There is no silver bullet in E-commerce business in Malaysia

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According to The CMO Survey conducted by Duke University sponsored by the American Marketing Association (Moorman & Kirby, 2019), online e-commerce sales remains a low 10% mix in comparsion to 90% physical stores contribution in America.

In the same report, while Amazon shares rockets to new highs, the stark reality on the ground continues to illustrate the challenges in transforming clicks into actual purchases. Another point to note is that the 39% of over 400 CMO surveyed suggests that more physical engagement is required for final sales closure as intially thought.

On the positive note, China’s internet penetration is at 60% with another 42% of its population has embraced mobile payment. (South China Morning Post, 2019) The explosive growth is now finding its way to tier 3 and tier 4 cities as reported.

Meanwhile Malaysia internet commerce sales continues to rise in a moderate pace registering 3% of total retail sales in 2019 and expected to rise to 4.1% in 2022 from total retail sales. (Yong, 2019)

The initial rush of embracing e-commerce suddenly feels like a longer march than an ecstatic sprint. In order to survive this new reality of a marathon rather than a 100 meter dash, let me suggest three important checkpoints to monitor your progress.

1) Back to Basics

There is no such thing as a silver bullet for your online strategy or e-commerce strategy. It’s a long grind, test, retesting and re-adapting. This is going to be a marathon. The short term goals of revenue and profit for e-commerce is not realistic. According to Quesenberry (2016), getting the basics right is painstaking clearly defining your target audience. The next important step is listen to your target audience. By developing an e-shop or e-commerce store does not mean it will attract any traffic or business if we fail to understand the characteristics of the consumers.

Take for example , if you are offering primary health care service, please clearly identify and articulate who are your purchasers , influencers and users of the service. You will be surprise that the intended users are not your purchasers and the final influencers can be someone totally different from your target audience scope. If we direct our digital marketing efforts to the users, it’s unlikely to be cost effective .

2) Content is still King

This overused phrase has been recycled time and time again. No matter how you want to silent it, squeeze its life out or simply smack it, it is the absolute truth.

While curating content, we need to understand who is the target audience hence knowing your target audience defines your concepts.

Whitler (2017) wrote in her article What western marketers can learn from China emphasizes the need to create content that is viralable across the social media platform embracing a mix of creating content with speed and undertaking risker decision making. Think content and not necessary advertising nor its channel.

Creating memorable moments and experience suggested by Thomke (2019) is highly critical in developing content which goes beyond selling the logical or functional value of products. Consumers continue to make emotional decisions rather than rational decisions when comes to consumption. The better we present stronger story lines and narratives, the closer we get to our target audience. In reality, emotional magics drives decision making.

While its easier said than done, a progressive review of what works and what does not work should be an embedded weekly discussion if better daily discussion in your e-commerce and social media execution. Implementing processes of reviews and honest conversations among stakeholders will go a long way to tweak and adjust campaigns, pricing, offers and also value.

3) Stretch your Timeline of Success

Reframing your expectation of success is an important step in this journey. The short term view of explosive growth of revenue and profit is not realistic. Stretching the timeline of horizon to a more modest 3 year – 5 years range will likely provide a clarity. As mentioned earlier on, by 2022, online sales is forecast to be 4.1% of total retail sales in Malaysia. The growth rates remains bullish but rushing to have high metrics of success in a near term applies to much pressure on the long journey.

Similar to a marathon run, the pacing, the warm-up, etc are all important levels in propping up for the journey ahead
In conclusion, your e-commerce strategy is a journey and not a final destination. Regulating your pace with the above checkpoints will certainly crystalise and provide an avenue of adjustment in your journey.

Moorman, C. & Kirby, L., 2019. The CMO Survey February 2019 , Durham: Fuqua School of Business at Duke University.
Quesenberry, K. A., 2016. Fix Your Social Media by taking it back to basic. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 2019 October 2019].
South China Morning Post, 2019. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 14 october 2019].
Thomke, S., 2019. MIT Sloan Management Reveiw. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 14 October 2019].
Whitler, K. A., 2017. What Western Marketer can learn from China. Harvard Business Review, May-June.
Yong, S. V., 2019. An Insight Into The Fast-Changing Media Lndscape In Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur, Omnicom Media Group Malaysia.
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Doh Hau Goh
Goh Doh Hau is in the leadership team of Garganto, a boutique style digital marketing agency and ecommerce builder. He enjoys marrying evidence-based research with observation insights to curate gems of practical information. He is a MBA graduate from Sydney Business School (University of Wollongong)

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Doh Hau Goh
Goh Doh Hau is in the leadership team of Garganto, a boutique style digital marketing agency and ecommerce builder. He enjoys marrying evidence-based research with observation insights to curate gems of practical information. He is a MBA graduate from Sydney Business School (University of Wollongong)