Today, we have the distinct pleasure of speaking with Jeff Li, the driving force behind Shoplazza and the recent recipient of the Tech Entrepreneur of the Year'. Starting as an aspiring tech entrepreneur, Jeff has navigated the complex realm of the business world, leading his company to impressive heights. In our conversation, Jeff discusses his inspiring journey, the factors contributing to Shoplazza’s success, and his exciting vision for the company’s future. Join us as we explore the thought processes of this successful leader, offering valuable insights that may inspire future tech entrepreneurs and providing a glimpse into the dynamics of leading a top SaaS eCommerce company.
1. Can you take us through your journey as a tech entrepreneur? What inspired you to embark on this path?
My tech entrepreneurship journey began at a major multinational tech corporation, where I led product development for global markets. The exposure to global trends inspired me to harness the strengths of diverse supply chains and industries. In 2017, I founded Shoplazza, a code-free eCommerce platform for merchants worldwide. Today, Shoplazza has emerged as a leading SaaS platform for cross-border eCommerce, serving over 360,000 global merchants.
In my leadership journey, I've embraced persistence, adaptability, and a 'day one' mentality to navigate challenges and guide my team towards our vision. My aim is to ensure continuous iterative progress within the team and maintain optimal efficiency as we scale. Being named in Our recent nomination for the renowned Webby Awards reflects our consistent strive for excellence and innovation in the eCommerce sector. This recognition is a testament to our dedication to providing superior services and a unique shopping experience.
This, coupled with our inclusion in Fortune China’s 40 under 40 for 2022, marks significant milestones in our journey. These recognitions not only validate our achievements but also serve as motivation to strive harder and aim higher.
As we move ahead, our mission remains clear - to expand our global merchant base by tailoring our product to resonate with the unique habits, cultures, and infrastructures of various markets. Bolstered by these accolades, we are excited and inspired to continue reimagining the eCommerce landscape, delivering transformative solutions to our customers worldwide.
2. How did the idea for Shoplazza come about, and what initial challenges did you face in the early stages?
The idea for Shoplazza was born out of my experiences while working in the international division of a major global technology company Baidu. I observed the diverse economic, technological, and internet development levels across various countries, recognizing each presented unique opportunities and advantages. The exceptional strength of specific supply chains and industrial belts worldwide particularly caught my attention.
I understood that technology and the internet were driving global efficiency, making it possible for commodities to reach consumers faster. Therefore, I saw a vast opportunity to harness this technology to expedite product delivery and establish new brands more efficiently on a global scale. This insight served as the seed for Shoplazza, a platform offering code-free systems for merchants to build their own eCommerce websites and reach a global audience.
We encountered various obstacles during the initial phases, akin to numerous startups. One of the crucial hurdles was the necessity to keep our team aligned with the actual needs of our merchants and adapt continuously. Striking the right balance between scaling our organization and preserving operational efficiency presented a substantial challenge.
As the CEO of an eCommerce platform with international operations, one of the significant challenges I encountered was understanding and catering to the different habits, cultures, and infrastructures across various markets. It was essential for me to ensure that our platform was versatile, user-friendly, and capable of providing meaningful value in a competitive global market.
My ability to tackle this challenge is largely attributed to my vast global exposure. During my time at a significant technology company with a worldwide reach, I acquired substantial insights into various international markets. My frequent field research gave me first-hand knowledge of market conditions and consumer behaviors. This comprehensive understanding of global markets has played a crucial role in shaping our platform to be adaptable and beneficial to merchants worldwide.
At the same time, during this process, we have discovered that there are many roles involved in global business flows, and they have essential interdependencies that facilitate the flow of international markets. In the course of these flows of goods and trade, we have seen numerous opportunities to amplify efficiency, thanks to the creation of a robust information infrastructure.
The journey of a product, from consumer demand to factory production and finally into the hands of the consumer, is an extremely lengthy process. We have consistently been dedicated to using technology and innovation to continuously assist each role in improving trade efficiency.
3. In the ever-evolving field of SAAS, how has Shoplazza managed to stay ahead of the competition and continuously innovate?
Shoplazza, in its endeavor to lead the dynamic field of SaaS, has been integrating the newest advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). The AI-enhanced solutions offered by Shoplazza facilitate an exceptional customer experience by predicting customer behavior, enabling merchants to provide tailored services to meet their consumers’ needs effectively. Similarly, our ML-driven capabilities assist in identifying and predicting market trends. This empowers our users with profound insights, ultimately leading to a surge in their sales and business growth.
Furthermore, our unwavering commitment to technology and harnessing the transformative power of AI and ML has been pivotal in maintaining our competitive edge. This continual innovation has not only resulted in Shoplazza being named the “SaaS Company of the Year” at the esteemed Global Business Tech Awards 2023, but also earned us a coveted nomination for the Webby Award which recognizes the best of the internet. These international acclaims and nominations speak volumes about our dedication to technological excellence, aligning with our motto, “open to more”. They reflect our steadfast commitment to ensuring the success of our merchants in various shapes and sizes, all free of charge.
4. How do you foster a culture of innovation within Shoplazza, and how crucial has this been to the company’s success?
Secondly, we promote a culture of continuous learning and reflection. It's important to us that our team engages in rational, objective, and dialectical thinking, viewing issues from multiple perspectives. This helps generate diverse and innovative ideas.
Finally, we highly value communication and teamwork. We understand that the best ideas often come from collaborative efforts and the cross-pollination of thoughts. By fostering an environment where everyone feels safe to express their ideas, we make space for innovation to flourish.
The fostering of this culture has been absolutely crucial to our success. In an industry as dynamic and competitive as SaaS eCommerce, standing still is not an option. A culture of innovation keeps us adaptable, ready to seize new opportunities and stay ahead of the competition.
5. Looking ahead, what is your vision for the future of Shoplazza? What should customers, merchants and partners be excited about?
At Shoplazza, our partnerships, merchants, and customers are at the heart of our operations. Our motto, “open to more” is deeply reflected in the way we engage with each of these integral stakeholders.
Our partners, ranging from tech behemoths to pioneering startups, form the backbone of our continuous innovation and evolution. Each partner brings unique value and perspectives, helping us to refine our platform and expand our capabilities. In line with our motto, we remain open to exploring further collaborations, seizing opportunities that align with our vision and can offer added value to our platform.
Our merchants are our driving force. Their varied needs and aspirations inspire us to create a platform that is not only functional and intuitive but also versatile and adaptable. We strive to comprehend the diverse market dynamics our merchants operate in, allowing us to tailor our services accordingly and offer culturally and commercially sensitive solutions. We aim to empower every merchant to maximize their online potential, regardless of geographical location, size, or sector.
Lastly, our customers are the reason we exist. We constantly seek customer feedback and input, using their experiences and suggestions to improve and innovate our platform and tools. This customer-centric approach ensures they can create and manage their eCommerce sites efficiently and effectively, fostering their online growth