On 7 August, the first online exhibition platform for digital marketing in the field of wood processing and furniture in Vietnam was officially launched. Known as HOPE-HAWA Online Platform for Exhibition, it has been developed by the Association of Handicraft and Wood Industry of Ho Chi Minh City (HAWA). The platform provides manufacturers open virtual showrooms to display products, have virtual exhibitions, and build suitable business strategies. Global customers can visit these showrooms online, search for products, learn details via 3D images, and contact sellers directly through various tools available on the e-commerce platform. Businesses can access this virtual showroom for an all-time fee of VND 10 mn.
Normally businesses introduce products to customers by sending photos or actual products, but with hundreds and thousands of products to show, enterprises are unable to handle the volume and simultaneously also understand customer need. In a virtual showroom, all products look real and customers have access to all the products at one time with detailed information. Mr. Nguyen Chanh Phuong, Vice Chairman of HAWA, affirmed that HOPE is not a temporary solution for only the pandemic phase, but is a long-term endeavour that will move with the changing trend of doing business in the future in a digital economy. Currently, 50 enterprises are participating on this platform, and HAWA expects many more businesses to participate in months to come.
The Department of Trade Promotion under the Ministry of Industry and Trade has taken many timely actions to support both domestic and foreign enterprises to ride out the present storm. According to Ms. Bui Thi Thanh An, Deputy Director of the Trade Promotion Department, from the beginning of the year until now, the department has organized twenty online events, including thirteen trading sessions and seven seminars to provide information on current markets. Ms. An feels that though online activities are not as effective as offline, where we get to meet customers personally face to face, online platforms do provide a lot of market information. She also firmly believes that even if the department works with associations and businesses to organize many more online fairs, these virtual fairs can only be effective if businesses invest and support them and are willing to change their mindset towards a new digital form of functioning.
Effective platform for exports
Many businesses are now more interested in displaying their goods on e-commerce platforms, along with applying digital technology for marketing and maintaining contact with customers. Some businesses have even set higher export growth plans than last year. Ms. Tran Hoai Tu, Director of the Thach Ban Company, said that in order to reach foreign customers, her company had joined the alibaba.com platform and plans to export 20% of total output of the company in 2020, whereas in 2019 her export volume was only 13%. Mr. Tran Xuan Thuy, Director of Amazon Global Selling, spoke of one business that had only two employees, and after using the Amazon selling platform, the business had increased to five production factories and was exporting goods to thirty countries.
Alibaba.com claims to have 600,000 Vietnamese products on its platform, and every month receives about 50,000 quotation requests from all over the world. When the Covid-19 pandemic broke out, international e-commerce platforms like alibaba.com or amazon increased their number of customers for both buying and selling. Specifically, the number of daily visitors to the alibaba.com site from some major markets such as China and the US increased by 36% to 46%, customer quotation requests increased 47%, with 15% new sellers joining the platform. According to some forecasts, the revenue from e-commerce across the world could reach USD 3.3 trn by 2022, but with the current growth rate, this number could easily be reached within 2020.
The future belongs to businesses that are willing to switch to digital technology, adapt to use of hi tech digital equipment and hire appropriate human resources.
The potential is huge, but it is unsure if businesses can just put their products on the e-commerce platform and increase their export sales. To sell effectively, businesses have to invest in this platform in the long term. Among millions and millions of products from many countries on display on e-commerce platforms, it is not easy to attract buyers. Enterprises must invest in good product images, post products frequently and use keywords to attract customers. Besides, businesses also need to know how to use the tools and available resources provided by e-commerce platforms to access customers more easily. Enterprises can even develop different types of products exclusively for e-commerce platforms.
As Vietnam is already a manufacturing country, currently most major e-commerce platforms in the world have programs to support Vietnamese enterprises to participate in international transaction sales on their platforms, such as Amazon has in association with the Ministry of Industry and Trade in Vietnam to run a training and consulting program for 300 SMEs. Alibaba.com is also implementing three plans to support businesses who are using this platform for the first time.
The decisive factor is still the determination of enterprises. It can be seen that e-commerce is an important pillar for growth of the digital economy. Free trade agreements signed by Vietnam, such as the CPTPP or EVFTA, have chapters on e-commerce. Therefore, the future belongs to businesses that are willing to switch to digital technology, adapt to use of hi tech digital equipment and hire appropriate human resources.