance algorithms and so much more when optimising your website for your eCommerce.

The 3 eCommerce startup in Southeast Asia that you may not know

Always stay ahead of the curve

Just like every other industry in the world, eCommerce is constantly changing. From direct eCommerce and purchasing trends to digital marketing evolution, which impacts eCommerce indirectly. There is never a stage in your business lifecycle that you can sit back and think that you’re done.

You can stay up to date by subscribing to this website or if you would like other choices, there are great eCommerce resources like Shopify’s blog or even Kissmetrics. A personal favourite is Practicalecommerce, which provides great insights for all entrepreneurs.