Business / Industries

Time means money for small businesses

By Wang Ying (China Daily) Updated: 2015-11-30 07:35

Xiao Mu and his wife usually start work selling men's clothing online at 9 am, and finish at around 1 am the following morning.

The hours can be grueling but Xiao loves running his own business, which he set up in 2012 on, the Internet shopping platform owned by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.

Naturally, there were early teething problems, including slow delivery services.

"At the beginning it could take days to process just one order," Xiao, 28, who used to work at Shanghai Volkswagen Automotive Co, said.

"And when we received orders, it was very hard to get the products delivered to our customers on time. We tried several different courier companies, but most refused to collect packages on a daily basis."

Xiao also received complaints from customers because delivery firms failed to provide a door-to-door service. Many were forced to pick up packages at distant centers.

"This went on until we started working with STO Express (Co Ltd)," Xiao said. "Now, they arrive every day even if we don't have any orders to send out."

STO Express is one of the biggest courier groups in China along with Shanghai YTO Express (Logistics) Co Ltd, SF Express (Group) Co and EMS. The company's policy is that no business is too small.

"We assign specific couriers to serve small e-commerce clients," Sara Gu, head of the marketing department at STO Express, said. "It does not matter how small the order is. In this way, the assigned courier can provide a consistent service to clients. We really cherish small enterprises."

This approach has helped Xiao turn his business around as he joins the growing ranks of online entrepreneurs. Daily orders are hovering around the 200-mark with revenue of about 40,000 yuan ($6,299), he said, without disclosing detailed financial information.

"My original goal of launching a small business on (a consumer-to-consumer site) to make money has been achieved," Xiao said.

"The next goal is to upgrade the business on Tmall (a business-to-consumer platform also owned by Alibaba). This will produce greater opportunities."

The success of small online enterprises such as Xiao's Muge Apparel is crucial for delivery groups such as STO Express.

As these startups expand and grow, they offer new revenue streams in a fiercely competitive sector. "We grow together with our customers," Gu explained.

To retain an edge in a crowded market place, China's leading express couriers are finding out that "loyalty" is a crucial part of their business strategy.

"It's vital for companies to cement the loyalty of customers with better service," Li Shiqing, an industrial analyst from Minsheng Securities, said.

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