With the aim of replicating the city’s vibrant retail and business scene online, a new local e-commerce platform hopes to better connect with local consumers — and soon customers in the Greater Bay Area — by emphasising “authenticity”.
It’s indisputable the wave of online shopping has finally set foot and rooted in Macau after being omnipresent in other jurisdictions for years. With a phone or a computer, people can access Taobao, JD.com, Amazon, HKTVmall and so forth here to place orders and have their goods delivered at their doorstep.
But have you noticed there is a similarity among all these e-commerce platforms? All are not local. As local consumers have become more accustomed to online shopping, local e-commerce platforms still rank far below in their list for treasure hunt. But a recently-established platform — Takewant.com (想要城) — believes it could make a dent emphasising both authenticity and convenience.
Takewant.com is the one of the latest projects developed by e-commerce firm Friends to Friends (全朋友), which was founded by Macau young businessman Chan Kuok Seng almost 10 years ago. The company is now headquartered in the Guangdong side of the Zhuhai-Macau Cross-border Industrial Zone with a few branches, storages and shops scattered across Zhuhai, Macau and Hong Kong.
Because the company has accumulated resources and experiences in the field of local and cross-border e-commerce over the years, Mr. Chan and his team came up with the idea of setting up a local platform, similar to Taobao and Amazon, in 2018 in a bid to help local merchants to explore the online business segment. “Though Macau and Zhuhai are very close, there is a huge gap in the development of e-commerce between the two cities,” says Brian Ngai, operational manager of Takewant.com. “The development of e-commerce has brought a lot of benefits to the mainland community, so we also want to create a Macau platform that helps local merchants to expand their businesses and appeals to local consumers.”
After officially coming online last November, Takewant.com has gathered over 630 local merchants providing about 25,000 types of products as of May. With the accumulated number of registered users topping 30,000, the total amount of transactions handled by the platform reached over MOP1 million a month. “The results have already exceeded by far our expectations and targets this year,” says Mr. Ngai. “We have expected the ramp-up of the platform in the beginning stage will be slower.”
The stimulus to their business is the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID) that has plagued the world since the end of January. As the global pandemic has forced the authorities to implement strict social distancing measures and travel restrictions, individuals have to spend more time at home, providing more opportunities to browse through their gadgets and shop. “We have received a lot of enquiries from both merchants and customers about the platform in the past few weeks,” Mr. Ngai says. “Before the pandemic we only have about 200 merchants, we now have more than 630 while the total value of transactions per month has also more than doubled during the COVID-19 outbreak.”
“As we are almost at the end of the pandemic, we see the turnover of the platform still maintains at a high level. This shows that the local consumers do not only switch to online shopping temporarily during the virus outbreak but it is a change to their consumption behaviour,” he details.
While this public health alert presents a growth opportunity for their business, it has somehow impacted their day-to-day operation. After the Guangdong administration has mandated all people entering the province from Macau and Hong Kong must undergo a 14-day mandatory quarantine since March 27, this has affected the travel of the company’s staff — with the figure standing at 200 and a 50-strong team dedicated to Takewant.com — between Macau and Zhuhai.
What’s the solution? Just like this interview, which is conducted through online with Mr. Ngai stationing in the company’s Zhuhai headquarters while the reporter of this magazine sitting at home in Macau.
Not a smooth path
Due to the robust development of e-commerce across the border over the past two decades, the Macau government has strengthened efforts in pushing forward this initiative in recent years, particularly helping local small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to get grasp of the opportunities online. This has led to the inception of several local e-commerce platforms in the past few years, but most have failed to make any impact.
The consumption habit of local consumers, the mindsets of local merchants that are less willing to tap into a new business model, and the limited market size are some of the challenges Mr. Ngai details they have faced in developing a local e-commerce platform. “Macau is a small market with a population size of just 700,000, but consumers could have a lot of choices for online shopping, including Taobao, JD.com from the mainland; Shopee from Taiwan; Amazon and eBay from the overseas market; let alone the local platforms,” he says.
Compared with other local competitors, Takewant.com focuses on developing the local market and consolidating the local base first before venturing abroad. “We now have more than 630 local merchants, a figure that no other Macau e-commerce platforms could do so at this moment,” he says proudly.
The operation manager emphasises “the biggest selling point” of Takewant.com is to replicate the vibrant business scene and retail environment of the city on the platform. “We attach great importance to authenticity — we have a rule that we only invite merchants with a physical store in the city,” he says.
“The merchants must also have business registration documents from the government and our staff will visit the shop from time to time to verify their existence,” he notes, adding these steps are to guarantee consumers have the correct information about the sellers, products and so forth.
Aside from authenticity, the platform endeavours to provide as much convenience for consumers as possible by ensuring the goods to be delivered at the doorstep within a day after the consumers have placed the order and the merchants have accepted it. “We don’t want the delivery taking too much time as Macau is not really that big, thus establishing a unique advantage for Takewant.com when compared with other e-commerce platforms,” he says, adding the platform will also hold different themed promotional campaigns to attract consumers.
The operational manager admits they are still in red at the moment and expects they could break even by no later than the year after in the current scale of only local business. But they have other plans in mind.
Looking forward, given the experiences and resources Friends to Friends has cultivated over the years in the region, Takewant.com will start targeting consumers in other cities of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area starting from this June. Mr. Ngai thinks the “authenticity” factor might help the platform to stand out among the mainland competitors like Taobao. “The mainland consumers have a lot of channels online to look for the products they want, but they might have doubts whether they are buying counterfeits,” he illustrates. “As our platform emphasises authenticity, together with the free port status of Macau that the mainland consumers have confidence with, they might be tempted to buy genuine products from Macau through our platform.”
“We will look for investors for funding in the future to expand our business scale — it’s not really difficult to find an investor but we have our requirements for investors in hopes of securing quality funding,” he continues.
In regards to a new business goal in the short-run, the team hopes to top the MOP5-million mark for the total amount of transactions handled by the platform a month. “We will see and we might be able to achieve it soon in the next few months.