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Macau is online

The director of local online shopping platform MineYeah Company Limited, Mio Keng Seng sees the potential of e-commerce, in particular for business-to-consumer (B2C) transactions in the city. His ambition however is not merely to provide a platform for local residents to enjoy the conveniences of online shopping, but also introduce and promote Macau-branded products in markets outside the SAR. Mio tells Business Daily that given the government’s intent to diversify the city’s economy, the e-commerce market is growing and Macau has the potential to go further in the industry.

How does your company work?
Our company provides an online platform or a website, and the platform has its own payment gateway, which means a way of payment. The website we are providing enables customers to buy products from firms online. At the same time, we’ve gathered a group of people, for the past two years, a group of business firms, to put their products and goods on our website. What I’m referring to is Macau-branded goods, to be promoted outside the city, such as in Mainland China or Hong Kong. In fact these two regions will be our main focus. Moreover, I am a member of the Youth Industrial Association of Macau. The association has products or goods that are made in Macau. As a member of the association I have the responsibility to promote out city’s products to other places and regions, as to let more people to get to know products that are made in Macau. Our website is one of the many channels to promote our products.

How did you get started in e-commerce?
Before I wasn’t engaged in anything that is related to websites, basically I worked in trading businesses. In the past two years, very often, I would participate in operating exhibitions that relate to buying and selling, such as the shopping festival. If there were ten exhibitions being held in a year, I would attend all of them. After attending many of these exhibitions, I can see that the outcome of these exhibitions is moderately satisfactory, not making a huge profit or loss. I got to know a group of people from those exhibitions, people who were selling products. I asked them about their sales because some of the firms were selling products that were not commonly interesting to the general public, such as Ginseng or bird’s nest soup… these sort of goods are not affordable for all, although they have a market. So, some of these firms answered that they didn’t aim to make profit by participating in these exhibitions, but to promote their products. They said they spent more than MOP10,000 just to promote and advertise their businesses. After talking to them, I was informed that many of these firms didn’t have a channel or way to sell and at the same time to promote their products. Some of these firms have physical shops and others don’t, with quite a few of them operating by simply attending exhibitions. As such, I thought, there was no platform like Taobao (a Chinese website for online shopping similar to eBay, Amazon and Rakuten that is operated in China by Alibaba Group) in Macau, and HKTVmall in Hong Kong, not to mention in Taiwan. Macau had none. I didn’t think Macau was that far behind these cities, of course the gaming revenue helps, and Macau should catch up with the current trend. Therefore, if no one was doing it then why don’t I start it myself, so I started the business.

After two years, what is the current scale of your company? How many staff do you employ?
Actually we have two delivery teams so as to meet different customers’ needs. We have a group of part-time delivery staff and we also co-operate with other delivery companies. Some of the companies might not be available to make deliveries at certain time slots because they have finished the work of the day, such as during night hours, so we will ask the part-time team to do the job. Therefore, in total, we have around 12 to 13 staff. The number also includes other areas such as administration. Apart from the head office here, we also have co-operation with companies. These people are freelancers, who we ask to help in tasks such as programming and designing.

What is your customer base?
Our customer base is mainly composed of local residents who are between 25 to 35 years old, in which female customers are more prominent. We examine our statistics data by using Google Analytics, and we pay for the service every month. We know where these people come from, their browsing habits, and whether they are male or female customers.

Why are there more female customers?
Because we have many travelling products and services. We also have skin care products. For the past two years we have been changing and adjusting, including the types of products and services that we offer, programmes, as well as our operational system.

Can you disclose your company’s recent business performance?
On Singles’ Day this year (on November 11, an online shopping day widespread among the Chinese community), we recorded around MOP800,000 (US$100,014) revenue in one single day. The revenue includes the amount made from Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau. Apart from the products sold on our website, the revenue that we gained also includes the rent of firms using our platform. This year’s performance has definitely improved compared to last year’s.

After two years operating in the e-commerce industry, how do you find the market in Macau compared to more mature neighbouring regions?
Recently, I can see that the Macau government is very supportive, as the Secretary for Economy and Finance proclaims the need to diversify the city’s economy, and one of his plans is to support e-commerce. Therefore, I believe the industry has a very positive future. Also, the government has created schemes to support local firms to sell their products on authorised websites. Although the government’s support schemes could help a lot, we cannot wholly depend on the government’s help, because doing business is about how to make the best on your own in order to attract people to trade with you.

Although online shopping is getting more common in Macau, in general, people in Macau don’t often buy products through websites. How do you plan to develop this trend in the city?
Maybe I’ll analyse it the other way round; we do in fact hope that Macau residents will change their purchasing habits, but we are more willing to introduce and promote products that are made in Macau to other places. These are two different things. For us, we will work on how to balance these two goals, because if we can make our city’s products go further outside Macau, our market will consequently grow bigger. Our city’s products are not bad at all and they should be known. I think letting people outside know about our products would help a lot.

Are there any challenges that your company is encountering?
There is no significant challenge, but we are working on how to perfect every detail. And we are trying to listen more to our customers’ and firms’ demands. I think that by perfecting every detail of our services we will outperform others.

Since transactions made online can be risky, how do you handle situations where transactions are not successful?
If that happens it won’t be our problem, because, as a platform, we can react by allowing customers to return their purchased products. The risk of unsuccessful transactions is borne by the third party, for instance Macau Pass. So if a customer is claiming that he has paid but the firm doesn’t receive it, then it has to be the problem of the payment gateway. We do actually have signed contracts with the payment gateway companies, therefore we are protected by the law if a problem arises. Moreover, the Macao Monetary Authority vets the companies before approving any licenses to payment gateway companies. The government definitely monitors these companies, and many people use WeChat payment and Alipay because they think it is safe. Basically people put their payment details online, and the payment gateway will gather this information in a temporary storage area where no one can access it. Through this storage area, the payment gateway obtains the amount that the customer paid, and the amount will be stored in that payment company. And since these companies co-operate with us, we will close the account every month. It is actually exactly the same as making card payments. As such, this does not cause big problems.

If they shop online, Macau residents tend to use the more well known online platforms such as Taobao. How do you compete?
Our products. We have a lot of local firms and we are currently approaching buffet restaurants and hotels to sell their services through our platform. Apart from attracting Macau residents, we are also intending to attract tourists and foreigners to browse our website. In the future, we have plans to work on new pages, and these new pages will allow interactions between customers. We are still planning it so we cannot reveal further information yet.

In that case, your company is aiming to open up other markets?
Yes, definitely. Frankly speaking, operating an e-commerce platform, with consideration of the capital, it is absolutely unrealistic to simply work on the local market.

How to you find firms to co-operate with your company?
The task of finding firms to co-operate with us falls on our service manager. He basically uses every way to find firms to work with us. Facebook, phone calls and approaching them in person. There are also firms that approach us - that is better.

How do you co-operate with these firms?
We have different co-operation schemes. We have the rental scheme for using our website - basically a firm can pay the rent and it can post their products without limits. Another scheme is commission on profits made by firms. We consider applying a suitable scheme according to the firm itself. For instance, if a firm sells food products where the profit made is not significant, in that case we will choose the best and most suitable scheme for the firm to promote, or paying the rental would be enough. Because if we get 5 per cent commission on that firm, it will not make any profit. We consider what firms are selling.

Do you have any firms that your company is particularly in favour of co-operating with?
Products that are distinctively made in Macau. We want to find more of these firms producing these products. On the other hand, we also want to have more products or services that relate to tourism as well as daily goods.

What is the threshold for firms to use your services?
We require all firms to be licensed with the M1 (Establishment Registration form) and M8 (Tax Return). For firms without physical shops, we required them to at least have the M1. We won’t approve any anonymous firms. Meanwhile, we also require firms to sign a detailed contract including terms that prohibit them from selling unapproved goods, the details explaining how to make the transaction and how to use our website services.

Any future plans for your company?
Again, to perfect every detail of our operation and services. We will think of other new ideas after we have done well in improving our current works. I think it would create a mess if we added new things when we are not doing well in the things that we are doing now. We will create when we are stable enough.

How do you promote your business?
We mainly use Facebook, but later we will have a page allowing interactions between customers. I think it is a great way to naturally promote and advertise our website by our own customers.

Some opinions express the inadequacy of legal support for e-commerce in the city. What is your own opinion about these concerns?
I think if there are too many regulations or restrictions, it will eliminate the incentive for those who are interested in entering the field.

Since previously you have attended business sessions with local gaming operators, what is your intention of co-operating with local gaming operators?
In Macau, it is very natural to co-operate with casinos. It is beyond a doubt that the local gaming operators have rich experience in doing business. It would be a good way to promote ourselves if we co-operate with the operators. There is no firm that cannot be co-operated with. It is not only firms that sell products, gaming operators and hotels can offer vouchers or discounts through our website which will attract customers to browse our platform. Promotions can be mutual through co-operation.