In Focus
RETAIL | Danielle Isaac, Singapore

eBay to bridge more SMEs to 179 million-strong buyer base

It partnered with the Singapore Institute of Retail Studies to train SMEs in cross-border trade.

eBay is looking to grow in Singapore and Asia by tapping into small to medium enterprises keen on selling their products to the global market and to the platform's 179 million active buyers. Jenny Hui, general manager, Cross Border Trade, eBay Hong Kong, Taiwan and Southeast Asia, talked about the company's evolving strategy in Asia and their programme with the Singapore Institute of Retail Studies that assists SMEs in boosting their prospects with CBT.

Ever since eBay launched in Singapore, what have you learned about the market?
Back in our early years, eBay was focused on seller acquisition of all types. Now, we're actually more focused on specific categories like electronics, sporting goods and business & industrial equipment and that we have proven to be a strong seller for Singapore CBT exporters.

Over time, how has your strategy for Singapore changed?
eBay has been around since 1995, for 24 years, and CBT has been a huge focus for us across Asia for more than 10 years. In fact, eBay was the pioneer of CBT exports from Asia. Since then, we have learnt a lot and we're much more sophisticated across every aspect of the business - be it supply, selling strategy, logistics, shipping, and having the seller’s population.

You mentioned that your strategy for Singapore has changed over time. So what are your observations on the domestic market and how did you act upon them?
Singapore has a vibrant domestic e-commerce market, but eBay is more focused on cross border trade (CBT) exports where we see opportunity for even stronger growth. Singapore SMEs selling into the domestic market should take advantage of selling on eBay to a global audience. Having a global sales channel enables businesses to grow overall sales and it also gives businesses leverage when domestic sales are slow. So it's actually a win-win for all. This is also why we are partnering with SIRS (Singapore Institute of Retail Studies) to provide Singapore SMEs [with] training on how they can take advantage of this opportunity.

How will the program serve to grow your SMEs audience in Singapore?
The partnership with SIRS helps us train up local people who are interested in doing online business on eBay whereby they can take advantage of eBay’s platform to sell worldwide. Our focus is export – getting Singaporeans to sell on eBay to customers around the world. That's what we refer to as cross border trade or CBT.

What do you think are the key lessons that SMEs can learn about CBT in Singapore from eBay?
We offer a series of training programs in helping them ramp up the knowledge on the marketplace, where they can come to use the inventory to list on eBay and then start selling. They also learn about what other marketplaces are actually doing. And then in terms of helping them to penetrate into the other regions, including the United States of America, Australia, Germany, as well as the UK - that's our big four. And for those entrepreneurial individuals who are looking to expand into other countries such as France, Italy, and Spain, and other non-English speaking countries, we also provide support to help them expand.

The eBay event with SIRS was catered for beginners, people who are new, and just giving them the basics. We also announced that the partnership with SIRS offers ongoing training. And then of course, once you start selling on eBay, we have our own ongoing training, by account managers that help sellers get bigger and bigger.

On top of that, the sellers can actually leverage the eBay platform to accelerate their business and the SME can use our platform to reach more buyers and as well as 190 countries all over the world who are doing exports.

What is the unique thing about eBay over other e-commerce platforms that Singapore SMEs should utilize to sell their products to other countries?
We're the CBT pioneer and we have been focusing heavily on it for over 10 years. We have a lot of expertise in this area. With eBay, Singapore SMEs can use our platform to sell worldwide, and then penetrate to all parts of the world. 

Aside from the Big Four markets that you mentioned, are there other target markets in Asia that you want to grow in?
Other than the Big Four, eBay operates Gmarket and Auction in Korea And we work with the team in Seoul to create opportunities for CBT sellers to sell into the Korean market.t. For Turkey, which is in the European area, there is a website called GittiGidiyor, which is the top e-commerce site in Turkey also owned by eBay. We also have a few partnerships with some of the local sites in China and we see an increasing number of Chinese customers buying on eBay and importing into China. 

What are your top three priorities for eBay in Singapore?
Well, first of all, educating more Singaporean sellers to try eBay is very important. That's why we're partnering with SIRS. Secondly, helping our existing sellers to continue to grow their business not just to the US, UK and Australia but also to non-English speaking countries like Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Turkey, and Korea. Lastly, automation is equally mportant. In order to scale a business, the seller needs to have automation. We help sellers to choose suitable software services as well as accessing the eBay API to help them with the inventory control and processing of orders. 

Can you further describe how automation will play a role in eBay and SME use in their CBT?
Internally, we have some tools, which helps the sellers to get started. But then for the sellers who are actually more sophisticated, they typically have their own API solutions to help them with customer service and inventory control. We also partner with a lot of solution providers in the market where we can connect them with sellers to help them automate their business, often with multiple channels and multiple platform solutions. 

Are any of these solutions being used in Singapore? 
Not just Singapore but across Southeast Asia as well. We do have some solution providers who are actually helping sellers to automate their business. And some of the more sophisticated sellers, have their own team of people who help them to do the programming and automation. One example where automation helps a seller is currency exchange and the ability to adjust pricing across and all their listings instantly, rather than doing it one by one. 

What are your future plans for eBay in Singapore?
I think it's important to improve the logistics by finding more and better solutions that enable sellers to reliably ship items around the world and grow their business. As the pioneer of CBT, we want to encourage more sellers to try eBay and start selling. This is actually a very good way to start without any cost involved.

I'm also very happy about our partnership with SIRS and we want to make it bigger and have more sellers go global with eBay.

How many SMEs do you target with this programme?
We haven’t a set target for that. However, if the event with SIRS was anything to go by, there were nearly 400 people in attendance, then there is a lot of interest out there. 

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