Female-led Exporter Shares Successful Journey Shifting from Local Retail to Selling Thailand’s “King of Fruits” in the Global Market.
Discover four tips on surviving difficult times and winning the hearts of foreign buyers on Alibaba.com
After being hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic at its onset, CEO of Durian Shack Siam, Miss Nuchanart Changkaochai, was forced to close down four out of her five offline retail stores. However, before long, she already set her sights on doing global trade via B2B e-commerce platform Alibaba.com.
In a little over one year after starting export, products from Durian Shack Siam had already reached buyers in countries that it could never reach before through.
Miss Changkaochai, who initially just wanted to share her love for durians with local Thai consumers, attributes her success in surviving the difficult times and also winning the hearts of foreign buyers to four major factors.
- Move fast to adjust your strategy
Durian Shack Siam started selling durian desserts and snacks at Ratchada flea market and Asiatique where its products were highly popular among foreign visitors there. The key selling point was the premium quality durian. If customers were not happy with the product, the company was happy to return their money, which in turn helped boost words of month and sales, and eventually expand the business.
Before the pandemic, the company depended solely on offline channels, and they noticed that 95% of customers were tourists from China. So when COVID hit, they were caught completely off guard.
At that time, the company was already doing quite well with five offline stores, but when the pandemic set in, they had to close four stores, leaving only one single storefront, which means only 10-20% of normal revenue.
Miss Changkaochai knew they had good products, but the only obstacle was reaching their targeted customers. So she quickly adjusted her business focus and identified doing export through Alibaba.com as the way to go.
- Identify your strength and weaknesses to create a profile that stands out
Prior to COVID, Durian Shack Siam had no experience with e-commerce. To them, going online was like starting their business anew. They had to reconsider the important factors that go into the customers’ decision-making process: 1. Reliability of the seller 2. Quality of the products 3. Price. Especially in the case of online sales where the seller and the buyers are in different countries, reliability comes first. After knowing these 3 factors, Durian Shack Siam evaluated what are their strengths and weaknesses so that they could compare with other sellers in the durian industry on Alibaba.com, which has a vast selection.
Since buyers on Alibaba.com are able to see how long a seller has been operating on the platform, with them being a new seller in the online space, Durian Shack Siam found establishing trust with buyers the top priority. Knowing their weakness, the company worked hard to gather company information, photos at their participation in fairs, pictures of products, sourcing processes and pictures of their offline stores to build trust with new clients. Such information is visible to buyers on Durian Shack Siam’s online storefront on Alibaba.com.
In a little over one year after joining Alibaba.com, fresh durian from Durian Shack Siam have already earned recognition from overseas buyers on Alibaba.com. Miss Changkaochai thinks the success is due to the company’s efforts to build credibility which in turn attract more customers to the store.
- Choose the right online platform
In spite of being an emerging seller in the online space, Durian Shack Siam already saw its revenue growing 50-60% within one year and two months on Alibaba.com. In their view, this demonstrates the power of selling online and on an established platform like Alibaba.com. There is also a big growth opportunity considering there is still a lot of untapped demand from the more than 20 million global active buyers on the platform. Miss Changkaochai initially set their primary target as Chinese buyers given that they used to sell to Chinese tourists, but after being on the platform she realized that 80% of their customers are non-Chinese. With one single platform, now they are able to expand their reach across the world, from Japan to Europe, which they would never have the opportunity to reach should they only operate via offline stores.
As in retail, it is important for exporters to differentiate themselves from competitors. The Alibaba.com platform allows for sellers to use visuals and video clips to create content which helps increase the appeal for the store and products. What Durian Shack Siam does on the platform is filter out the interesting part of the business as well as the product and present it in an easy to understand and concise manner so that new customers are drawn to its products.
In Miss Changkaochai’s view, operating on an established B2B e-commerce platform has many benefits over selling offline. 1. The business can reduce a significant amount of operating and overhead costs. 2. It allows a company to do more business without heavy additional manpower investments. 3. The business can meet many new potential quality buyers from across the world which it would never be able to reach if it only operates offline.
- Evolve to meet the needs of customers
Miss Changkaochai tries to make the most of her business presence on Alibaba.com to keep up with buyer expectation and industry trends.
For example, through the backend dashboard, she is able to find out who visited their store and what products are the most viewed. From there she knows they need to present their food items in a more appealing way – offering the right products to the right customers in the right time. She also leverages insights into buyer behavior such as product search keywords and sourcing pattern to predict upcoming sourcing trends so that her team can stock the products in-need beforehand in order to meet the rising demand and seize this opportunity to sell more and win the hearts of the customers.
With Alibaba.com’s online learning center, Miss Changkaochai also accesses learning materials regarding global buyer preferences in order to know what they want, how to answer their inquiries etc. As part of her learnings, she makes sure her Alibaba.com storefront is regularly updated to cater to the anticipated needs of buyers at the time.
Starting from knowing your business’s strengths and weaknesses, to evolving to meet buyers’ changing demand, doing online trade is more than just setting up an online store. But according to Miss Changkaochai, if a business pays attention to the four aspect above, it will be better positioned to thrive through this digitalised era, just like Durian Shack Siam has found its way.