Singapore’s Shopee has seen a quick rise in popularity since its launch two years ago.
Shopee counts 200,000 daily transactions in Indonesia.
Some metrics indicate it’s already beating fellow Singaporean mobile shopping app Carousell, which is almost three years older. Now it’s zeroing in on Indonesia, a highly contested ecommerce market potentially worth US$130 billion in a few years – Southeast Asia’s largest opportunity.
It’s been the number one free shopping app in Indonesia’s Play Store since March, overtaking regional and local rivals.
At the Indonesian ecommerce summit (IESE) last week, the startup hosted a press conference, claiming to be Indonesia’s largest ecommerce player. Shopee is a marketplace that offers a wide range of products in categories like electronics, fashion, and household products.
This was a day after Shopee’s parent company Sea announced it took on a US$550 million investment, most of which is earmarked for Shopee in Indonesia, the firm said.
Play Store ranks don’t say much about an app’s true performance, but Shopee has more numbers to back up its claim:
- 200,000 daily transactions in the archipelago – that’s for physical goods only, not counting digital purchases like vouchers or mobile air time.
- 50 million active listings in Indonesia.
- Annualized GMV above US$3 billion across the seven countries it operates in Southeast Asia and Taiwan).
Indonesia makes up 40 to 50 percent of the startups’s transaction volume, CEO Chris Feng told Tech in Asia.
It’s tough to compare this directly with competitor’s metrics, as this data is released irregularly, if at all. Daily transactions, for example, are typically not disclosed by Indonesian ecommerce companies.
Some reference points:
- Tokopedia’s last active listings count last stood at 16.5 million – but that was nearly one year ago.
- Lazada announced an annualized GMV across Southeast Asia of US$1.3 billion – but that was more than one year ago.
Tokopedia did not respond to our attempts to get in touch. Lazada Indonesia said it has no comment on Shopee and did not send its own recent data.
It’s difficult to draw conclusions from these metrics, because they vary depending on each company’s specific business model, warns a local investor who backs other ecommerce startups in Indonesia, but has no ties to Shopee. We asked him to weigh in on Shopee’s claim.
“My take is that since they are a pretty reputable company and trying to go public soon, they would be careful about making wrongful claims,” he said.
The Financial Times reports that Sea is preparing for a US IPO, expecting a listing in the second half of this year.
One of the top-funded ecommerce companies
With potentially a good part of US$500 million fresh in its war chest, Shopee’s Indonesia operation could be one of the best-funded ecommerce endeavors in the country right now.
Regional player Lazada, now owned by Alibaba, also has deep pockets to draw from.
Shopee has its own big sister in China. Its parent, Sea – formerly known as Garena – is backed by Tencent, the maker of WeChat.
Free shipping, free listings
Shopee also announced a collaboration with Indonesia’s state-owned post service.
The collaboration will guarantee free shipping for all Shopee buyers across the archipelago for an unspecified amount of time, Feng confirmed. The ecommerce firm had been offering free shipping in the past.
Shopee also doesn’t monetize from its merchants yet. Product listings are free, and there’s no commission. Feng says the startup is mulling introducing ads for merchants soon, so that they can pay for additional exposure.
But it’s not just the freebies that make Shopee attractive to buyers and sellers, says Feng. The app has unique social features, such as product searches by hashtag and the ability for users to follow one another. This has helped Shopee’s user experience stand out among rivals, Feng says. “Others have tried to copy these features, but it’s not that easy.”
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