Shopee, first launched in Singapore in 2015, has quickly expanded to Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines in four short years. Find out how the e-commerce platform manages its growth and skills development as we speak with its Chief Commercial Officer, Zhou Junjie.
Since receiving the SkillsFuture Employer Awards in 2018, how has Shopee continue to drive a strong learning culture and develop the capabilities within the organisation?
At Shopee, we believe in grooming our leaders from within. From first-time leaders to our experienced senior management team, we continuously support their growth through Shopee Academy, our training institute.
The academy currently offers five tiers of leadership programmes, designed to meet the different needs of our leaders at different stages. There are foundational modules for new leaders, advanced topics for experienced leaders, and regional leadership training courses for leaders from all markets. New hire leaders in Shopee are also brought to our Singapore headquarters for a quarterly onboarding where they learn more about the business, get training and shadow a buddy to accelerate their learning.
Our current coaching programme is integrated with our leadership training so that there is continuity in learning and an emphasis on learning application. Our current pool of more than 40 internal coaches are experienced leaders who are specially trained in coaching skills. For executive coaching, we took the time to select experienced coaches who were the right fit for our industry and the experiences of our senior executives. Shopee’s mentoring programme is widely popular, with more than 100 mentors and 300 mentees benefiting from the programme. We structured our mentoring programmes to ensure good pairings of mentors and mentees, as well as training both mentors and mentees on how to get the most out of their professional relationship.
Our approach necessitates heavy involvement from top management. Together with the dedication of our talented professionals within the Learning and Development team, we are able to sustain a strong learning culture.
What would the e-commerce scene look like five years from now?
E-commerce in Southeast Asia is expected to expand to become a USD240 billion market by 2025, as more sellers continue to enter e-commerce to grow their customer base and more buyers consume online for cost savings, quality and convenience.
According to a 2018 survey conducted by IT market research and advisory firm, IDC, the adoption rate of artificial intelligence (AI) and data doubled from the year before and more than 35% of Singaporean respondents had plans to embed AI into their operations by 2020. As the e-commerce market expands, data science will grow increasingly important as organisations leverage data to generate insights, create business solutions and optimise success.
At Shopee, we ensure that we stay ahead of the curve by fostering a data-driven culture from the get-go. This will allow us to use the latest AI technology and data science solutions to serve our customers better. The data science team is currently developing an E-Commerce Knowledge Graph to enhance the user browsing experience by improving the product recommendation engine. I believe that in the future, product recommendations and interactions on e-commerce platforms will be even more tailored to each user’s shopping behaviour, and every individual will have a unique and personalised shopping experience.
Can you share 1–2 key consumer trends of 2019 and how it will impact the e-commerce scene in the region?
Shoppers are increasingly demanding a social shopping experience. They want to discover new products and be entertained and engaged. Our data shows us that there is a correlation between an engaging shopping experience and an increase in customer retention, time spent in-app, and the number of purchases.
To drive user engagement and inject fun into the online shopping experience, we have integrated a host of gamification elements into our platform, such as:
- Shopee Live — an in-app live streaming service that enables sellers and brands to live stream content to customers.
- Shopee Quiz — a live game show hosted by local influencers to entertain and engage shoppers on our platform.
Shopee also has a range of hugely popular games such as Spin & Win, Shopee Shake and Shopee Slice, all of which are optimised for mobile and designed to elevate the user experience. We are at the forefront of the region’s social shopping revolution, and we aim to continuously innovate and elevate the shopping experience for all our users.
What are the essential skills marketers today need to be competitive in the e-commerce industry?
Data analysis is a key skill that marketers will have to master. Consumer behaviour and preferences are constantly changing, and marketers will have to be able to analyse data and trends in consumers’ shopping behaviour effectively to better anticipate consumers’ needs. Successful marketers will have to be able to examine facts and understand the implications of statistics to make sound decisions about how to invest in marketing and promotions.
Successful marketers should also keep abreast of local consumer trends to tailor marketing solutions and create meaningful engagements with consumers. At Shopee, we believe that a strong, hyperlocalised approach is essential to bringing the best online shopping experience to consumers. As such, marketers at Shopee strive to roll out highly customised initiatives for each local market to respond to local users’ needs and preferences more efficiently.
Having managed teams from different countries across Southeast Asia, i.e. Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, are you able to share any differences or similarities in the learning cultures of each.
To be an effective leader, I strive to understand the dynamics of each team in the different countries, tap on their strengths and improve on their weaknesses to maximise the potential of each team.
Our employees are generally young, capable, and very eager to learn. All employees across the various countries share a passion for learning and improving themselves as individuals, and as a team. I am thankful for their hard work and determination to contribute to the growth of Shopee.
How do you keep abreast of industry trends and happenings?
In the e-commerce industry where things change at such a rapid pace, I aim to not only keep up with the latest trends but also to stay ahead of the curve. I keep myself up-to-date with the latest industry news and happenings by reading local newspapers and subscribing to international publications.
I occasionally tune in to various social networking sites to monitor consumer feedback. Social media reveals how consumers react to specific product releases or new initiatives, which allows me to stay ahead of the competition and understand what our customers want.
Most importantly, my employees are my eyes and ears on the ground. They keep me updated on what our competitors are doing and what our customers are saying so that we can capitalise on emerging news, trends and opportunities.
Between data science and gut hunches, how do you decide which to go with when making a decision?
I believe in using the transformative and innovative power of technology to enable Shopee not only to improve our products and services but also to drive a data-led approach that allows us to understand our shoppers better. We have always placed great importance on the value of consumer data, and it has enabled us to stay ahead of the curve and provide our shoppers with the best shopping experience possible.
How do you inspire your people at work?
My employees know that I love my job. Although things can get hectic, being in an environment where I can do what I am passionate about brings me joy. I advise my employees to give their 100% in everything they do, work hard, be responsible, and always challenge one another.
I endeavour to make myself available to all employees and ensure that they know that they can approach me at any time for advice or to share ideas. My team and I are constantly challenging each other and bouncing ideas off one another — as a team, we work hard and achieve great things together.
Name one other mobile app you admire (besides Shopee), and why do you think highly of it?
I admire WeChat because it has grown and evolved tremendously since its conception. What was first created as a messaging app to communicate with friends and family has now become a hybrid, all-in-one app where users can also browse content, shop, make payments, play games and even locate friends nearby.
WeChat successfully keeps its users engaged by adding innovative features to improve the user experience and generate quality interactions among users. As an experiential e-commerce platform, Shopee aims to go beyond the conventional product-purchase model and create an immersive shopping experience for users. We hope to achieve this by adopting an increasingly social approach to customer engagement and finding more ways to integrate interactive features and gamification to enhance user engagement.
If you have a day off from work, how would you spend the day?
On my day off, I make it a point to spend quality time with my family. I also keep fit by visiting the gym and going for jogs around my estate. A healthy lifestyle helps me to stay fit and keeps my mind sharp.