QUESTION: What is e-commerce?
IVAN LANUZA: In layman’s terms, e-commerce is simply the buying and selling of goods or services over the internet. Marami pong MSMEs na natatakot or nai-intimidate sa salitang e-commerce. Now when they hear e-commerce, they say di para sa akin yan, para sa mga malalaking kumpanya lang yan, no? Hindi po, in fact mas akma po ang e-commerce sa MSMEs, because it’s really just retailing over the internet. It would be better if there are smaller companies engaging in e-commerce, that way our economic growth is driven by a lot of smaller companies instead of consolidated and centralized by only a few.
Q: Why is it relevant now?
IL: Let’s take a look at the history of retail. In the ’70s, maliliit lang po na tindahan all across the country. If you need to buy something, you go around, you buy stuff. In the ’80s, naging door-to-door na yung style of retailing. Dito na po pumasok yung mga encyclopedia, yakult, ice cream… anything no? And then in the ’90s, we had now retail getting concentrated in the malls. 2000, further expansion of community malls in the countryside.
But now in the 2010s, a new shift happened, wherein everybody had smartphones or access to the internet and social media. And with this, it created a new channel for people to sell online. And in the last two months, with this pandemic, where people are limited with what they can do outside, e-commerce became even more important, kasi yun na talaga yung main way of buying stuff. If you’re active in groups in social media, you will see nandun na po. May binebenta po ako nang tinapay, na laptop, ganitong pagkain. It really opened it up, because there is a need and there are people who can help. People are suddenly online buying and that’s e-commerce.
All the think-tanks across the world have already said that e-commerce is going to be the new way of doing retail. It’s going to complement the brick-and-mortars that we have, and it’s really important that for all retailers that they have some sort of online presence.
Q: What are the benefits of e-commerce?
IL: First of all, when you are a retailer and you go to e-commerce, you immediately expand your reach. In the past, kailangan mong mag-rent ng espasyo sa mall. Kailangan mong mag-open ng shop. Kailangan mong umikot. So you are very limited to the physical distance, to the proximity.
But with e-commerce, now you can sell wherever you are across the country. In fact you can sell to anyone in the world, so imagine that power. Kahit nasa bahay ka lang, pwede ka magbenta kahit kanino. Additionally, the initial investment for e-commerce is very low. You don’t have to pay for space any more, your marketing kahit social media lang, Facebook lang, i-share mo lang sa friends mo, alam na nila nagbebenta ka.
Q: What is the state of e-commerce in the Philippines?
IL: we are at the stage that we are accelerating. By middle of last year, 69 million Filipinos are already using the internet, that’s more than half of the population. Three-quarters of those are between the ages of 16 and 64, and these are the ones who are very active in online purchases. 90 percent of those who go online actually visited an online store, and 75% bought. So ang dami na talagang bumibili.
Q: Does this lead to the demise of commercial malls and traditional selling?
IL: I don’t think so. This has been the topic for retailers for the last 3 years. Wala na ba yung brick-and-mortar? I think brick-and-mortar will continue to be there to provide specific experiences to people, but the retailers, all these brick-and-mortar stores have to complement their physical stores with online presence also. Traditional is not going to die for sure because some people still prefer online, some people still prefer the traditional.
Q: Who can use e-commerce?
IL: Anyone po, kahit stay-at-home person ka, you can do it. If you have an existing retail business, it is easier for you because you have a staff to support you. If you are one of the groceries, na small, medium enterprises, even more kasi you have an assortment of suppliers already. The channel is really there for anyone who wants to leverage it. There is no limitation.
Q: How can a retailer start with e-commerce?
IL: The only thing that people need to go to e-commerce is an internet connection. There are so many tools out there that they can use to actually start an online shop.
Q: What is the best product to sell online right now?
IL: During this pandemic, it’s all essential goods. So kung makakabenta ka ng readily-cooked meal, that’s going to be a hit. If you can sell meat, fruits, vegetables, anything na grocery-related, again patok yan.
Before the pandemic, the biggest category are those related to fashion and beauty, kasi ito yung mga mahirap hanapin na products, and people are particular with specific brands and SKU. Kaya going online mo lang mahahanap. But I think this will change.
Q: What is the biggest challenge for anyone who wants to start e-commerce?
IL: Traffic is bad in the cities, and we are a country of islands so it is difficult to ship to various locations. And also, to be honest, our infrastructure, our roads also need improvement.
Q: Does iRipple have an e-commerce platform?
IL: Our focus is to help groceries at this point in time. We believe in the power of the essential goods, na it’s what is needed right now. So we decided to create a mobile app called MySuki. This is really to help the groceries all across the country to receive online orders.
Just to provide context, by personal experience, because I worked for a retailer before, it usually takes six to nine months and millions in tech investment for a grocery to have their own grocery selling app. But we created apps like MySuki so that supermarkets can have an online store in just 1 to 3 days, versus six to nine months. And with one-tenth the tech investment, maybe even less. So if you’re a grocery, or a supermarket, we hope that you go to our facebook page, so we can connect with you and we can help you out your groceries online so that you can reach more consumers who are trapped in this pandemic.
You may inquire at MySuki’s Facebook page.
Edited for brevity.