How to Start Your Own E-Commerce Business in the Philippines

Over the last few months, news has been inundated with reports of several large retail stores in the US closing down or shuttering outlets. Billionaire investor Warren Buffet divested $900 Million worth of holdings at Wal-Mart because of the retail chain’s refusal to change with the times. And the times they are changing with e-commerce giants Amazon and lording it over consumer retail. So if you are planning to start your own e-commerce business in the Philippines, the time is now!

Although the Philippines lags behind its Southeast Asian neighbors in online shopping, there are strong signs of growth. Statistics on online shopping in the Philippines in 2015 revealed the following promising figures:

26 Million e-commerce shoppers representing 40% of all Internet users.
71% estimated annual growth over the next 3 years.
Estimated 46.1 Million e-commerce shoppers within 3 years.
2% expected growth rate in the retail industry.
The majority of shoppers came from the middle-income bracket.
If you want to become an entrepreneur, starting your own e-commerce business in the Philippines is a great idea and gives you several unique advantages:

It is an inexpensive way to start a business.
Low maintenance costs.
Easier to market and promote products and services.
Business is open 24/7.
Wider scope and reach.
So what are you waiting for, let’s get your e-commerce business in the Philippines started!

1. What is Your Business Idea?
In the Philippines, the top selling e-commerce items are ranked in order of sales:

Electronic Goods
Special Interest
Fashion Apparel
Furniture and Home Appliances
Food, Cosmetics, and Pharmaceuticals
Punchdrunk Panda is an example of a successful e-commerce business. The company sells Filipino-made products which include fashion accessories, bags, socks, headphones, camera straps, wallets, and pencil cases. According to them, they started with a free trial first to build their online store using Shopify and was amazed by how idiot proof or user-friendly it is.

Nonetheless, once you’ve determined the products and services you want to offer on your e-commerce website, the next step is to look for suppliers.

2. Register Your Online Business
If your e-commerce business exchanges goods and services for cash, then it will be considered a source of income. You will be required to issue official receipts. This means you have to register your online business.

If your type of business is either a proprietorship or partnership, then you should register it with the Department of Trade and Industry or DTI. If you plan to set up a corporation, you have to register it with the Securities and Exchange Commission or SEC.

Related: 5 Essential Business Permits and Licenses in the Philippines
The advantage of being a registered entity is that it will be easier to gain approval and favorable terms from suppliers. In order to find the best suppliers, you have to go straight to the manufacturer and secure a referral.

Manufacturers will be more receptive to legally organized and registered businesses than those that aren’t.

3. Build Your E-Commerce Website
Your e-commerce website is your bread and butter. Although there are programs that can help you set up your own e-commerce website, it is always better to sign up the services of a professional web designer.

One of the best e-commerce platforms to use is Shopify. Punchdrunk Panda shifted to Shopify because it is user-friendly, offers outstanding support services, comes with many interesting features, and offers risk-free 30 days trial.

It’s not enough to just have an e-commerce website. It should have the following qualities:

Responsive Design – 65% of online traffic now comes from mobile. If you want to be discovered, your website has to be responsive to mobile devices.
Focus on Speed – Search rankings are affected by site speed. Studies show that a 1-second delay in speed can result in a 7% decrease in conversion rates.
Make it Accessible – Search isn’t just about Google, Yahoo! or Bing. Other Internet users may prefer Firefox, Mozilla or Safari.
Don’t Make Customers Think – If your e-commerce site appears too complicated to use, the customer will click out. It’s all about giving them a memorable User Experience or UX.
It Should Look Good – Think of your e-commerce store as your window to the Internet. If it looks good and inviting, more people will visit your store.
Decide on Your Checkout Counter – Once you have your customer at the checkout line, you want the payment system as clean, easy and convenient. If consumers are hesitant about credit cards, you can have PayPal or Shopify’s own payment system.
4. Fortify Your Delivery/ Shipment Systems
One reason why e-commerce is slow to develop in the Philippines is a general fear of delivery and shipment problems.

In the case of Punchdrunk Panda, although the founder is based in Canada, the company has a local team which handles all shipping and delivery in the Philippines. Some e-commerce businesses use standard courier services such as LBC or Aboitiz 2GO to deliver merchandise.

If you plan to sell your products in the US, you may wish to consider Shipwire which works well with Shopify. Punchdrunk Panda uses Shipwire’s services for their customers in the US. Make sure the orders are easy to track down in case of delays.

5. Market and Promote Your Website
Marketing and promotion are important functions to carry out in order to grow your e-commerce business.

Here are a few tips on how to market and promote your e-commerce website:

Optimize Your Web Pages.
Create relevant and engaging content on your website.
Distribute content through social media.
Use social media to build your brand, increase awareness and grow your network.
Use Google Ads, Facebook Ads and AdRoll for remarketing; a process whereby relevant ads are shown to the site visitor across multiple devices.
Introduce product discounts, special offers, coupons and other purchase incentives.
Include testimonies on your website.
Post customer reviews and comments on your website.
Integrate a form of customer service on your website such as chat or e-mail support.
Related: 10 Biggest Digital Marketing Mistakes Made by Entrepreneurs
Start Your Own E-Commerce Business in the Philippines
E-commerce presents great opportunities for you to succeed in the retail business in the Philippines. It offers consumers convenience by shopping from the comforts of their own homes without having to deal with the horrors of Metro Manila traffic.

Running an e-commerce business in the Philippines comes with its own set of challenges. But with dedication, focus, and commitment you should eventually find yourself on the smooth road to success.

As a final piece of advice, make sure to check out Shopify and get a free trial today. Who knows? Your business is the next Filipino Success Story that will be featured by them. (Oh man, I would love to see that).