Terms like ‘eCommerce’ and ‘group-buy’ have become increasingly popular over the last few years. With the Pandemic a part of everyday life, it’s no surprise that e-commerce platforms and social e-commerce marketing have become such a big part of how consumers make purchase decisions.

In this issue of the Marketing Expert Series, Januel Koh, Marketing Manager at WEBUY, takes us on a tour of the whats, hows, and whys behind e-commerce marketing strategies. Join us on a whirlwind journey and catch a glimpse into the world of social e-commerce marketing and how it really works.

Hi, Januel, welcome to the Marketing Expert Series! Thank you for joining us. Let’s start background, can you tell us a bit about yourself? How did you get to where you are now? 

My background is originally in sales, but my passion was always for marketing. Being the top salesman in a sales agency helped me better understand how consumers think. Marketing, to me, is the skilful art of packaging an item. It’s like the wrapper for chocolate or presents, elevating the appeal of the product or service to the fullest.

Previously, I was part of a fast-growing marketing agency which gave me experience and exposure to multiple industries. While at the helm of the digital marketing department, as well as managing the campaigns of multiple clients, I gained insights through the success and failure of each campaign. To date, I have run more than 100 marketing campaigns and over 4000 ads through platforms like Google, Facebook, Linkedin and TikTok. 

With these experiences, I identified that content with the right message, audience, placement, objective and positioning is the key to running successful campaigns. 

Creating viral content elevates the success rate of engagement, click-through rate (CTR), acquisitions and purchases. Together with data analysis, it brought me to where I am today: helping businesses gain customers and grow revenues. 

Currently, you’re the Marketing Manager at WeBuy. Please tell us more about WeBuy and what the company is all about.

WEBUY is a one-stop e-commerce platform with two key elements: 

The first element is what we call “group buys” – buying items together and sharing the savings together. On WEBUY, there are more than a thousand “Group Leaders”. These are people like your next-door neighbours that facilitate group buys and serve as the collection points within your community. 

For example, buying a single bottle of Coca Cola versus buying a carton of Coca Cola bottles and sharing the amount and cost among the group makes a big difference in long term savings. 

People can also do group buys for lunch and dinners from famous eateries, making it really convenient for merchants and consumers because it’s all consolidated into one order placed in advance!

The second element is this upcoming digital trend on short videos. With the digital transformation in China and Southeast Asia, short videos are getting more and more popular. An increasing amount of average screen time is spent on platforms like TikTok, Instagram stories and Facebook videos. 

By sharing short videos on the WEBUY platform, consumers on WEBUY can experience the fun of watching short videos, finding out new items/products that they haven’t tried before. It also helps with the consumer’s decision-making process. Many of these videos are created and uploaded by other consumers that have used or tried the product before, making the videos highly credible. 

What about your role as Marketing Manager at WeBuy? What kind of work do you do to get WeBuy growing and moving?

Primarily, I manage WEBUY digital marketing campaigns and content across all social media platforms as well as running advertisements for growth and revenue. I am also in charge of all our offline marketing campaigns and public relations.

I usually create content for A/B tests using our wide range of products from different merchants and our USPs/concept of group buys to attract customers. After each test, I plan marketing strategies to make sure that my ads or content runs at the lowest CPA (cost per acquisition), with the given budget and KPI. 

In the past months, I have also run offline marketing campaigns, roadshows, for example, helping us acquire new users. With our unique business model with the group leaders, we had group leaders give out eggs to their community/neighbours for them to join group buys within their community.

I understand that WeBuy was founded in late 2019, what sort of impact did it have on your development as a marketer?

I joined WEBUY in mid-2021. Finding myself in a face-paced environment, on an e-commerce platform, I had to adapt to various trends in the market really quickly. The Pandemic came in as a blessing in disguise where consumer behaviour had quickly turned into online purchases.

My development in this company made me grow in terms of my decision-making skills, but I had to make really fast decisions and adapt to various changes to campaigns at the very last minute for better results. There were times when I literally had to google for information and to learn new skills right before the campaign started. 

Have the developments of the COVID-19 Pandemic affected your own strategies as Marketing Manager? What challenges and/or developments have you had to adapt to since the start of 2020? How have you overcome them?

The development of the COVID-19 Pandemic has spurred online purchases since 2020. Since then there have been many changes that the company had to deal with. For example, one of the industries that struggled to keep up was the F&B industry with multiple business owners that had not yet made the leap to digital. 

WEBUY launched food deliveries options to connect consumers and F&B businesses, helping launch group-buy food deliveries. These orders are placed in advance so that F&B owners, especially hawkers can prepare adequate ingredients beforehand. 

This initiative helped to secure a large number of orders so that these businesses could stay afloat. One F&B owner was saying that before the Pandemic, he was able to sell 200 plates of duck rice per day, but when the Pandemic struck, he only managed to sell 30 plates or less. After WEBUY came into the picture, we were able to bring him 300 over orders per day through the power of group buys. Our customers were also happy because they could order food with cost savings and have food delivered to them without the need of paying delivery fees. We managed to bring the demand from the consumer to our merchants.

Recently, with more and more restrictions lifted overseas, we launched the Group Buy Travel Services for consumers to travel with their family and friends at the cheapest cost in the market. Customers can even send requests to customise their tours with us!

What sort of lasting impact do you believe the pandemic’s forced acceleration of digital transformation has had on WeBuy and your industry in general?

I believe that consumers have seen how we had handled the Pandemic and many are now used to ordering from our platform. We trained group leaders to understand how our e-commerce system works so that they can also teach their neighbours and community how to do online purchases. 

Consumers are quite used to our platforms, and the forced accelerations of the digital platform pushed us to increase the functionality and improve user-friendliness. For example, our short video functions allow consumers to make decisions more quickly, and our in-app chat allows customers who have issues to chat directly with the group leaders or our customer service.

Do you think that this impact has permanently changed how you and your team go about your work? Where do you see your strategies going in the next few years?

I believe it has definitely impacted our mindset and adaptability. We, as a team, are not afraid to try new campaigns to test our performance of each campaign. In the next few years, WEBUY definitely wants to bring this successful model to the rest of Southeast Asia. In fact, we are already present in Malaysia and Indonesia. Recently, we also expanded and bought Indonesia E-commerce startup Chilibeli.

We are confident because our team is always ready and fast to react!

Any advice you’d give to young and/or aspiring marketers? 

Don’t be afraid to try; learn from every success and failure. In marketing, there are no rights or wrongs before making a start. 

It’s been a pleasure to learn more about you and your work, Januel, thank you for sharing your insights and experiences. How can people connect with you if they’d like to know more about you or WeBuy?

They can connect with me through Linkedin.

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