From left: David Jou – first, Win – second; Kasey – last
I met David Jou one year ago when he was a Co-founder/Managing Director of Lazada Thailand. During his tenure, Lazada Thailand grew to be one of the leading online shopping sites in Thailand and is also the fastest growing and one of Lazada Southeast Asia’s biggest online shopping sites. Since then, he has moved on to start his own online fast fashion brand, Pomelo, in Bangkok, along with one of his former colleagues at Lazada , Khun Win who managed customer service and call centre; and Kasey, a friend who too has worked with him in the US. Last week, I caught up with Jou over lunch, and got a few details about his new e-commerce venture. Let’s chat with him about his new eCommerce startup.
Can you share something about your new venture?
[quote]Pomelo is an online fast fashion brand based in Bangkok. Inspired by the growing popularity of international fashion in the region, Pomelo was started to bring the “freshest” fa shion and accessories from Seoul, Hong Kong, and Tokyo to South East Asia. Pomelo has over 800 styles online and releases hundreds of new styles every few weeks.[/quote]
We officially opened the site to the public on October 22nd, but have been in beta testing mode since October 7th. Initial feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and we’re extremely excited to continue down the path of growing into the online fast fashion destination for the region. We hit 20,000 facebook fans and 25K unique visitors in just 10 days after opening to the public so we want to thank everyone for the wonderful response!
Does your home-country South Korea have any impact/advantage to you to set up this business for female fashion? (Instead of selling something related to electronic products like Lazada)
[quote]All the founders have a strong connection to fashion and are absolute believers in E-commerce as a viable distribution channel for Southeast Asia.[/quote] As for Korea, we work exclusively with fashion-forward partners who design and make the clothes based on the latest international runway and street trends and Seoul is full of them. Seoul is the fashion capital of Asia right now and we are confident the styles we source from there will be loved by our customers both in terms of trendiness and quality.
You mentioned that Pomelo is providing “coolest products”, “deliver in the same day”, “lower price”. A marketing guru said “High quality product, fast customer services, low price. You can just choose 2 out of 3. No one can offer three at the same time” What do you think?
We respectfully disagree! We think shopping online should be better than shopping offline. Online you can browse hundreds of products with the scroll of a pad, you can see all the clothes on the models and in action on the runway, and you can do it all in the comfort of your home, car, or even on public transport.
As for the cool factor, we want our customers to judge our style for themselves!
Second, all of the products we sell are ours and we have all of the functions in-house, with the exception of delivery. In this way we can guarantee both product and service quality.
[quote]As for price, e-commerce gives us many advantages. We don’t pay exorbitant rent for prime retail space and we don’t spend millions of dollars on marketing. Those savings we pass on to our customers. Our style and quality is the same as Zara, but our prices are 20% lower on average.[/quote]
Describe your typical customers? Where are they from in Thailand?
They are from everywhere! [quote]We’re a lifestyle brand. As long as you love fashion, love mixing and matching your wardrobe, and appreciate great customer service, you are a potential Pomelo customer. [/quote] On Facebook, the biggest overlap we see in terms of fanbase is with Zara. We love Zara too and we take a ton of inspiration from brands like TopShop and H&M as well. Hate the hassle, love the fashion, say hi to Pomelo!
Thai women are very fashion-oriented and surely it’s not easy to attract them to buy as they always have a ton of other options in town. What is the key for the first P “Product”?
[quote]Bangkok is the perfect place for a fashion start-up.[/quote] There is such great fashion talent in this city and the level of interest among the public is very high. Our team is passionate and they are talented. What more could we ask for? In the end, “product” is the result of teamwork and since we believe we have the best stylists, designers, and fashion writers we are confident in our ability to produce an attractive product.
[quote]As far as competition, we think there’s room for a brand that’s willing to take risks in terms blending international trends with local market taste. [/quote] All signs in the market point to a willingness and openness to explore new looks and influences. We find that exciting and want to be at the forefront of Bangkok’s evolution as the fashion capital and tastemaker for the region.
Your thought on stylishness and content copy-writing in fashion eCommerce?
[quote]Super important! Images, videos, copy-writing all have to come together to create the “better” customer experience I mentioned earlier.[/quote]
Is online payment a problem customers afraid of in Thailand? How can Pomelo make it easier for them?
We think our e-commerce checkout is one of the best and most secure in Southeast Asia. [quote]Our customers have paid by credit card and cash on delivery with a ratio of 50/50.[/quote] Our conversion funnel is extremely efficient. Once something is in a shopping cart a new customer should be able to checkout in less than a minute and a returning customer should be able to checkout in less than 30 seconds. That’s the goal and our promise!
How can you dare to offer “FREE same day delivery in Bangkok” in such a traffic jam city?
[quote]One word: helicopters. Just kidding, motorcycles, a really organized and dedicated warehouse, and excellent logistics partners are the key![/quote]
“365 day return” is not popular in Southeast Asia. Do you have any research related to this matter, i.e. not so many people will return, so you feel confident to offer this service?
[quote]We know returns are a normal part of the fashion business and we want all of our customers to try the service without worrying about it. [/quote] We have an excellent customer service team looking after all the details as well. So far no real issues in terms of the number of returns and we always have the freedom to tweak things as we go along.
Your plan in 2014?
We plan to expand to Singapore as well as one other secret country in Southeast Asia in the next 3-6 months. We also hope to partner with exciting local brands to bring exclusive collections to all of our customers. Thanks for the interview and let’s hope for the best!
Note: this article first appeared on e27 as I wrote for them. But e27’s version is edited, and it’s somewhat different from the original one in content, photos.