The rules of retail have changed. Omni-channel innovations are key for the luxury industry in Asia-Pacific. Reebonz’s founders Benjamin Han, Daniel Lim, and Samuel Lim tell us how they’ve reinvented the luxury business model as a click and mortar format.
Doyenne: Tell us about your journey at Reebonz. How would you connect the dots from when you started out to now?
Samuel: Reebonz was conceived based on two key emerging industry trends. In 2009, e-commerce took off in Asia Pacific, but there was no clear leader. Second, the global financial crisis led many brands weighed down with overstock. Many turned to new avenues to liquidate inventory.
Daniel: At Reebonz, we began with online flash sales, which were time-sensitive and initially well-received. But we soon realised that luxury e-commerce had carved its own niche, and we required a unique set of capabilities to stay ahead of the game.
Benjamin: Looking back at the past seven years, we’ve come a long way from when we first started with a single idea, to building the right team to grow the business. Launching and running a startup definitely comes with its fair share of challenges, especially in the online space. It was, and still is, important for us to be agile. We have to adapt quickly to environmental changes. It is about knowing your target audience and the landscape you’re playing in, and evolving as they change.
“Blue chip brands continue to hold value but cult brands are on the rise. Sure, brands like Chanel and Hermès have a certain cache in terms of their heritage, but consumers are also beginning to look towards more unique cult brands to express their individuality.”
D: Were you relentless in the journey towards achieving success?
S: Success isn’t an end point. I see challenges and failures as part and parcel of growth. We are always growing and evolving. When I started my first business at the age of 20, what has helped me succeed is leaving my ego at the door, taking setbacks in stride.
B: As the pioneer in APAC’s luxury e-commerce business, there is definitely pressure to take innovation to the next level. This means putting in the hours to understand our customers and landscape, identify growth areas and often times, failing to create new offerings.
D: I strongly believe that, for any business to succeed, it is important to have adaptability and innovation. I’m proud to be part of a brand that is always listening to our customers to create solutions that better address their needs.
D: Tell us more about how supply chains, logistics and overseas partnerships work in Reebonz?
S: If you look at our model today, it is absolutely essential that our supply chains, logistics and overseas partnerships work seamlessly. The team has focused strategies on evolving the Reebonz platform into an online luxury ecosystem. What this means is that we’ve expanded into Marketplace as well as Closets, because we saw increasing demand for more unique and vintage luxury pieces.
More consumers are also looking to buy and sell pre-owned luxury items. Even the seemingly small things, like receiving a damaged item upon delivery, has an impact on our business and our members’ trust in Reebonz.
D: For pre-owned luxury goods, how does the app Closets work?
S: Specific to luxury fashion, Closets deals with the first question that comes to mind. “Is this real?” has always been one of the main barriers when it comes to shopping for big ticket items online. We’ve tackled this by setting up our own in-house ateliers to assess product authenticity. Private viewings are also available for items retailing above $3,000. We’ve combined reassurance with an experience one would normally expect from a traditional luxury house.
D: What are some luxury e-commerce trends to look out for in the next decade?
B: Mobile is the future of e-commerce. It is obvious that digital has completely changed the playing field for luxury and retail. Especially in Asia, we’re seeing people skip desktop shopping and going straight to mobile shopping.
S: Blue chip brands continue to hold value but cult brands are on the rise. What we are seeing is the definition of luxury changing, as consumers become more sophisticated. Sure, brands like Chanel and Hermès have a certain cache in terms of their heritage, but consumers are also beginning to look towards more unique cult brands to express their individuality.
D: While collating Reebonz’s Asia Luxury Index, we also found that bags continue to dominate, but shoes and timepieces are the next categories to rise. It is not a surprise that bags came out to be the firm favourite amongst consumers in Asia, especially since the majority of our customers are female. However, we also found that shoes and timepieces are primed to be the next growth drivers. Shoes are actually our fastest growing product sector, with an 87% increase in expenditure in 2015.
B: As for timepieces, these items are a bigger investment and would probably be the next item a consumer would “upgrade” to when their spending power goes up.
D: What goes on at Reebonz on a daily basis?
S: As the CEO, I am responsible for steering the business towards the right direction and am involved in most of the key decision-making. My role is to set the strategies in motion and ensure that the team is on the right track.
Besides Reebonz, I also run several other businesses so my day-to-day is beyond hectic. They usually revolve around meetings. I’d like to say I survive on passion for the work I do, but coffee is really what keeps me going.
B: As the regional General Manager, I am heavily involved in the overall strategic development of the business. Every market is different so there is never a “one size fits all” strategy. On any regular day, I would kickstart with a quick conference call, then check and answer my emails till mid-day.
After lunch is my “me” time. I work on more top-level strategizing for the business, including marketing promotions for the business.
D: As Chief Product Officer, I manage product development and merchandising, analysing the performance of various product platforms across mobile and web to optimise the process of buying and selling luxury items, making the customer experience as seamless as possible.
I also work with the merchandising team on trend forecasting and product buys to curate and update our selection of luxury items, so our product offerings are always matched to suit customers’ tastes and desires.
E-commerce is a very fast-paced industry and Reebonz is always at the forefront of innovation. It is a very stressful but exciting role. But for us, accessible luxury will always be about giving consumers exclusive brands, personalised buying and selling options.