Help for local SMEs to go into e-commerce

Annual 99% SME campaign back with digitalisation boost for firms

Logo of 99% SME campaign. PHOTO: SME

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Singapore can now market themselves online at no cost by listing on the 99%SME website, Singtel and DBS said in a joint statement yesterday.

On the website, consumers can find in-store promotions for 2,600 brick-and-mortar SMEs as well as an e-marketplace with 400 digitally ready SMEs.

The annual 99%SME campaign was started by Singtel and DBS and is into its third year. The campaign aims to help SMEs venture into e-commerce this year, and Lazada Singapore was roped in to host the e-marketplace.

Last year, more than 2,600 SMEs signed up for the 99%SME website and were provided with free training on e-commerce and cashless payment tools. The target is to bring the number of sign-ups to 5,000 this year, and 3,000 SMEs have come onboard so far.

SMEs make up 99 per cent of businesses in Singapore. Mr Bill Chang, chief executive of group enterprise at Singtel, said: "As the bedrock of Singapore's economy, SMEs cannot afford to be left out of digitalisation. By helping SMEs adopt technology, we strengthen Singapore's economic resilience."

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, who attended the launch, praised the campaign for uniting more than 20 partners from the public and private sectors, including polytechnics and trade associations and chambers, which keep adding to the growing toolkit that SMEs can use.

Mr Daniel Zhang, director and group chief executive of Alibaba Group, which acquired a controlling stake in Lazada last year, was also in Singapore for the launch.

He told the gathering at Singtel ComCentre that the rapid ascent of the Chinese e-commerce giant demonstrated not the "power of Alibaba" but the "power of SMEs" - close to 10 million SMEs do business on Alibaba's platform.

Mr Zhang added: "Today on Lazada, we have thousands of SMEs in Singapore... We're even thinking about how we can help Singapore SMEs serve customers in China via the Lazada and Alibaba platforms. The opportunity is huge, but we do face some challenges."

He also shared some successful tips to lure customers, based on the Chinese experience.

Many SMEs are using live video streaming on Alibaba's platform to showcase how their make-up products can be applied, for example.

"This gives people more encouragement to try a product, rather than just give them a listing or a picture," Mr Zhang said, noting that other advancements like voice technology could also be included in the SME toolkit soon.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 06, 2017, with the headline Help for local SMEs to go into e-commerce. Subscribe