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Breaking down barriers to make online shopping available to every Filipino

By MARTIN YU Published Jul 27, 2022 5:00 am


In 2017, I was faced with a decision to stay at my corporate finance job in Singapore, or make a big career shift to join a young and emerging shopping app. I took that risk, and grabbed the opportunity to return to the Philippines and become one of Shopee PH’s leaders.

When e-commerce was relatively new in the Philippines, the challenge was to introduce Shopee and get a comprehensive understanding of the local market. We saw that the community’s needs and trends changed faster than we imagined, so the challenge was to stay up to speed. However, as we went along, we got the hang of it. I learned that e-commerce is about innovating to address the community’s needs — there’s no playbook on e-commerce because change is the only constant in today’s digital age. So before each move, I always ask, “Are we growing the right way and serving our customers how they want to be served?” And from there, we push forward.

Vaccination center support initiatives were established to encourage Filipinos to get inoculated.

When we started, we never imagined that we’d be where we are today. It was exciting when more and more people started using the app, and now e-commerce has become an integral part of many Filipinos’ lives. Now that we’re here, we have to think about what’s next. I’m proud of how far we’ve come, but we still need to push the boundaries as the industry continues to grow.

Serving the underserved through technology

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020, we immediately launched Shopee Bayanihan—our program that focuses on improving the lives of underserved communities through partnerships with non-profit organizations, in-app donation drives, and other initiatives. We continue to partner with LGUs and government institutions to launch proactive initiatives to help MSMEs revive their livelihood by taking their business online, such as seller support packages, free learning sessions, and more.

Read what Martin Yu wrote about Shopee in InBetween: Brands turn to livestreaming to connect to buyers

Shopee has become a big part of Filipinos’ lives, so we continuously find new ways to make e-commerce accessible to everyone. By establishing new Shopee Xpress hubs in Visayas and Mindanao, we’re able to give more Filipinos better access to their shopping needs, and create sustainable livelihoods for sellers in the area by taking their businesses online. We’ll continue to open more to expand our serviceable areas and reach far-flung communities.

Shopee delivers aid to victims of Typhoon Odette via Shopee Express

Uplifting local talent and unlocking digital tools to power growth

We are committed to developing local talent to succeed in the digital economy and drive innovation. Our Global Leaders Program and Shopee Apprentice Program equip young and high-potential talent with immersive training and in-depth mentorships because molding tech leaders is crucial to growing the industry. We remain committed to helping businesses digitalize and grow with free training modules via our Seller Education Hub, and we also recently launched a Filipino version to cater to our local sellers.

One thing that hasn’t changed is Shopee’s commitment to meet customers’ needs, and to better the lives of the underserved through technology.

We continue to improve our platform to make the e-commerce journey seamless and simple for all. We encourage interaction between buyers and sellers via our in-app live chat, and prioritize the ease of use via localized content and operations. We’ve also developed new platform features that cater to consumers’ digital lifestyles, including integrated logistics and payment options, such as ShopeePay, our integrated e-wallet where users can send money for free, get discounted load products, bills payment cashback, and more.

Young and promising local talents participated in the Shopee Apprentice Program on the road to becoming leaders of the tech industry.

Evolving to make e-commerce accessible to everyone

When we started, I took on the role of being a coach since the teams needed direction on how to move forward. However, as we grew, I prioritized creating safe spaces to speak because our strong tech talents have been the catalysts for our rapid growth, and are our company’s core. But one thing that hasn’t changed is Shopee’s commitment to meet customers’ needs, and to better the lives of the underserved through technology.

The Department of Trade and Industry recently bared its e-commerce roadmap and eyed the sector’s value at P1.2 trillion, sharing 5.5% of the economy by the end of 2022. This highlighted that the Philippine e-commerce sector’s growth hinges on a fast and affordable communications network, efficient financial and logistics systems and infrastructure. Hence, making e-commerce accessible to everyone is a multi-sector initiative. Everyone plays a role because encouraging Filipinos to shop and sell online isn’t just about getting them on the platform — we need to address the roadblocks that hinder them from being online shoppers and digital entrepreneurs.

I’m glad that I’ve been able to help Shopee PH grow into the e-commerce platform that we’ve become today. This journey has taught me that change happens faster than you can imagine. You need to develop agility and the ability to think on your feet as new challenges arise. As the e-commerce market in Southeast Asia continues to expand, Shopee PH will continue to innovate and evolve to bring new, exciting experiences to Filipinos throughout their e-commerce journey.