SME Tech

Safe, easy shopping with Shopee

Dodgy listings, sellers who don't respond and buyers who don't pay are common problems in online shopping. A new shopping app aims to raise the game

Shopee’s chief executive, Mr Chris Feng, with (standing, from left) Ms Jessica Yeow of online cruelty-free cosmetics shop Jessilogy; Ms Paige Lim of online shoe shop Buckle Up; and Ms Keli Lim of online apparel shop Kikikeli. PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Buying and selling on customer-to- customer (C2C) marketplaces can be a minefield.

Unresponsive sellers, dodgy listings, and people backing out of deals or not showing up at pre-arranged meeting points are all par for the course.

Home-grown company Garena's new mobile marketplace Shopee, which was launched on June 1, hopes to change that.

Mr Chris Feng, head of mobile business at Garena Online and chief executive officer of Shopee, said that although there is a range of marketplace apps out now, many are not sophisticated enough.

"They are more like classifieds rather than an e-commerce platform," he said.

So he and his team designed Shopee to be a feature-packed and robust C2C app that protects the best interests of both sellers and buyers.

Unlike many other marketplace apps, customers can make payment though Shopee. This discourages buyers from reserving an item but not turning up to collect it, or not paying for an item that they have received.

If there is a problem with the transaction, Shopee has a dedicated dispute management team that will mediate issues raised by the app's users.

Next month, the app will offer an integrated pick-up and delivery service. Instead of having to meet up in person or send items via post, sellers can pay $2 per item to have packages picked up directly from their home and delivered to the buyer.

The three-month-old app was first launched in Singapore, and since then has also been released in six other countries, including Malaysia and Taiwan.

While the company declined to reveal its exact user base, the app has seen several million downloads in total.

Shopee sellers The Straits Times spoke to agreed that the app's features are a step up from classified- style listings.

Founder of online shoe shop Buckle Up, Ms Paige Lim, 23, said that she used to get non-payments on two out of every 10 transactions.

"It's very common. A customer will reserve an item, and say that they will make a concealed cash payment. So we will send out the item, but they don't pay," she said.

A concealed cash payment is sending money through the mail.

Ms Lim said that when such incidents happen, she just lets it go, as making a police report is too much of a hassle.

But with Shopee, she added, many customers make payment immediately via the app.

Sellers are also looking forward to the integrated logistics feature.

Founder of online cruelty-free cosmetics shop Jessilogy, Ms Jessica Yeow, 23, said that she will definitely be using the service when it is available.

She said: "Now, if there are a lot of orders, we have to put everything in a big bag and take it to the post office. It's troublesome."

Founder of online apparel shop Kikikeli, Ms Keli Lim, 24, added that the fee of $2 per delivery is very reasonable, as she now pays about $3.50 on average to post an item via registered mail.

The $2 fee is a introductory offer, which will last for at least six months. After that, the delivery charge may be raised slightly, according to Mr Ander Orcasitas, managing director of Shopee, Singapore.

Mr Feng said that in Singapore, 80 per cent of listings are created by non-professional sellers, and 20 per cent are by professional sellers.

In future updates, he plans to introduce even more features to the app, such as a recommended items feed, and better tools for sellers to manage large volumes of orders.

Mr Orcasitas said: "With Shopee, we wanted to take the social model of e-commerce, but to make it super easy.

"So you can list an item in 30 seconds, but you can also have access to the same tools that a professional seller has."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 09, 2015, with the headline Safe, easy shopping with Shopee. Subscribe