The e-commerce scene in Southeast Asia is set to continue its explosive growth: Frost and Sullivan projects that the B2C e-commerce in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam will is set to jump almost fivefold, from US$7 billion in 2013 to US$34.5 billion by 2018.
For Singaporean SMEs with an eye on the regional e-commerce pie, investment into e-commerce enablement activities such as strategy development, technical implementation, as well as marketing campaigns, can represent significant upfront investment that might lead to cashflow concerns.
Fortunately, the Singapore Government has always been supportive of the SME sector’s ambitions to innovate and expand business outwards beyond local shores, and has a slew of grants and assistance schemes specially designed to help SMEs achieve their e-commerce goals.
Having helped over 200 SMEs embark on their e-commerce enablement journey, we recommend the following 3-step approach with the relevant supporting grants that SMEs can adopt to realise their e-commerce capabilities:
1. Formulate an E-commerce Enablement Strategy with Spring Singapore’s Capability Development Grant (CDG)
Far too often, companies jump into e-commerce with the simplistic mindset that all they need is an online shopping cart addition to their existing website. Nothing can be further from the truth.
E-commerce enablement for the uninitiated can take serious toll on existing operations such as administration and operations, not to mention customer service. Is your staff mentally prepared and adequately trained to handle the differences between servicing customers in a physical setting as compared to a virtual one? How would you accept payments and how would you protect yourself from fraudulent purchases? What is your delivery policy and what kind of logistical advantages you can offer to customers that would give you an edge over the competition? These are just some examples of questions that you need to ask yourself to properly assess the business’ ability to perform an e-commerce rollout.
To be successful in your e-commerce endeavors, a well-thought enablement strategy and roadmap must be crafted and put in place, to give direction and focus to the overall e-commerce efforts.
In support of this, Spring Singapore provides the Capability Development Grant (CDG) that SMEs can tap on to engage an e-commerce consultant to guide you through the entire process of analysing your strengths and weakness, identify the key areas of improvement and work with you to formulate an overall strategy and roadmap to develop your e-commerce capabilities.
CDG provides grant support of up to 70% of the consultancy costs in developing your e-commerce enablement strategy.
2. Offset E-commerce Development Using IRAS’ Productivity and Innovation Credit (PIC)
Now that you have the strategy and action plan, it’s time to implement your e-commerce offering. Sometimes it can mean enhancing and extending upon your existing website platform to provide a section that allows customers to browse products and select for direct purchase (B2C) or order (B2B). Other times it may require a total revamp of your existing website architecture to provide a unique e-commerce shopping and buying experience from the ground up.
A more ambitious e-commerce enablement strategy can also lead you to an omni-channel approach where your e-commerce storefront is integrated with your physical retail and social media touchpoints, creating a seamless offline-to-online experience for your customers.
Such developments require one or more IT solution providers with the requisite technical expertise to deliver a solution that caters to your current needs and at the same time support your future expansion plans.
SMEs can leverage on the Productivity and Innovation Credit (PIC) scheme administered by IRAS to offset up to 60% of the development costs in cash payout, or 400% in tax deductions/allowances.
3. Tap on IE Singapore’s Market Readiness Assistance (MRA) Grant to Sell to the World
You have formulated a plan and you have developed your e-commerce platform. Now it is time to go out to the world and start selling.
Depending on the nature of your product and/or services, the country or region you are targeting, as well as the customer demographic that you are selling to, the marketing campaign can be any combination of search engine marketing and/or optimisation, social media outreach, and listing subscriptions on popular international online marketplaces such as Amazon.com and eBay.
If your offering is B2B, you may also consider engaging a marketing agency to plan and carry out awareness programmes in the region that you are targeting to reach out to your prospective customers.
IE Singapore supports such activities undertaken by SMEs with the Market Readiness Assistance (MRA) grant, which helps defray up to 70% of the costs incurred, capped at $20,000 per company per fiscal year for the next 3 years.
Your Next Steps
With global e-ecommerce players such as Rocket Internet, Sequoia Capital and SoftBank Corp investing millions into ecommerce start-ups, e-commerce space is THE sector to be in for any business with serious regional and even global ambitions. Coupled with the strong Singapore government support, now is the perfect time for local SMEs to utilize government grants and take their e-commerce business to the next level.
Feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to know more about how your company can tap on the grants to accelerate your e-commerce success.