Malaysian Online Bazaar For Micro E-commerce Brands
Layoffs, pay cuts and general boredom have turned many Malaysians into entrepreneurs, selling handmade and homemade products on Instagram, Shopee, Kravve and other platforms.
On the consumer side, we are spoiled for choice. If I wanted delicate earrings, I have the choice between Cindertoella or Pebbles + Herbs. For houseplants, there are more than a dozen brands to distinguish.
This boom in turn has spawned online marketplaces to help inexperienced sellers acquire customers and increase their visibility online.
One of them is Poptron, a coat rack of the words POP-ups, TRust and ONline, which also uses its platform to paint the stories of the sellers behind their products. This aims to mimic the experience of browsing a bazaar and interacting with vendors behind the stalls – an experience suspended by lockdown.
And all thanks to a pair of leather shoes.
They were his glass slipper
It started when founder Brian Lowe stumbled across a pair of leather shoes while browsing a pop-up bazaar in Publika, KL in 2019. “I clearly remembered that this was one of the best Italian style shoes I have ever seen. ‘ve ever seen it with truly impeccable craftsmanship and detail, ”Brian told Vulcan Post.
The humble salesman was also the owner and shoemaker behind the brand, and he carefully explained to Brian about its creation in detail, the manufacturing process, the types of leathers used, and more.
Brian recalls, “It was heartwarming to hear his story and understand the true passion and pride that comes with what he created. I tried the shoes on with a lot of anticipation, and as they say… it fits me like a glove!
With a price of 499 RM Brian was sold but ran into a problem – he didn’t have enough cash and the seller didn’t offer cashless payment options either. This was before the pandemic and a time when small bazaar vendors were not equipped to have such systems.
Brian decided he would finally make the purchase through the seller’s website. A few weeks later, he was struck by another problem, unable to remember the brand name. He searched high and low on social media and put relevant keywords on Google, to no avail.
“This experience sparked the idea of solving a fundamental problem that while today’s small businesses can have an online presence, it can be difficult to find or drive traffic to its platform at unless it’s suggested by a discovery algorithm, or if we already knew the brand name, ”shared Brian, who launched the platform in September 2020.
So, Poptron solves this problem by listing Instagram micro-brands that have been spotted by the team or recommended by their partner sellers to make sure they share the same ideas.
Customer acquisition is also secure, as the brand’s existing subscribers are also integrated with Poptron. This strengthens the notoriety of the Poptron site, while also opening up a new market to customers with products and brands that may be of interest to them.
As a result, it lowers the cost of acquiring a brand – which otherwise accounts for 40% of its revenue for running social media advertising – while also boosting its business, according to Brian.
We grow together
While browsing, I noticed that many brands on Poptron are environmentally conscious and all sell very high quality products. It was part of Brian’s goal, to inspire a sustainable lifestyle that would amplify a positive impact on society and future generations to come.
Although the platform emphasizes its support for micro-brands, Poptron is not going to kick out brands that are growing and no longer need them in the years to come.
This is because other microsellers would always benefit from the traffic generated by a bigger brand, and each new product added to the site will find its own niche.
Sellers on Poptron are selected and must undergo a verification process to ensure their legitimacy and reliability. Some of the basic criteria that sellers must meet are:
- Have a registered business entity and an Instagram business profile;
- Own their own products / brands;
- Be ready for the market with a transparent return policy;
- Be shippable via courier and on-demand delivery.
The founder also admitted that there have been times when sellers have been turned down despite having a large fan base because they were drop shippers or did not have a business entity.
A free market
At this time, Poptron does not charge any commission or transaction fees to its partner brands and only passes on costs incurred by payment processing and shipping partners.
The company is being driven by its US $ 1 million seed funding a few months ago and is continuing to invest more to develop the site regionally.
“Ultimately, we will introduce competitively priced monthly subscription fees to sell on Poptron,” Brian said.
To date, Poptron is home to over 100 local brands with over 1,400 different products. Over the next 2 years, Brian plans to expand his presence to Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand.
Previously, Brian had also said that Poptron aims to capture US $ 1.6 billion in micro-brand market share with 600,000 micro-brands generating their global revenue in 2025.
To bring him back in the nearer future, he wants to host a Poptron festival once he’s sure to do so. It is about engaging with their community of users and merchants in a festival setting made up of music, visual arts, films, catering and of course, ephemeral bazaars.
- You can read more about Poptron here.
- You can read more of the Malaysian startups we’ve covered here.
Featured Image Credit: Brian Lowe, Founder of Poptron
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