How to build successful eCommerce startup from nothing — lesson for big Companies

Being at Meet Magento Indonesia recently, I had the pleasure to hear the presentation of Bianca Lee, C-Level Executive from Love, Bonito. In the last 8 years, Love, Bonito has grown exponentially and the brand has become the largest fashion brand on the local market. eCommerce Enthusiasts inside of large companies often complain about resources that are too limited. This example is showing how you can use your weaknesses as strengths.

No resources needed at the Beginning

A blog shop is sort of an online store, but it uses a blog platform as its central point. This is quite an interesting idea that is gaining popularity across Asia. On the list of the top 10 most popular eCommerce shops in Singapore, 4 of them are blog shops.

In the Love, Bonito case at the beginning, there wasn’t any eCommerce engine in place, clients were served directly via email.

Logistics limitations can be part of the Engagement process

Blogshops Collection Launches are only at a specific time during the week — eg. on Thursday night. A few days after a successful launch there is a backorder opportunity for customers who missed the selling. Usually, the client must pay in advance and wait 2–6 weeks for delivery.

The company underlines their prosperity has been possible as a result of four main differentiators:

Clear USP

They design comfortable and useful clothes for woman such as dresses with pockets. Their approach is to meet the needs of local customers. All designs are made with Asian women’s bodies in mind.

Speed is one of the USP

From design and manufacturing, to distribution, they control the supply chain and time of production. New campaigns are launched twice a week, and in just a month, Love, Bonito delivers 60–80 new designs to their customers.

Boost the omnichannel approach

Physicals stores are Love, Bonito strategic points to support omnichannel sales. The company uses them very intelligently. Three types of physical stores (flagship, pop-up and counters) are the meeting spots for potential clients.

“We are a vertically-integrated, omnichannel haven for our community of women, who are obsessed with us not just for our products, but deeper connections that we foster through our unique female-centric approach, customer experience and community outreach” — Bianca Lee — Love, Bonito

Stores are the place to organize styling sessions, talk-shows and other events, building the community around the brand. It is also a way to find new clients, less exposed to online shopping. For existing customers, stores improve the user experience with omni-enablers such as “pick up” and “return” in store, on-floor style ambassadors and try-ons.

In the end, the shops support Love, Bonito in the creation of a Customer Experience playfield — they have introduced many omnichannel ideas and test how customers react.

Scale-up fast after finding a Traction

As they grew, they started their own studio to design clothes. They have also started their first physical stores. With a flagship store in Singapore and many more across Asia (they are also present in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Cambodia), Love, Bonito’s unique clothes have reached women all across the world. Physical retail is a big part of the Love, Bonito strategy. They just have raised US$13 million in a series B round.

Love, Bonito Flagship Store in Singapore (source)

Cooperating with the biggest competitor

As in many other countries, fashion is the fastest-growing eCommerce category in Southeast Asia. Love, Bonito is a very interesting case study, but they have a serious threat on the horizon — Zalora.

Zalora is the biggest player in the Asian market. This is a fashion marketplace, built by Rocket Internet, which already operates in Malaysia, Brunei, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Indonesia, and New Zealand. With a focus on mobile commerce and omnichannel tactics like using pop-up stores, they’re preparing for a “mobile-only” market.

Zalora is a regional behemoth, but there is still plenty of space for small and dynamic fashion-brands like Love, Bonito. Instead of competing with Zalora, smaller players use this marketplace as one of their selling channels.

With the innovative approach of companies like Love, Bonito, they can surely win over the market.

CoFounder of @CTTornado eCommerce Startup Studio