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Miki Phoon is no stranger to starting business, or overcoming challenges in life. Perhaps, that’s one of the reasons why entrepreneurship appeals to her.
When she was 21, Miki started her first e-commerce business. While the business did well initially, a price war among competitors ensued and it soon became unsustainable for her to continue after two years.
Not contented with letting her entrepreneurial experiences go to waste, Miki started her second and current business, a social e-commerce business called M2GIC in 2019 with one key difference – to own the products she sells.
M2GIC creates and invests in its own beauty products, and allows its distributor partners to access these products and sell it via their own social media platforms. The company also operates its own e-commerce site where consumers and distributors can purchase products directly for their own use. This means Miki works with both business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) customers.
Here is how a day in the life of an e-commerce business owner, like Miki, looks like:
To better understand how it’s like running an e-commerce business, we spoke to Miki on some of the challenges she encounters.
Timothy Ho (Timothy): In as little words as possible, share with us how M2GIC operates and the products it sells?
Miki Phoon (Miki): We are a *social commerce brand with a vision to create a platform that serves customers with affordable ingenious products to promote self-care and love whilst empowering people around the world to take on the mantle as entrepreneurs.
With M2GIC, you not only can use the products for yourself, but take a step further to run your own online business by becoming a distributor. Many of our distributors use Facebook, Facebook Live or Instagram to do their sales. Others may have their own website or Lazada and Shopee account to promote the products.
*Editor’s Note: Social commerce can be understood as a subset of e-commerce where social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram are used to generate sales.
Timothy: You deal with both direct customers and also distributor partners. What are some of the differences when dealing with both groups of people?
Miki: Right now, the customer breakdown is about 60:40, with 60% being distributor partners.
For end-user customers, I would say it’s generally straightforward working with them. We take their orders, send them the products on time and provide them with the standard after-sales service expected of us.
For distributors, it becomes trickier. We help manage their inventory, top it up when it’s running low and work closely with them on their sales growth. So, there are more layers of complexity to handle the dynamics of working with distributors.
For example, we used to hold face-to-face meetings with distributors to introduce them to our products. However, because of the pandemic, this is no longer possible. Instead, we digitalise the content and hold these meetings virtually. This new system of training has allowed our trainers and distributors to be more flexible virtually whilst retaining all the aspects of a physical training.
Timothy: What are some areas of support that you provide for your distributors?
Miki: Besides supplying the products, two key areas that we help distributors with are marketing and logistics.
Before starting their journey as a distributor, our partners will go through a series of training sessions to be equipped as a distributor. Monthly reviews are conducted to better understand and help overcome the challenges that each distributor faces.
The other important area would be logistics. While distributors can arrange their own delivery if they prefer, this is also an area that we can help them with. What happens is that for such distributors, we hold the stocks on their behalf and use courier services like Lalamove to help deliver for them when sales occur.
Timothy: Logistics is the other big but unseen challenge for anyone running an e-commerce company. How do you handle logistic matters for M2GIC?
Miki: I remember when I first started e-commerce in 2017, I had to meet my customers at the MRT stations or at Starbucks to pass them the products! Sometimes, I even hire a private driver or get friends to help me do the delivery because there weren’t many other options back then.
Thankfully, there are more courier service options these days for e-commerce business owners and this has really helped the industry because logistics services are vital for all e-commerce businesses.
For M2GIC, we use reputable courier service companies such as Lalamove to help us with logistics. For me, the advantage with Lalamove is that I can use it for urgent, same-day delivery service as and when it’s required. There is also an option for multi-stop delivery, which is something that we typically require for most of our deliveries. On an average day, I have anywhere from at least two deliveries up to five deliveries or more, with each delivery having multiple drop-off points.
Most importantly for us, Lalamove can handle large orders since most of our distributors will order in bulk. Lalamove gives us the option to choose the size of the vehicle we need. So, for bigger orders, we can choose a van or lorry for the delivery. It’s exceptionally convenient because we can choose the right vehicle size based on the volume of delivery we have.
Businesses Can Tap On Professional Services To Support Their E-Commerce Business
One of the misconceptions that Miki shared many people have about running an e-commerce business is the perception that it’s easy.
While it’s likely true that starting an e-commerce business is cheaper and easier compared to opening a brick-and-mortar retail store, running one successfully is no easy feat. In fact, Miki shared that it’s more difficult especially when it comes to achieving online sales where the competition tends to be more intense.
To grow your e-commerce business, you need to know how to leverage on business services such as courier companies to scale your operations. For Miki, one of the courier services she uses is Lalamove to help her deliver to both end-user customers and her B2B distributor partners. When the demand for products is high, Lalamove has the resources to support her growth. If demand were to slow down at certain lull periods, she only pays for the services she uses. This is useful in keeping logistics costs as a variable that goes in line with the growth of sales revenue for the company.
Moreover, as Miki works with distributor partners, delivering bulk orders is also a common occurrence as well. For these orders, she can choose vehicles such as a van or lorry that is big enough to transport her goods.
Furthermore, Lalamove also allows her to add multiple stops (1 pick-up point and up to 19 drop-off points) for each trip, so this is not only convenient but also cost-efficient. Lalamove can help optimise the sequence of the drop-off so that the cost of delivery is as low as possible.
Besides offering different transport vehicles, deliveries can be arranged in advance or even on the same day, depending on when your customers need the order to be delivered. This applies regardless of the size of your business, whether you are a new e-commerce business serving your first few clients, or an established enterprise with a consistent stream of large orders.
One thing we like about Lalamove is that it offers 24/7 instant delivery and real-time tracking. This makes it exceptionally convenient as businesses can deliver, on-demand, to partners and clients as and when they need to.
When using Lalamove, there is a high level of assurance since you will know whether your customers have received their items, and also how much you will be paying for each delivery trip.
When using Lalamove, the last mile delivery where an item reaches a customer door step is an area that you don’t have to worry about. The logistics and delivery function of your e-commerce business can be outsourced and handled by Lalamove, giving you one less crucial function to worry about. This way, you can focus on other key areas of your business such as product development and digital marketing.
Regardless of the size of your business, you can consider using Lalamove as your solution provider for logistics matters, without having to incur capital expenditure from buying a commercial vehicle and hiring a driver under your monthly payroll.
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And if you are looking to make deliveries as a driver, cyclist, or even a walker, Lalamove is a great option to consider if you wish to increase your income. With attractive benefits and cash incentives, you can make as much as $4,000 a month as a motorcycle driver and $5,000 a month as a car driver. Find out more about how much a Lalamove driver can earn in this article.