I'm Chris Hong (Hong Myung-hack), CEO of HMH Company. Our company primarily deals in women's beauty and eyelash products. In the past, we just sold products on domestic e-commerce platforms in South Korea. We had already been selling on these platforms for about six to seven years when I decided to close these domestic online stores and moved my business to Alibaba.com. We currently export to countries like France and the United States through Alibaba.com. 95% of our total sales have been exported to buyers who we met online through Alibaba.com.
Why did you start doing business on Alibaba.com?
By chance, I saw a book about Alibaba.com with an explanation about the platform and how it functions. After reading it, I became quite interested in it and started an account on Alibaba.com right away. The process was clear, and I found it easy to get set up on Alibaba.com.
In fact, I didn't know much about export platforms before I worked here, and I heard vaguely about K-Beauty being hot abroad. When I wanted to select a product to start selling on Alibaba.com, I thought what would be a consumer good in Korea that has a strong reputation? K-Beauty products were suitable for selling internationally; so, I explored products that could be handled in that field. I think the search for new products is the most important activity that you need to constantly do while operating as a distributor on Alibaba.com.
What were the most difficult parts of being an Alibaba.com seller?
Contacting and coordinating with factories and the special circumstances that COVID-19 brought were the most difficult things to deal with. Finding a factory that would often easily accept the conditions I needed wasn’t always easy. Even if I visited the factory, I would often find that they couldn’t meet the production conditions that were needed. Moreover, the production schedule was often delayed repeatedly due to the COVID-19 situation. So, I missed out on orders even after I had received payments for them. We continue to make efforts to ensure that delivery dates can meet the buyer's requirements. We always keep them updated on the situation as it develops and tries to get them to understand if there are problems along the way.
What changes have you made during your time selling on Alibaba.com
When I started, I had no experience in exporting goods, but my previous experience in e-commerce in Korea helped me adapt to using Alibaba.com. Each e-commerce system has its own SEO system, so I knew you need to use different marketing methods and activities that optimize for the SEO in each system. Because of this, I understood that SEO is a prerequisite. Soon, we will be in our third year on Alibaba.com, and our goal is to grow into a company that produces its own branded products by using our years of providing customized products to meet buyers’ requests to carefully select and design them.
What know-how have you gained after using Alibaba.com over the last few years?
Every online e-commerce system is different. If you want your products to have more exposure than other products, you need to understand the system well and work hard to stand out on it. The same goes for Alibaba.com. The first thing I did to increase the exposure of my products was to focus on improving my seller rating. Everything from the resolution of an uploaded image to the speed of response to questions from buyers is scored and impacts your seller rating. Any company that can get at least a one-star rating will see twice as much traffic as if they didn’t have any stars. We have already made a lot of progress in improving our seller score, but we still want to rank at the very top of the list for our product type.
What strategies do you have regarding communication with buyers?
When buyers have questions about the products they need, they want to get answers from sellers right away. There are many questions that buyers will typically ask. If you can think of these questions before hand and prepare some answers in advance, you can respond to buyers faster. I don't think a communication strategy has to be very complicated; just provide quick and accurate answers to the questions they have. Our strategy is to always try to respond to buyers within an hour at any time of the day with as much detailed information as possible.
Lastly, what do you want to say to those who are thinking about using Alibaba.com?
It's been 2 years since I started using Alibaba.com. Honestly, there weren’t many results in the first year, but the visible results began to show by the second year. In the first year, there weren’t very many inquiries from buyers, only about one to two per month. None of these inquiries led to orders either. A lot of inquiries from buyers were like, what do you do?
It started getting interesting when we got into the second year on Alibaba.com. Very soon after that, we started seeing 10 to 20 inquiries a month and began to receive more detailed questions about products from buyers that led to orders. It's my theory that buyers are checking how long a seller has been on the platform and are making it an important factor in how they evaluate sellers.
The biggest strength of Alibaba.com is that it is where the largest number of sellers and buyers gather to do business. It doesn’t hurt that it is based in China, the center of global manufacturing. There is an old saying that if you want to do business, you must play in bigger waters. For me, that bigger water is Alibaba.com, I don’t need to go anywhere else to find business.
Their success could be yours!