Shopee’s Key Milestones As It Rose To Be SEA’s Top E-Commerce Player

Singaporeans are no strangers to Shopee. Even though they’ve never bought anything from the ecommerce site, they’ve surely seen Shopee’s iconic orange ads or heard his eye-catching marketing jingles.

There is a good reason for the large number of customers on Shopee: you can buy a wide range of products off the platform, from home appliances to fashion clothes to food.

Besides shopping, Shopee also offers various in-app entertainment options, such as the ‘Shopee Live’ live streaming feature and the ‘Shopee Quiz’ interactive game show.

When Shopee first entered the market in 2015, Lazada was already the region’s leading e-commerce platform.

However, it quickly went from being a new entrant to Singapore’s most visited e-commerce platform in the second quarter of 2020.

According to Statista, Shopee saw approximately 14.1 million online visitors in the fourth quarter of 2020.

In 2017, Sea’s e-commerce recorded sales of S $ 24.08 million. In 2019, it had grown nearly 50 times to S $ 1.12 billion.

We take a look at Shopee’s milestones and how it has evolved from being a nascent ecommerce platform to one of the major players in South East Asia (SEA).

2015 to 2016: the first days of Shopee

Forrest Li Shopee
Forrest Li, founder of parent company Shopee Sea Limited / Image credit: Guru Gamer

Sea Limited – Shopee’s parent company – was founded in 2009 and did not enter e-commerce until 2015 with the launch of Shopee.

At that time, there were already many existing competitors in the region like Lazada, Qoo10, Taobao and Ezbuy.

However, management took a leap of faith and launched Shopee in seven markets: Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Shopee took a different strategy from the start by launching as an app to leverage SEA’s high mobile penetration rate.

According to a study conducted by Google and Temasek, average mobile internet use by SEA is the highest in the regions (3.6 hours per person per day).

That’s why Shopee immediately focused on optimizing user experience and engagement via mobile from the start. Its mobile-first approach allows it to take advantage of the expected continued growth in mobile subscriber penetration.

2017: The introduction of Shopee Mall

Image Credit: Vulcan Post

In 2017, Shopee Mall was introduced across the region.

The portal is separate from the regular Shopee marketplace and provides access to thousands of products from over 200 top sellers and brands such as 3M, L’Oreal, Philips and Adidas.

According to a press release, Shopee Mall was conceptualized because of the growing need for brands to provide Singaporeans with a streamlined online shopping experience.

It also helps big brands looking to take an omnichannel approach and reach new customer bases.

The launch of Shopee Mall is a major milestone for us in establishing Shopee as an industry leader and a single platform that meets all of our customer’s needs.

As we ramp up our B2C efforts, customers can now easily buy from hundreds of top brands.

– Zhou Junjie, Country Manager of Shopee Singapore.

Shopee now has over 11,000 Shopee Mall sellers in its seven markets.

2018: New launches, BLACKPINK as regional ambassador

shopee blackpink
Image Credit: Jakarta Globe

In 2018, Shopee launched the China Marketplace portal which provides buyers with easy access to products from Chinese merchants with no shipping and agent fees in Singapore.

The new market has opened the doors to a greater variety of affordable and quality products from China.

The platform also allows sellers in China to tap into Shopee’s thriving retail ecosystem in Singapore.

shopee china marketplace
Image Credit: Digital News Asia

China Marketplace offers millions of listings in categories such as women’s fashion, home and life, and children’s fashion, giving shoppers access to major Chinese brands.

In May 2018, Shopee also launched its first Super Brand Day in Indonesia with P&G as a partner.

super brand shopee day
Image Credit: Marketing Interactive

On its Super Brand Day, Shopee usually offers shoppers exclusive offers, cash back options, and promotions for certain brands. He has since organized 70 Super Brand Days in the region.

Shopee is also known for its ability to integrate very popular brand ambassadors.

In 2018, Shopee announced that Korean idol group BLACKPINK was its regional brand ambassador. The group was previously hailed by Billboard as the best Korean actor in history.

The announcement was timed to coincide with Shopee’s 12.12 anniversary sale, which saw a two-week promotional campaign.

That year, Shopee’s gross merchandise value also reached US $ 10 billion with over 600 million transactions on the platform.

2019: New sales milestones, Cristiano Ronaldo arrives on board

After tapping into BLACKPINK as the brand’s first regional ambassador, Shopee tapped Portuguese professional footballer Cristiano Ronaldo.

Cristiano Ronaldo Shopee
Image Credit: Marketing Interactive

As part of this partnership, Ronaldo starred in Shopee’s 9.9 TV commercial. It premiered in August 2019 and was released in all Shopee markets.

The soccer star was seen dancing to a remix of the viral children’s song Baby Shark while sliding on Shopee’s mobile app in the company’s ad campaign.

Fans across the region were also able to connect with the soccer star through a range of exclusive content available only on Shopee Live.

The 9.9 shopping event featuring Cristiano Ronaldo and Baby Shark recorded three times more orders than the previous year.

That year, Shopee had 500 million total views on Shopee Live and over one billion plays of its built-in games.

In its 12.12 anniversary sale in December, Shopee sold 80 million items in a single day.

It also officially opened its new six-story regional headquarters at Singapore Science Park.

At 244,000 square feet, the office can accommodate 3,000 employees and is six times the size of its former headquarters in Ascent Building,

2020: a year of memorable growth

With much of the retail industry hit hard due to the COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns in 2020, e-commerce has experienced an unprecedented boom.

As more merchants and consumers went online, Shopee saw an 82% increase in user numbers from Q1 to Q2 of 2020, gaining nearly five million additional visitors on average.

The increase in the number of visits was also potentially due to its promotional efforts supported through initiatives such as the 4.4 flash sale and the Super Mart month during the breakers period.

Shopee’s fourth quarter 2020 revenue was US $ 842.2 million, up 178.3% year-over-year.

This included 627.6 million US dollars in market revenue, up 175.4 percent year-over-year; and US $ 214.6 million in generated revenue, up 187.1 percent year-over-year.

Shopee Q4 2020 growth
Shopee’s growth in e-commerce in Q4 2020 / Image credit: Sea

In addition, it was the third most downloaded app in the world in the Shopping category for the whole of 2020.

Additionally, Shopee ranked first in YouGov’s “Best APAC Buzz Rankings 2020” and eighth in YouGov’s “Best Global Brands 2020”.

It is one of only two e-commerce brands in the top 10 of YouGov’s Global Brand Rankings.

What’s next for Shopee?

With a young and large population of 650 million people, SEA is known to be the fastest growing internet region in the world in recent years.

A joint study between Google and Temasek Holdings last year predicted that SEA’s digital economy will triple in size by 2025, to reach US $ 240 billion.

As a key driver of this economy, e-commerce is also expected to be valued at US $ 102 billion in raw goods by 2025 as well.

This presents a hotbed of opportunity for Shopee. In 2020, the company continued to rank first in the Shopping category by active monthly users in Southeast Asia and Taiwan.

The company is also moving towards other functions in addition to its market functionality, which suggests a possible expansion of the network.

For example, Shopee began providing loans to sellers through Sea’s payments division, Sea Money, in 2019.

In addition, Sea was also awarded a digital banking license by the Monetary Authority of Singapore last year. This will likely give Shopee more points to collaborate with their merchants.

These networks built by Shopee can be a virtuous cycle that could allow it to invest more in customer service and order fulfillment, attracting more customers.

Featured Image Credit: Inside Retail Asia

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Jothi Venkat

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