The pandemic-induced lockdowns have compelled Philippine retailers of all sizes and scale to shift to e-commerce. However, not all who have made the leap can survive the transition mainly because of lack of knowledge, experience, equipment, and/or manpower. Success and sustainability in the digital retail landscape consist of a rarely known combination of strategic capabilities that go beyond mere activation of the online marketplaces. Toti Wong, Chief Commercial Officer of the e-commerce enabler Etaily, shares the company secret in doing e-commerce right through seamless integration of analytical tools, back-end inventory management, and proven business advice that takes innovation into account.
Past experiences prepare you for the future
Wong is one of the pioneers who had witnessed—and continued to grow with—the transformation of e-commerce locally and internationally. An engagement in the Chinese market gave him insights that he applies to the Philippine situation today. He believes that China’s 10-year head start in e-commerce compared to other economies can be traced to the viral outbreak in the 2000s. The restriction of social movement launched giants such as Alibaba, triggered Chinese mobile payments and e-commerce, and then nascent technologies – like the capability to design marketplace store fronts or advertise through in-platform search – sprung up.
By the time Wong focused again on the Philippine market, his skills and knowledge were more extensive “compared to others who would have to wait for the marketplaces to introduce concepts coming out of China. This is the advantage which I bring to Etaily,” he says.
Wong explains why today’s retailers need to be agile, saying, “When the pandemic hit, many of them had to abruptly shift to e-commerce, but most of them had little to no experience on how to operate their online stores.” Instead of allocating overhead resources for a team dedicated to ecommerce, these retailers now turn to Etaily’s end-to-end services as “we have very experienced senior ecommerce specialists who work closely with clients as consultants. They are able to leverage Etaily’s relationships with the marketplaces, who have certified us as partners given the high level of service quality we provide to our clients.”
To business owners who are fearful about their ability to navigate in this shift, Wong encourages them with this core principle: “Etaily understood from the very beginning that ecommerce can only be done right when both worlds — the logic from traditional offline retail and the frameworks from online retail — complement each other.”
Analytics has changed the game for retailers. In physical retail, a business owner who cannot explain his store’s poor sales would do a very inefficient and costly trial-and-error process to correct it. However, e-commerce’s analytical technologies have metrics showing the exact reasons for the failure. The owners can then use that knowledge to adjust their strategies with precision.
Wong elaborates, “We begin by orienting our clients about the essential metrics and show them that offline retail fundamentals are similar with ecommerce. The main difference is that in most physical stores, you will not be able to measure certain metrics accurately like foot traffic, while in the digital space, you can track not only the exact number of unique visitors, but also where they came from, and the number of people who actually do end up buying from the online store. If sales go down, the metrics will help you zero in on the actual causes.”
The amount of data can appear overwhelming to retailers. As a response, Etaily’s proprietary system called Clarity covers all aspects of ecommerce management from content management, order management, fulfillment and warehousing management, logistics, performance marketing and, of course, data and analytics.
“In our business, it’s all about providing our clients with real-time aggregated data, coming mostly from different sources, platforms, and providers. Ensuring transparency across the online and offline world is a key asset. It isn’t by chance that our proprietary system is called ‘Clarity’.” Wong says. “Our tech aggregates all that data, and our clients can just log in one portal and see them all in one glance. They would see their inventory in real-time and the order movement from the warehouse, up until they are delivered to the end consumer. They wouldn’t have to go through each platform’s backend because with Clarity, they can see it all in one view.”
Addressing the pain points
Clarity’s multi-channel listing feature allows Etaily’s partners to optimize both their stock allocations and their time in studying and gaining insights from their data. Wong illustrates how Etaily’s platform can make things easier, more convenient, and yes, clearer, for customers who are juggling their platforms on multiple sites: “Traditional resellers with no access to an order management system would need to allocate dedicated stock per channel. That is very inefficient. The pain point of sellers today is that aside from the big marketplaces, there are now so many emerging alternative channels. Therefore, they would need to manually update their stock information across all these channels. Clarity automates this process and makes it efficient with one consolidated pool of stock across all channels.”
The ecommerce revolution in the Philippines is accelerating, and once again Wong is happy to be at its forefront. He found kindred spirits in the Etaily founders who share “the same values, ideas, and ambition to build something great together. We also have the assets and capabilities to develop our own tech, which allows us to explore online to offline capabilities with our partners, and operate outside of just the traditional marketplaces. Our company is at the forefront of transforming ecommerce with both partners and end consumers in mind. Together, we will shape the future of ecommerce not only for Philippine brands, but for the rest of Southeast Asia as well.”