SHOPLINE eyes aggressive expansion in Southeast Asia

July 03, 2020 09:08
Tony Wong, co-founder and CEO of SHOPLINE, which provides a one-stop solution for merchants to go online. Photo: SHOPLINE.

Startups around the world were seriously hit by the coronavirus pandemic and the following economic downturn, with business and funding declining. But a Hong Kong-based startup which helps merchants to go online is expanding aggressively amid the current recession.

“Going online is a necessity for retailers but building an online store from scratch can be painful. In particular, the setup of payments and logistics is the most important to consider,” said Tony Wong, co-founder and CEO of SHOPLINE.

Positioning itself as a “global smart commerce enabler”, SHOPLINE provides a one-stop solution and customized services, such as setting up an online store, fulfilling orders, managing inventory, digital marketing and more, to support businesses to go online and go global.

For payments, SHOPLINE integrated with Stripe, which provides the payment infrastructure for many other global and regional brands to build their online businesses.

SHOPLINE gives businesses the ability to create and manage their own sites for a monthly or annual fee, while keeping virtually all of the sales they make.

In contrast to e-commerce platforms like and HKTVmall, which takes a cut of the sales, Wong noted SHOPLINE is a more sustainable alternative for merchants seeking to diversify its sales channels.

“We don't feel that SHOPLINE is in the competition with e-commerce platforms,” said Wong. “We want merchants to boost their own brands and succeed on their own terms… that’s not possible with some e-commerce platforms.”

“People think that online marketplaces are like department stores, but in fact department stores showcase and market products strategically. On the contrary, some online marketplaces list a large number of similar products from multiple merchants altogether, which is not a sustainable business model for some merchants in the long run.”

The seven-year-old firm has now empowered over 200,000 merchants to build their stores globally, according to Wong, with its office locations spreading across Hong Kong, Taiwan, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Kuala Lumpur.

He believes SHOPLINE is primed to capitalize on the pandemic-induced rush of small businesses to establish an online presence. Since January this year, SHOPLINE has seen explosive user growth, particularly in Hong Kong. Transaction volume of SHOPLINE-powered Hong Kong merchants recorded a significant growth rate this January with the month's gross merchandise volume (GMV) surpassing numbers from the whole of Q4 2019, according to Wong.

The majority of SHOPLINE’s merchants are now in Hong Kong and Taiwan, but Wong noted that its business is growing rapidly in other markets in Asia like Malaysia, which it entered last year. "Southeast Asia expansion is our key focus this year, and we hope to announce new markets in the coming months.”

Wong also expects to announce new product features for the online sales platform in the next few months, such as tools that can help merchants to increase traffic, while enhancing their ability to track traffic for customer engagement.

“[Job postings on] engineering, customer support, sales, marketing… we are hiring a lot,” Wong said as the firm is expanding on all fronts, the team size could grow exponentially from 2019 to 2020.

Founded in 2013, SHOPLINE is funded by high-profile investors such as 500 Startups, Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund, and Coent Venture Partners, among others. It raised US$20 million in its latest funding round announced this January, with participation from JOYY, the Nasdaq-listed Chinese live-streaming giant.

SHOPLINE’s fast-growing story is quite similar to Canadian e-commerce giant Shopify, which is dual-listed in both New York and Toronto.

This May, social media network Facebook announced its partnership with Shopify, BigCommerce, among others, to launch new feature “Shops”, enabling businesses to create a full-fledged online store on Facebook and Instagram.

Asked if it would be a threat to SHOPLINE’s business if Shopify ramps up its efforts to expand in Asia, Wong believes that there is still opportunity to be the first mover in providing streamlined e-commerce tools in Asia.

“The biggest difference between Shopify and us is that we are localizing our products more deeply,” he said, “We have local teams operating in each of our markets, as we continue to focus on product localization as our competitive advantage.”

“We are the strongest in Asia, for the in-depth knowledge and network in many local markets in the region.”

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EJ Insight writer