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During circuit breaker last year, many of us pretty much relied on online shops — both local and overseas — to get our essentials delivered right to our homes.
Many local businesses shifted their business operations online, as retail stores were shut and dining in wasn’t allowed. We saw cafes offering cold brew coffee delivery, home bakers selling out their croissants, and new food delivery platforms come into existence. Live commerce, also known as live shopping or livestream shopping, also grew in popularity.
If you’re thinking of jumping on this bandwagon, you’re not alone. These days, just about anyone can set up a shop online and sell products and services. And we’re not talking about platforms where you sell your old clothes or gadgets and get stinking lowballers. Still avail? Can deal $1 bro? We’re talking about a potential home-run business to sell products with hardly any capital, unlike traditional brick-and-mortar stores with high capital expenditures on rent, utilities and other overheads.
It’s a good sideline for those who are looking to earn extra income to supplement their salary for financial goals such as savings, family, investment… or potentially making it big and turning your side gig into your main source of income.
Keen to venture into the e-commerce space? Here are 5 top tips to set up your e-commerce business on a budget.
1. Save money on website building and hosting fees
So you’ve got your brilliant business idea. Now you need a platform to display your products as well as an easy-to-use and secure payment system — but at the same time, these shouldn’t cost you a bomb to maintain.
Let’s first talk about professional websites. To build a website, you can either hire a web developer or set up a shop on a platform that provides templates and hosting, such as Shopify or Wix. You could also sign up as a seller on a fully-fledged e-commerce platform like Amazon, Shopee, Lazada or Qoo10. However, when you’re starting out, that requires money, which you may not have that much capital lying around to do so.
These are some of the fees that e-commerce platforms charge:
|Wix||Business Unlimited plan at US$25/month|
|Shopee Mall||Free registration + commission fees from 3% – 5%|
|Lazada LazMall||Free registration + commission fees from 3% – 5%|
|Qoo10||$100 sign up fee + commission fees from 7% – 12%|
|Amazon Singapore||$1/item sold (Individual plan) or $29.95/item sold (Professional plan) + additional selling fees for both plans. More details here.|
However, if your audience is on social media, why not use that platform instead? It’s free!
Consider setting up a Facebook business page and zhnging it to make it look super pro, so you can use it to display your products like you would as your webpage. You can also make use of Facebook live as a way to hype up your audience to look forward to these ‘exclusive’ events. You can even capture orders during the event.
Instagram is, of course, another popular and free platform. Plus it’s a visual platform, so it’s a great place to showcase your gorgeous products to raise sales figures and marketing exposure. Look at the success of basque burnt cheesecakes and other home bakers selling their products on Instagram.
There’s also Carousell to list your products and services on, although these days, it’s flooded with the likes of real estate agents and insurance agents. But you’ll still find legit businesses listing their products there.
If you love interacting with people and have meticulous admin skills, you can even consider marketing products through your own network such as organising groupbuys through neighbourhood estates or within your social media circles.
2. No need to hire a delivery fleet
Even though your business is primarily conducted online, you still need to get the goods to your customers. Businesses typically use a distributor or rent or buy vehicles, AND hire drivers to do delivery. Such overhead costs can add extra expenditure to your operating costs (even when demand is lower or drivers are idle), in turn reducing your profits.
Aspiring entrepreneurs often turn to outsourcing delivery as it saves them the time and hassle of managing and maintaining their own fleet, plus gives them the flexibility of choosing when and how often they need to engage the service.
Lalamove is an on-demand courier service that offers same-day delivery. It’s really a lifesaver for home-based businesses that are run by one person in their spare time (usually after office hours or weekends) — but of course, customers naturally want their products delivered ASAP.
Lalamove has got the whole shebang for you: From motorcycles and cars, to vans and lorries that can deliver all sorts of items in varying quantities — great for when it’s peak sale season! They even have refrigerated lorries, so for those whose business involves selling frozen/chilled goods, your products will remain fresh until they reach the customers’ homes.
Prices for Lalamove start really low as well and are charged on a pay-per-use basis with no monthly fixed cost/commitment fee:
|For Lalamove deliveries done by||Cost|
|Motorcycle||Base fare of $10 + $0.30 per km|
|Car||Base fare of $15 + $0.40 per km|
|Van||Base fare of $30 + $0.50 per km|
|Lorry||Base fare of $79 + $0.75 per km|
Tip: Group your deliveries together to save time and money. Lalamove allows up to 20 orders for 1 trip (pickup is considered 1 order, which means you can add up to 19 drop-off points) so you can make deliveries to all the customers you need to in a single housing estate before going to the next.
The drivers also use the handy Lalamove driver app, which is equipped with an e-sign feature for customers to e-sign once they’ve received their deliveries. If you have any problems, your dedicated account manager is ready to help. Another less thing to worry about!
Lalamove can also fulfil your last-minute rush orders in just 55 minutes flat. This is great for aspiring business owners who want to sell fresh flowers, cakes hot from the oven, or help a customer with an urgent request.
On the tech side of things, Lalamove also has API integration with Shopify and many other integrators. This way, businesses can automate their e-commerce and delivery management on their own website or even launch a dedicated app.
|Engage Lalamove for your business and enjoy the following promotions:
– Promo code LALAMOVEIT (till 31 October 2021)
– 3x 50% off coupons for new users
– 3x 20% off coupon for existing users
Corporate customers can also get a special rebate — if you make top-ups of credit to your corporate account, you get 10%* (first top-up) and 2.5%* for subsequent ones. *Terms and conditions apply.
3. Learn about the legalities to avoid paying extra fees or (gasp!) fines
We all know Singapore as a “fine” country, so the last thing you’d want is to be penalised for flouting the rules.
There are just some legalities involved for business owners who officially register their business. Basically, according to ACRA, “You must register a business if you are carrying out any activity for profit on an ongoing basis unless you are exempted.”
The exemption is if:
- “You choose to conduct business using your full name as reflected in your NRIC.
- You choose to conduct the business with one or more partners using their full names as reflected in their NRICs”
Registering a business makes you LEGIT. It also lets other businesses and suppliers search for you on ACRA and you can obtain credit and financing.
The government is very supportive of local businesses and makes it easy to set up a business. As a business, you can also tap on government support schemes aimed to support many new businesses.
Of course, there are taxes to be paid as well (please don’t evade this), but Singapore’s corporate tax rate is a low 17%.
Read more on how to set up a business in Singapore.
4. Utilise available grants
Aaand that’s why registering a business has benefits — you are also eligible for government grants! You see, the government is especially supportive of businesses digitalising, so if your business is already an e-commerce one, you’re halfway there.
There are a couple of other business initiatives which the government is supportive of and you can apply for a grant if your business fits the bill:
- Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG) — “supports companies keen on adopting IT solutions and equipment to enhance business processes.”
- Enterprise Development Grant (EDG) — “supports projects that help you upgrade your business, innovate or venture overseas.”
These grants are especially useful for when your business is growing and you’re ready to upgrade your processes; such as investing in more sophisticated accounting software or inventory management systems. Check out what other grants are available at Enterprise SG.
5. Use a co-working space as your office
As your team grows, you might need to get your own office space for discussions or client meetings. If you decide to rent your own office space you’ll also need to invest in furniture, pay utility bills, buy pantry essentials and more.
To avoid those overhead costs, you may want to consider a co-working space. These usually have all the facilities, from spacious work desks, chairs, WiFi, meeting rooms, aircon, and pantries kitted out with a coffee machine, tea and water. Many co-working spaces usually have events as well such as wellness or networking sessions, which are good opportunities for team bonding and for you to network.
There are a variety of co-working spaces in Singapore — many which give you a prestigious address right smack in the middle of the Central Business District — and each offer different tiers of prices and plans.
Having your own office, co-working space or not, is definitely much more professional than conducting meetings out of your bedroom or a noisy coffeeshop, plus having a fully functional dedicated workspace could even increase your / your team’s productivity. Score!