Local sellers bet on e-commerce as consumers shift to 'online first' in purchases

Jessica Fenol, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 13 2020 11:43 AM | Updated as of Aug 13 2020 01:38 PM

Tahanan Scents' line of room and linen spray now sells over 100 bottles a week, just a month after signing up to become a Shopee seller. Photo: Tahanan Scents

MANILA - Macoy Infante is now constantly packing parcels from his condo unit as orders for his and his partners' room and linen spray line surged after they signed up to become a Shopee seller late in July.

The brand Tahanan Scents was launched by 3 friends last July 12, but it was limited to consumers reachable by logistics delivery firms when it started selling on Instagram and Facebook, co-founder Infante told ABS-CBN News.

After signing up with Shopee, the brand can now sell up to 100 bottles per week, he said.

"The numbers are very significant...Shopee became the bridge to reach provincial buyers. We're no longer limited within Metro Manila. It opened more opportunities for us," Infante said.

"I'm somehow confident that we won't have to worry about our sales because everyday, we receive orders from Shopee," he added.

Due to the pandemic, going online was the best bet for Infante and his business partners.

Just like Infante, small sellers can leverage the ease of use of e-commerce platforms to start their pivot to the digital marketplace as global financial firm Visa and Shopee launch their partnership that aims to encourage local sellers to go online.

Based on a July survey by Visa with 1,000 Filipinos, some 75 percent believe it was important for a business to have an online presence, Visa country manager for Philippines and Guam Dan Wolbert told reporters in a virtual briefing.

The COVID-19 lockdowns, which started in March, also pushed people to turn to digital for essentials and payments, he said. 

One in 6 active Visa cardholders in the country who did not make an online purchase in 2019, shopped for the first time this year, the study showed.

Majority of Filipino respondents or at least 95 percent said they were willing to shop from local retailers more often to help in their business recovery, Visa said. 

Tapping Shopee gives small sellers an easier way to go online, Wolbert said. 

"The pandemic has accelerated the shift to online lifestyle to fulfill their needs and to grow their business. There’s a significant need for retailers and small businesses to shift, move to online and begin accepting digital payments," Wolbert said.

"Shopee provides integrated platform for SMEs to easily come online," he added.

Having experienced the benefits of going digital, Infante said he would encourage other sellers to go online.

The coronavirus pandemic and resulting lockdowns have pushed the sales of many online platforms that shifted to selling essentials such as medical supplies and groceries.

Shopee has launched several initiatives to help accelerate growth of micro, small and medium sized enterprises as consumers' behavior shift to "online-first," said its associate director Martin Yu.

During the pandemic, there was a strong demand for health and personal hygiene products, he said.

Visa said with the campaign, MSMEs can adapt to digital payments, learn via online resources, and boost onboarding with strategic partnerships such as the one with Shopee to highlight local sellers.

Yu said Shopee has close to 500,000 merchants as of August and that it could grow more with the campaign.

"We look at this as an opportunity to help small businesses go online and grow a lot of them who are looking to understand what’s the journey, process," Wolbert said.

The Where You Shop Matters campaign will officially launch in the Philippines on Aug. 15. It is also being launched in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Australia, Wolbert said.

Visa said it aims to move some 10 million micro, small and medium enterprises in Asia Pacific online.