Headline Asia’s portfolio company Buyandship is a cross-border e-commerce shipping service based in Hong Kong. Founded in 2014 by Wilson Chan, Sheldon Li, Hang Poon, and Wong Tsz Ming. Annoyed by the lack of delivery safety and the high cost of importing items, the founders came up with the idea of Buyandship. They now operate collection and export warehouses in 11 different countries, such as South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Indonesia, China, USA, UK, Canada, Italy, Australia, and Thailand. With 1.2 million users, Buyandship ships products overseas at a cheaper rate with professional support before, during, and after sales. One of their biggest draws is that their delivery fees are based on the actual weight and not the size of the parcel.
Founder Spotlight of Buyandship: Wilson Chan
We spoke to CEO Wilson Chan, who told us he and fellow founder (who is also his high school friend) Sheldon Li often compete with one another to find and ship the most random thing they can find. This way, they can check the speed and efficiency of their system while making it fun and spontaneous. Now that’s a fun way to do quality control.
Curated Content Is the Next Big Thing
A company that moves about $500 million GMV and generates a revenue of around USD $26 million dollars must be more than just a logistics provider. “If someone just joined, what are they most likely to buy, what do they want to see that actually can make them want to transact the first time, second time, or third time,” says Chan. To gain that insight, they created a large data set consisting of their consumer behavior. Using 10 reference points reference for each customer, Buyandship can produce thousands of digital personas. Their understanding of their customer is so deep, they’re able to accurately predict other products users might be interested in.
“One thing that everyone told me was that I don’t like the fact that I went to look for shoes and now, all they would offer me are shoes because how many pairs of shoes do I really need to buy?” Chan asked. Buyandship looks at the bigger picture. “It should be referencing multiple elements, it shouldn’t be referencing just one type of thing,” he said. “Let’s say a brand of shoes… [does it fall] under high fashion, hipster, chic, or streetwear? If it’s streetwear, what other categories do we have linking to other brands? Instead of shoes, you can look at T-shirts.” They also offer exclusive discounts for their affiliated brands’ products.”
Currently, they produce approximately 150 articles every month about what to buy, where to buy, and how to buy. Additionally, 100 to 200 video, picture, and review unboxings are made by customers themselves, which provides Buyandship with strong word-of-mouth and higher sales generation.
So Big, They’re Changing Import Laws
The data set consisting of references for every consumer that has accumulated over the years is not only helpful to Buyandship, but it’s also pushing forward much-needed change for some government tax and shipping laws.
Customs are extremely rigid on imported goods, and unfortunately, every country has its own way of enforcing its laws. The problem is, many of these laws were created for the post, and not for the shipment of goods — and worse still, some haven’t been revised for over a hundred years. Most logistics companies aren’t willing to risk going to jail for tax evasion if consumers are under reporting the worth of their goods, and so the problem of cross-border commerce has been impenetrable.
“It’s not just one country that has this problem. Every country has this problem,” Chan told us. “The system wasn’t meant for it. So could we make a system that is meant for it?” Buyandship was founded with the idea of a whole new system, made for shipping products overseas, compared to carrier systems such as FedEx and USPS that were designed to ship mail.”
In light of their global presence, 11 different systems were designed. Each system was modular and streamlined for optimum performance. Due to Buyandships influence, the Malaysian Governments Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) has changed its e-commerce law based on the data set provided by Buyandship.
Previous to this development, the Malaysian tax law was outdated by around 100 years. “Shipping products over 30 dollars would have 80 percent tax,” Chan said. They haven’t made an impact only in Malaysia but in Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore. These countries all use the data set as a reference for improving their outdated systems.
Enlisting Retailers Will Streamline Shipping
Chan believes that in 10 years, cross-border e-commerce will be larger than any domestic e-commerce. The market is worth USD $467 billion already, growing at 37 percent year over year. In the post-COVID world, cross-border e-commerce has been the real winner, with more people looking online for consumption than ever before.
The most vital factor for improving cross-border e-commerce is to work on the B2B approach. In order to speed up the process and save one day, it’s easier and more accurate for the merchant to state what the consumers bought rather than consumers taking time out of their day to write it out. “If we integrate with the merchant, the dataset and the ease of use goes from a three-step process to a one-step process. That’s the first leap we must achieve. If we achieve that then I guarantee you there will be no question of who the winner of cross-border e-commerce is but that actually entails so many things,” said Chan. He states the biggest obstacle is getting merchants on board. “We have to be able to provide a tangible benefit to the merchants, where they could not have gotten it from anywhere else,” he tells us.
One of the first things we’re doing for our B2B integration is making the check-up tool in Shopify. The check-up process is replaced by the Buyandship process”
If you’re a Buyandship member, then Buyandship automatically gets the product information, saves all credit card information. Buyandship is developing strategic solutions for its customers. Upgrading their system into a FinTech solution, such as starting to work with Visa and MasterCard to issue credit cards. In Southeast Asia, it is mostly for countries like the Philippines, since their cards are domestically locked and the majority of Southeast Asian countries lack foreign currency. (or mainly, it is for Southeast Asian countries because for countries like the Philippines, their cards are domestically locked and the majority of Southeast Asian countries don’t have easy access to foreign currency. )
As for CEO Wilson Chan, it’s evident that his passion and his company are fully aligned. In fact, he may be Buyandship’s biggest fan. When asked what he most frequently uses his own service for, he’s honest:
Four-ply or ultra-soft toilet paper rolls that you can’t find here and smoky, salty beef jerky”
With so much passion at the helm, the future of Buyandship is bright.