Starting an online business can be a great way to generate some extra income for you. If you are really successful at it, your online business can even end up replacing your full-time job.
But even if you have thought about starting an online business, you may not know how. In fact, one of the biggest barriers to starting an online business is this:
“I want to start an online business but I don’t have an idea!”
In my previous post, I discussed five different ways you can make money online in Malaysia. In that post, I showed you five business models you can consider applying in your own online business.
Today, I am bringing you fifteen real life case studies of online businesses in Malaysia.
My goal is to show you what is possible by showing you how I think each business makes money from their website and the challenges you may face if you were to apply the same business model to make money yourself.
Although this article shows my own estimates, it will be a good guide for you to understand how websites in Malaysia are making money.
By doing so, I hope you can find inspiration or ideas to start your own online business.
Let’s get started!
To make things easier, I have divided the websites by category.
First, I will explain to you how websites in each category generally make money. After that, we will take a closer look at each website to identify more specific ways the website makes money.
Feel free to jump to any category that interests you:
Online marketplaces like Lazada, 11street and Lelong are some of the most popular websites in Malaysia. So popular in fact, that, according to Alexa, they are amongst the top 50 most visited sites in Malaysia:
Online marketplaces are basically websites where people can upload their products for sale. The biggest benefit for sellers is that they don’t have to set up their own e-commerce store or payment gateway.
All they need to do is upload their products and wait for buyers to search for their products and buy them on the online marketplace.
Sellers on online marketplaces earn profits just like any other e-commerce store selling physical products, except they need to pay a commission to the online marketplace each time they make a sale.
In that way, one of the common sources of income for an online marketplace is the commissions they earn from sellers.
Commissions on sales is the most common way online marketplaces make money.
Now that you have a general idea of how online marketplaces make money, let’s have a closer look at three of the most popular online marketplaces in Malaysia:
At an estimated 30+ million visitors a month, Lazada is the #1 most visited online marketplace in Malaysia.
Lazada lets sellers list products in a wide range of categories from health & beauty products to electronics and home & living products.
Like most online marketplaces, Lazada makes money by charging a fixed commission rates based on sales made on its website:
The fees vary depending on the category of products sold. This fee varies from 2% for computers and laptops to 40% for subscriptions.
Each time a sale is made, Lazada will make some money by charging a commission.
Other than commissions, Lazada also makes money by providing a convenient service for sellers called ‘Fulfillment by Lazada‘.
Fulfillment by Lazada (FBL) is a service where sellers can store their products at Lazada’s warehouses until a customer makes an order, after which Lazada will package and send the items in the order out on behalf of the seller.
Still confused? Have a look at the chart below to see how it works:
(Image courtesy of Lazada FBL pamphlet)
For this service, Lazada charges its sellers RM1.99 per item shipped.
So if a seller has chosen to use FBL, Lazada will make RM1.99 per item they ship on the seller’s behalf.
At 10+ million visitors a month, 11Street is the second most popular online marketplace in Malaysia.
Like Lazada, 11Street also makes money by charging fixed commissions on sales made by sellers on its marketplace. Sellers can sell products in a variety of categories on 11street:
Other than commissions, 11Street also makes money by charging its sellers for priority listings and banner display advertising on the site.
An example of priority listing is like the one below (labeled ‘Sponsored Products):
Sellers who want more exposure to the products they are selling will pay 11Street for the priority listings and banner display ads.
Lelong is the pioneer online marketplace in Malaysia. Right now, its traffic is at a steady 6+ million visitors a month, placing it behind Lazada and 11Street in terms of traffic.
Like Lazada and 11Street, Lelong makes money by charging a commission on each sale made on its website:
The commission fees range from 1% – 7% depending on the product category.
On top of commissions from sales, Lelong also makes money by charging their sellers a fixed yearly store fee of either RM398/year or RM498/year:
Challenges if You Want to Make Money Using Online Marketplace Model
At the moment, the online marketplace market is dominated by Lazada, which has gotten over US$1billion in investment from Alibaba Group.
To compete in the online marketplace business, you will need to have a lot of money, and even then there is no guarantee that you will succeed.
In that way, creating an online marketplace is not recommended for most people.
Online News Sites
Other than online marketplaces, online news sites are also some of the most visited sites in Malaysia.
News sites nowadays are not only limited to sharing ‘news’, but also fun articles like these:
Malaysians visit news sites not only to be informed but also to be entertained.
The most common ways for an online news site to make money is via display advertising. When a visitor clicks on the ads the news site displays, the news site will make some money from its advertising partner.
Other than that, news sites also make money by selling sponsored posts on their site. Sponsored posts are articles or videos made to promote a brand.
Now that you have a general idea of how news sites make money, let’s take a closer look at some of the popular online news sites in Malaysia:
With almost 2m visitors a month, Says.com is one of the most popular news sites in Malaysia.
Its content range from news, fun article, articles on lifestyle as well as videos:
Says gets most of its traffic from social shares:
This means that most of the visitors on Says.com come from clicks on social media sites like Facebook.
Says makes money by displaying ads such as these at the end of each article:
Other than that, Says also makes money from writing sponsored content like these:
In a few short years, the Vulcan Post has grown to become one of the largest online news sites for Gen Y and Z. Now it has almost 600k visitors a month with content focused on technology and lifestyle news from Singapore and Malaysia:
Search is the main way that visitors find the Vulcan Post:
The Vulcan Post makes money through display advertising placed on its side bar:
And at the end of its articles:
Other than that Vulcan Posts also makes money through branded pages:
Branded pages are pages with curated content specific for a brand. At the moment, Vulcan Post has created over 10 branded pages for companies like Grab, Magic and Tiger Air:
Sponsored content also makes up a portion of revenue for Vulcan Post. One of the places sponsored content is placed is above all other articles under the ‘Popular Now’ tab on the sidebar:
Lowyat is arguably the most popular website in Malaysia when it comes to tech news. Anyone looking for the latest news about gadgets will most likely find it on Lowyat.net.
Other than the main site featuring articles about gadgets, Lowyat.net’s best feature is its forums.
Lowyat.net’s forums are the go-to place for Malaysians who want to discuss anything from cars to jobs and gadget reviews. The forums are also a popular place to sell new or second-hand items.
Display advertising on both its main site and forum site is one way Lowyat.net makes money.
On its main site, ads are displayed in a few places like the sidebar:
On its forum site, horizontal ads are displayed throughout the forum:
To find out more about the different kinds of display advertising Lowyat.net sells on its site, check out the Advertising page here.
Challenges if You Want to Make Money Using News Site Model
Since most online news sites rely on display advertising for revenues, to be successful with news sites, you need to be able to drive a lot of traffic to your website.
News sites often update anywhere between 5 – 50 times a day depending on the news category.
If you want to make a sustainable income from news sites, you need to be ready to spend a lot of time writing or spend money hiring writers to write them for you.
As you have seen from this list, you need to generate a substantial amount, 6 to 7 figure traffic in order to keep this business sustainable in the long term.
Special Interests Sites
Unlike news sites, the goal of special interest sites is not to update its readers on the latest happenings around Malaysia or to entertain, but to go into deep details on a topic that interests the reader.
Though like news sites, special interest sites can also make money using display ads, special interest sites have more options for making money through affiliate marketing.
Let’s take a look at some of the more popular special interest sites in Malaysia and how they make money:
iMoney.my is a website started by Lee Ching Wei where Malaysians can find the best deals for credit cards, loans, broadband, and insurance.
They do this by partnering with banks, insurance agencies, and internet service providers and allowing visitors to compare between all the deals that are available in Malaysia.
With over 500k+ visitors a month, iMoney.my is the most visited financial product comparison site in Malaysia.
iMoney makes money through commissions it receives when a visitor signs up for any of its partner deals through its site.
Other than that, iMoney also makes some money through display ads next to articles in its learning center:
Jobstreet.com.my is Malaysia’s most popular job portal. It is one of the first websites Malaysians think of when they start a job hunt.
With over 4+ million visitors a month, Jobstreet is the 29th most visited website in Malaysia according to Alexa:
Job seekers can register themselves for free and apply for any job they are qualified for on Jobstreet:
While job seekers can register themselves for free, Jobstreet makes money by charging fixed rates for employers who list jobs on its site.
The rates rang from RM673.10 for one job ad to RM5,840.60 for ten:
I have not found any display ads on Jobstreet.com.my so it does not appear like Jobstreet.com.my uses display ads to make money.
PaulTan.org is the go-to site for auto enthusiasts as well as anyone looking to buy a car in Malaysia. PaulTan.org is so popular that it is the 15th most visited website in Malaysia:
The team at PaulTan.org test drives and reviews cars from Toyota, Honda, Mercedes, Porshe and more.
Other than articles about cars, PaulTan.org also acts like a middle man, connecting people who want to buy cars to car sellers.
It does this by partnering with car dealers all over Malaysia.
When a visitor from PaulTan.org expresses interest in purchasing a car by signing up to be contacted through a form like the one below, PaulTan.org stands a chance to make a commission:
Depending on the arrangement it has with the car dealer, PaulTan.org either makes money every time a visitor signs up or only when the car is sold.
Other than commissions, PaulTan.org makes money through display ads placed throughout its site:
KC Lau has become a household name when it comes to personal finance. Malaysians go to KCLau.com to find out how to invest their money more wisely.
Challenges if You Want to Make Money Using Special Interests Site Model
Unlike online news sites, special interest sites can sometimes not get enough traffic to make a sustainable income just by displaying ads.
To make money using the special interests site model, you need to either create your own products to sell like KCLau.com or have strong affiliate partners to support you as in the case of iMoney.my and PaulTan.org.
Deal sites are where Malaysians find special discounts on things like food, travel, and products.
Because of the expectation that they are getting a good deal on anything they buy, most people who visit deal sites are ready to make a purchase.
This gives deal sites a special advantage in terms of converting visitors into paying customers.
Deal sites often do not carry the products they sell. They merely act as a middle person, connecting buyers to sellers who are willing to offer a discount to bring in customers.
When a purchase is made by a buyer, deal sites take a cut from the sales as commissions.
Let’s take a look at two of the most popular deal sites in Malaysia and how they make money:
Fave is a new deal site in Malaysia that was created after KFIT bought over Groupon Malaysia. Though some of the deals offered by Fave are similar to those previously offered by Groupon, Fave has added new and interesting categories to its deal site too:
Fave makes money by taking a cut on the sales made on the deals it showcases on its site.
Shopback.my is Malaysia’s most popular cash back site.
It works like this:
If for example, you are looking to buy something from Lazada.com.my, instead of going directly to Lazada’s website, you click on the link inside of Shopback.my:
By clicking on the link inside Shopback instead of going to the website directly, you will be shopping using Shopback’s affiliate link.
For any purchase you make on Lazada using Shopback’s affiliate link, Shopback will earn a commission from Lazada.
When Lazada pays Shopback a commission, instead of keeping all the commissions, Shopback will return a fixed percentage of its commissions earned from Lazada back to its customer as a cash rebate. The percentage of commissions returned back to the customer depends on the merchant.
The cash rebates keep customers coming back to Shopback to make purchases rather than going to the websites directly.
Shopback makes money using this model through all the commissions it keeps from purchases made using its affiliate links.
Challenges if You Want to Make Money Using Deal Site Model
Deal sites make money mainly by charging a commission on the sales of deals made through their sites. These commissions are often quite low, making it possible only to make a substantial amount of income when a lot of sales are made.
Deal sites are also not too difficult to set up, making the barriers to entry quite low. You have to invest a lot in marketing your brand and creating new and exciting deals to keep your visitors from choosing another deal site over yours.
Both myFave and Shopback have received substantial amounts of investment to set up and keep going. So if you are thinking about starting a deal site, you may also need some amount of capital to start with.
Bloggers have been around for almost as long as the internet. There are blogs on almost every topic you can imagine.
While some blogs are successful at making money, most are not.
Like online news sites, the most common way for blogs to make money is by displaying ads and selling sponsored content.
For this category, I will only be covering one site as most blogs make money the same way.
So let’s have a look at…
PlacesandFoods.com is a blog run by the couple Wilson Ng and Rachel Ting. The couple blogs mostly about travel, food in Malaysia as well as food they have sampled while traveling.
PlacesandFoods.com receives more than 150k visitors a month and makes money by displaying header banner ads (like the one below) and other display ads throughout its site:
Challenges if You Want to Make Money Using Blogging Model
As you might already know, just starting a blog and writing about your personal life would probably not get you anywhere today.
Like news sites, to make money from your blog by using display ads and sponsored content, you need a substantial amount of traffic.
Unless you are a famous person already, most of the time, blogging about your day to day activities won’t bring you the traffic.
Instead, like PlacesandFood.com, you have to find a specific niche to focus on and build really good content around that niche.
Branded E-commerce Websites
Like online marketplaces, branded e-commerce sites also sell physical products to customers.
The biggest difference between branded e-commerce sites and online marketplaces is that most of the time, branded e-commerce sites are not acting as the middle person, but as the seller themselves.
Like any brick and mortar store, branded e-commerce sites make money when a customer buys a product from their site.
The method of making money for branded e-commerce site is straightforward:
The buy stocks of product at wholesale prices and sell it to customers at retail prices. The difference between the prices minus costs will represent their profit. Clean profits on retail products can be anywhere between 5% to 40% of the price of the product.
Since most branded e-commerce sites make money the same way, we will only be looking at one example.
Let’s take a look at…
Althea Korea is a branded e-commerce site that specializes in the sales of Korean made beauty products:
To keep costs low, all orders are shipped directly from a central warehouse in Korea rather than from local warehouses where Althea is present.
Each time a customer buys from Althea, Althea will make a direct profit from the sale.
Challenges if You Want to Make Money Using Branded E-commerce Site Model
Since there are endless types of products to sell, there are a lot of opportunities in using this model to make money online.
If you want to start an e-commerce site model targeted at Malaysians, you will need to spend some time researching and testing to find out what Malaysians are really interested to buy online.
Just creating an e-commerce site selling everything will almost guarantee failure.
Conclusion: Making Money Online in Malaysia is Not Rocket Science
Making money online can be a mysterious skill to most people because they have not yet been exposed to the online businesses that are already successful at making money online in Malaysia.
But when you understand exactly how people are already making money online, you can use your newfound understanding to build your own online business in Malaysia.
Although there are challenges to every method of making money online, if you are willing to take the time and effort to explore, research and test different methods, you will one day be successful at making your first RM, or RM1,000 or more online.
As with anything you do, to be successful in online businesses, you need to be willing to put in the time and effort to learn everything about it and even be willing to fail in order to learn.
All the best!
Have you started making money online? What has been successful? What has failed? Share your experience in the comment section below!