Indonesia’s e-commerce landscape has faced exponential growth, strongly driven by the nation’s consumptive patterns. In 2019, the country’s internet users amounted to 135 million people who spend an average of 8.5 hours online daily. Among these users, 86% of them use the internet to purchase products/services, reflecting the people’s significant indulgence in consumptive behavior. Given these strong catalysts, the nation’s e-commerce was projected to grow four-folds in the coming years between 2019 and 2025.1 Yet in a world with COVID-19, this development could take off even sooner. SIRCLO, an Indonesian e-commerce enabler company, entered the e-commerce field in 2013 with a mission to help brands sell online. Reaching their 7th year, while under pandemic circumstances, have demanded more of their responsibility in bridging businesses and customers online.
Over the course of time, SIRCLO has launched various products which widened its penetration to various business scales, as they help more brands to sell online on various Indonesia’s e-commerce platforms along the way. In May 2020, the company announced its official merger with Indonesia’s leading technology agency and also Premier Magento Partner, ICUBE.2 The merger was reported to be aimed at combining the strengths of both companies in providing solutions for more brands to sell online and create a prime ecosystem for Indonesia’s e-commerce. Today, the company provides 4 categories of solutions, Software-as-a-Service (SIRCLO Store, SIRCLO Connexi, and SIRCLO Chat), Platform-as-a-Service (Swift), consulting service for customized omnichannel solutions (ICUBE), and end-to-end e-commerce solutions (SIRCLO Commerce).
While some might think that SIRCLO is the nation’s equivalent of North America’s Shopify, the solutions offered by SIRCLO extends to a number of products that are centered around 3 e-commerce pillars; brand.com, marketplace, chat commerce, to meet the demands and trends of Indonesia’s e-commerce industry. No road to monumental milestones is effortless, and SIRCLO’s journey is no exception. When assessing SIRCLO’s breakthroughs, it would require trailing back to its birth year, when SIRCLO Store kickstarted the company’s launch in 2013.
The substructure of the journey: staying agile since the first product launch
The establishment of Indonesia’s National Online Shopping Day on December 12th 20123 marked the checkpoint of Indonesia’s readiness to engage in online shopping activities. During that time, local business owners were starting to consider penetrating the digital market, but the digital verse was still a new and unfamiliar arena to many back then. Therefore, local business owners were in desperate need of easy-to-use software that could launch their business online. SIRCLO Store was launched in mid-2013 to meet that demand in the form of ready-to-use website templates for brands to create their own official webstore through brand.com. Over the years, SIRCLO Store has been improved and further developed in order to stay agile to the e-commerce developments. In the present day, SIRCLO Store’s features entail responsive website design, analytics dashboard, integrated payment system, and shipping cost calculation. SIRCLO Store was created to replace an online business’ administrative work with a more scalable manner, making the selling processes easier for local business owners to manage.
SIRCLO Store also addressed a couple of business aspects that have risen in importance since 2015; branding and online presence. Around the year of 2015, various media and experts in the business field have been shedding light on the importance of branding for small businesses or local brands. One of the reasons being its ability to show that the business is able to address the customers’ needs with “panache”, hence building trust.4 A website can serve as an online business profile that could portray a business’ cohesive personality and identity. With SIRCLO Store’s room for customization, its users had optimized the website’s capabilities which allowed for a unique branding experience to the customers. In the process, SIRCLO Store had been associated with testimonials such as ‘ready-to-go’, ‘user-friendly’,5 ‘easy’, and ‘reliable’.6 Nonetheless, SIRCLO Store sought to meet the needs of Indonesian local businesses under the principle of staying agile.
Meeting the rise of Indonesia’s e-commerce demands: Upscaling of solutions
In 2017, the value of our nation’s e-commerce market was at USD $8 billion.7 This occurred during the same year when South East Asia’s e-commerce Gross Merchandise Value (GMV) reached more than $10billion.8 According to Google Temasek’s Report, e-Conomy SEA Spotlight 2017, there were 3 e-commerce companies that played the most important roles in increasing the digital economy value in the e-commerce industry; Lazada, Shopee, and Tokopedia.9 It was evident that marketplace platforms as such were on the rise and winning the hearts of Indonesian shoppers. The Indonesian e-commerce landscape was opening up an opportunity that enterprise brands could take advantage of, but also would face major challenges in fulfilling. Entering marketplace platforms and ensuring a widespread distribution call for a dedicated e-commerce department to cater the end-to-end process of supply chain distribution. When breaking it down, this would require the synergy of dedicated e-commerce operations teams, such as Key Account Executives, Copywriters, Graphic Designers, Customer Service Officers, Logistics Officers, and other respective departments that complete the 24/7 puzzle. In 2017, SIRCLO launched SIRCLO Commerce, an end-to-end e-commerce enabler to provide a solution for enterprise brands.
SIRCLO Commerce’s value proposition is to help enterprise brands in entering multiple e-commerce channels simultaneously ,while being catered to in terms of multichannel management and the end-to-end selling processes; order processing, online store aesthetics management, customer service, shipment, and finally order fulfillment. SIRCLO estimated that its end-to-end solutions allow enterprise businesses to save roughly 92% of the total investments required to build their own resources. Moreover, the business solution caters to promoting, connecting and elevating brands’ online presence on partner marketplaces.10 In pursuit of that, a technology synchronizes the multichannel sales into one dashboard; SIRCLO Connexi. SIRCLO Connexi is the technology infrastructure in support of the company’s principal clients, which cover more than 200 retail brands such as Unilever, Levi’s and Reckitt Benckiser. SIRCLO Connexi was officially launched as another SaaS product of SIRCLO in 2019.11
2020: The rise of social commerce brings new opportunities
Indonesian shoppers, similar to Chinese and Indian, seem to be susceptible to messages brought to them by the human factor; friends, families and social influencers, as these messages tend to gain a high credibility from their point of view.12 13 14 Social media has been the main facilitator of that which also has been enabling brands to communicate directly with their consumers both individually and collectively. With this opportunity, social media platforms have upgraded their capabilities to accommodate actual marketing and sales activities. This resulted in the birth of a new e-commerce trend; conversational commerce, the intersection of messaging and shopping.15
To meet this rising trend, in early 2020, SIRCLO Chat was launched as a conversational commerce solution that is integrated with WhatsApp Business API; a service by WhatsApp, Indonesia's second most active social media platform in 2019.16 SIRCLO Chat intended to be an integrated software that is completed with features to facilitate in-chat purchases. The software is a combination of multi admin access and automation; automated messages, push notifications, and product catalogue. In 2019 alone, 83% of consumers have utilized conversational commerce when learning about a product or service, 76% when getting support, and 75% when making purchases.17 Although new in the market, SIRCLO Chat’s technology has been in continuous development with ICUBE to achieve its purpose in helping businesses connect with their customers in a language that is statistically becoming another one of the people’s favorites.
Ongoing responsibilities and the spirit of #InspireTheFuture
Notwithstanding the monumental 7-year journey, SIRCLO has had its plummeting moments. In the startup world, there’s a circulating saying which goes “9 out of 10 startups fail”.18 According to Fortune, the most popular reason behind this occurrence is that startups make products that are not fitted to the market. This is the scenario that SIRCLO went through in 2015. At a time when Indonesian sellers preferred selling through social media and manual processes, SIRCLO was met with challenges to convince merchants to utilize and subscribe to a more digital tool, customize their own website, and generate traffic to get customers to check out on the website. This required more investment from SIRCLO’s teams to provide a thorough onboarding process and continuous assistance to sellers after the initial setup. Eventually, the efforts led to, although lower than expected, an increased number of paying users.19
While the number of SIRCLO Store users grew slowly, the company’s spending continued to increase exponentially which left it with almost no avenue to scale up and resulted in a company downsize. Based on an analysis of 101 startup post mortems by CB Insights, situations similar to SIRCLO’s are among the top 20 reasons why startups become unsuccessful.20 In countering this, the company explored various business models with scale in mind to overcome the regression. Shortly after the downsize, the company launched an extended product of SIRCLO Store; a website customization service previously named SIRCLO Premium. Over the following years, SIRCLO continued to learn its lesson and create products that fulfill the market’s needs in today’s evolving e-commerce landscape with the spirit of innovation.
All in all, SIRCLO’s journey has enlightened two main points; the importance of staying ahead of the game and keeping a solid outlook of the coming future. Having learnt the lessons through a few setbacks, SIRCLO placed an emphasis to implement continuous improvement and a proactive approach to #InspireTheFuture. This is illustrated through a number of initiatives over the years, such as providing insights of Indonesia’s e-commerce through analytical reports, educating business owners through panel discussions with key e-commerce players, empowering employees within the company and contributing as mentors in entrepreneurship workshops.
In the present day, SIRCLO’s responsibilities bear a heavier weight as more products were introduced and, most importantly, trusted by businesses across various industries and scales. In a particular time when the nation is being hit by the pandemic, online selling platforms have become more ideal and relevant due to its ability to fulfill both people’s and businesses’ needs within a few clicks.21 Therefore, the spike in demand necessitates the company to maintain its quality and services in a sustainable form. In other words, SIRCLO’s solutions come along with the core responsibility to restore the distance between brands and customers. In its 7th year of contribution, the company aims to achieve exactly that while staying true to its mission statement: helping brands sell online; willing to win more milestones to come.
SIRCLO neither provides regulated advice nor guarantee results. The materials we convey reflect general insight and best practice based on information currently available, and do not contain all of the information needed to determine a future course of action. Such information has not been generated or independently verified by SIRCLO and is inherently uncertain and subject to change. SIRCLO has no obligation to update these materials and makes no representation or warranty and expressly disclaims any liability with respect thereto.