Speaking to Computerworld Malaysia, Malaysia-based Caring Pharmacy's marketing director Loo Jooi Leng details some benefits following a new partnership with Japanese e-commerce and Internet services provider Rakuten Online Shopping. In addition, Masaya Ueno, chief executive officer and president of Rakuten Online Shopping, adds some comments on the project.
Founded in 1992 and headquartered in Kuala Lumpur, Caring Pharmacy Group's business (aka CARiNG) includes the wholesale distribution of healthcare products and services such as prescription drugs, proprietary drugs, and toiletries.
Photo - Loo Jooi Leng, Marketing Director, Caring Pharmacy
Could you talk about Caring Pharmacy's e-commerce experience to date and why you eventually selected the Rakuten path?
We had previously tried an e-commerce partnership with another local online marketplace, but that venture did not materialise. The decision to partner with Rakuten was quite a risky move for us, given our past experience with e-commerce.
However, Rakuten's unique B2B2C model (business to business to consumer), which brings the best of both worlds to merchants and customers, was an interesting approach, and we felt that this model was a good fit for our business. Through this model, we were able to build our online storefronts on Rakuten's e-commerce platform, while providing consumers a new and interactive online shopping experience.
The selection process was in the end quite simple for us. It was really just a matter of us trying out the new platform, starting with a small selection of products, and gradually increasing it based on our customer's purchase behaviour. It was a big risk for us, but it definitely was worth it.
It also helped that we worked closely with Rakuten's E-Commerce Consultant (ECC), and they were able to walk us through the entire process, from planning to implementation. This helped us to determine exactly what we needed to do to achieve the business benefits we wanted.
What kind of benefits have been realised so far?
One of our main benefits from using the Rakuten solution is having a new channel to market CARiNG's products, and in turn, this resulted in an increase in customer enquiries and leads. Even after the first couple of months, we were delighted to see the successful uptake of products that are not popular in stores. Products such as Tongkat Ali, Flexiseq, and digital ovulation thermometers are bestsellers online.
Another benefit was that the e-commerce platform allowed us to reach a new target market-a younger and more geographically diverse segment. Customers who previously did not have easy access to a brick-and-mortar store in their area, are now able to browse and purchase products online. Also, the average order volume for our online purchases is much higher compared to our physical outlets.
Was the implementation project complex?
Actually, the whole process was fast and painless, it took only about one month to complete the online store setup. We were first approached by Rakuten Online Shopping in August, 2012, and from there, Rakuten's ECC guided us through the planning and implementation process. Overall, it took about two months to complete the entire process, from the initial negotiations to finalising the contract.
Once our online store was up and running, it didn't take long for our staff members to get used to the process, and of course, the ECC was there to provide additional help as and when we needed it.
What sort of workflow changes have you experienced after the implementation?
It was a big change for our staff, managing transactions that come in online was the first time for many of them. We had to train our staff and ensure that they were well-versed with our new Standard Operating Procedures for online transactions. Thankfully, many of our staff (especially the younger, tech-savvy ones) were able to familiarise themselves with the platform in a short time.
I wouldn't say that either of the online or offline workflow is better or worse, as they are both very different. The online side of the business is quite separate from our physical retail operations, and entails very different methods. From a logistics and payment process perspective, the online outlet runs very smoothly on Rakuten's platform, and our staff members are very happy with the way all purchase orders and transactions are handled.
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