Henson Tsai of SleekFlow tells us how to merge all customer’s favorite chat apps into a single, easy-to-use platform.
First of all, how are you and your family doing?
Henson Tsai: We are doing well. Although there was just an outbreak of the fifth wave of Covid-19 in Hong Kong, and the economy is slowing down a bit, we try to stay positive and healthy.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you SleekFlow.
Henson Tsai: I am the founder and CEO of SleekFlow. SleekFlow features an omnichannel social commerce software that enables full conversational commerce journeys across SMS, live chat, and popular social messaging applications such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, or whatever the customers prefer. We aim to develop a whole set of chat-to-pay ecosystems on social messaging.
Before SleekFlow, I had two entrepreneurial experiences. I graduated in the UK, which gave me exposure to participating in a start-up competition with my classmates. We used the Internet of Things (IoT) technology to control household items, and it was sold for five-digit UK pounds. It was a great motivation for my interest in exploring entrepreneurship.
Later, I returned to Hong Kong and worked as a banker to save some capital for a start-up. Three years ago, I spotted the demand for takeouts, so I decided to quit my job and founded a food-ordering platform called TasteOut. Although TasteOut had successfully entered Cyberport Incubation Programme, its journey was called off after six months due to the intense competition in the food delivery market. I burned through six digits’ worth of funds and had to fire seven employees in six months, so it was tough for me.
After that, I twisted the app idea and created an all-in-one communication app tailored for hotels. I got a chance to join an international exhibition named RISE and talked to the potential customers directly. Yet, there were no inquiries from hotels, only from people in the e-commerce and retail sector. That was when I realized that my second idea wouldn’t be successful either.
However, this hurdle didn’t stop me from pursuing my entrepreneurial dream. I analyzed conversations between more than 500 real users with my two other employees. We noticed the demand for a platform that could unify customer communications to adapt to the up-and-coming trend of social commerce. That’s why I pivoted the business and founded a centralized messaging platform named SleekFlow, which helps enterprises deliver a comprehensive customer experience.
How does SleekFlow market its product/services online?
Henson Tsai: We announce new functions by writing blog posts on our website or making videos on YouTube. We also offer a free trial without expiration for all users because we believe that it will be difficult for the customers to understand how SleekFlow can help them only by listening to what we say. Therefore, we invite them, free of charge, to try the product and understand how these automation rules and the whole omnichannel commerce journey can help them accelerate sales and perfect their workflow.
How did the coronavirus pandemic affect your business, and how did you get through it?
Henson Tsai: Actually, the pandemic didn’t affect our business. Instead, it created more opportunities for us. Many social activities were banned due to the virus outbreak, and there were fewer people on the streets. Many merchants found it difficult to sell the product in-store, so they started to look for new solutions. This COVID-19 situation really did encourage people to digitally transform and start developing their e-commerce businesses. However, most of them find it challenging to handle a large number of customer inquiries or promote the products or services efficiently.
SleekFlow’s platform would be a good solution for them to solve the above problems. We are an omnichannel social commerce software that empowers effective chat management on various channels, including WhatsApp. So, companies can manage all the customers’ inquiries on one single platform much faster without missing any messages. Besides, our all-in-one platform includes automation rules for our customers to set up customized solutions. This assists them in managing their business as well. For instance, a local beauty salon has been using SleekFlow to handle over 100 inquiries daily, managing 5000 existing customers with only a small team. Yet, they successfully expanded even during the pandemic recession.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to manage your online marketing?
Henson Tsai: SleekFlow greatly emphasizes SEO and content management. Our marketing team writes and uploads blog posts to our company website weekly and is active in content partnerships with other reliable websites for brand exposure. Besides, our company is also using some other tools like Google Search Console and Google Analytics to monitor and optimize our website as we evaluate the performance metrics such as click rate, bounce rate, time on site, and more. We also leverage social media or multimedia channels such as LinkedIn and YouTube to tell our clients what’s new in SleekFlow.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay ahead of the game?
Henson Tsai: There are a few major competitors in the market and what we do to stay ahead of the game or make ourselves stronger is to understand the market and make evaluations from time to time. Never be satisfied. Always make progress.
Understanding the market size and the market behavior is important when you try to create or upgrade a product. For example, we only carried a message of “multiple logins” for our customers when we first started with SleekFlow as an omnichannel chat management platform. Later, we observed the change in the market and collected feedback from our customers to provide more new features and functions for them. Omnichannel is just a starting point. The whole chat-to-pay ecosystem will be the future. Our social commerce solution will be the sales accelerator that generates conversions through conversations.
In addition, competitors are our sources of information and learning too. Seeing the market differentiation and studying their strategy can be insightful.
Your final thoughts?
Henson Tsai: Starting a business might be easy but sustaining one is definitely challenging. The best advice that I can offer is not to give up easily, and success will follow if you persist. To all the entrepreneurs out there, please keep trying and squeeze every last drop of success out of the lessons you learned, and I wish every one of you the best of luck.