Six years after changing ecommerce in Southeast Asia, Lazada is 'striving for the next frontier'

Singapore has traditionally been a retail-driven market, backed by retail associations and the government to drive retail.

When Lazada first entered the ecommerce space in Singapore six years ago, most of the online selling in the country was focused on cheap deals and non-transparent fulfilment. So, it took on the challenge of showing Singaporeans that online retail can be a trustworthy alternative from offline retail, for all types of shopping.

Six years on, as the Alibaba-owned platform celebrates its anniversary, Erik Ligtenberg, deputy chief executive officer at Lazada Singapore declares to The Drum the objective has been met, as the platform’s emphasis on providing the best customer service and bolstering of assortment over the years has built its reputation as a trusted online shopping destination.

However, there is still a part for offline retail to play, as Singapore has traditionally been a retail-driven market, strongly backed by retail associations and the government to drive retail sales, which is why Lazada is following Alibaba’s new retail strategy, he adds.

Alibaba has seen encouraging signs with the strategy, which connects online and offline businesses around China by digitising some operations at physical stores to provide a more seamless experience for customers. While the exact same approach cannot be replicated in Singapore, Lazada has found a hybrid recipe that works.

Its partnership with CapitalLand allows customers to shop from their favourite malls online and collect their parcels from a nearby CapitaLand-owned mall. They can even try on newly purchased clothes for size, which makes shopping even easier for customers with Lazada’s free delivery and free returns policy.

“Another challenge lies in the physicality of retail – it encourages human interactions and grants immediate gratification to buying of goods,” explains Ligtenberg. “We have since expanded our offerings with click and collect lounges at all CapitaLand malls, and improved our app that allows shoppers to connect directly with sellers in real-time, as if they’re talking to them in person.”

Aside from successfully playing a part in changing the way consumers shop, the platform has much to celebrate too. As an anniversary present, Alibaba announced in March it was increasing its investments in Lazada by pumping in an additional USD2 billion, on top of the investment and stakes it already has in the Southeast Asian ecommerce company.

Lazada then threw a two-day birthday bash in April at CaptialLand-owned Plaza Singapura mall, which featured booth activities with 20 global brands and local sellers like Benefit, Shiseido, Nutrition Depot and The Liquor Shop, 16 on-stage performances and 6,000 giveaways to visitors.

“We work closely with Alibaba to maintain our dominance with technological and knowledge transfers, especially on improving our app and engaging our shoppers across omnichannel touchpoints. 78% of Singapore’s mobile traffic is on mobile devices, a 75% year-on-year increase and we have seen a similar trend for our app usage,” explains Ligtenberg.

“Many of our recent products and initiatives were rolled out in the first quarter this year, such as our Shakin’ Deals function where shoppers can interact with the Lazada app to win vouchers, in time for our birthday sale,” he adds.

In addition to Shakin’ Deals, Ligtenberg says Lazada is also working on innovations like Follow Stores, which allows shoppers to get the latest updates and notifications from their favourite sellers, a mobile wallet to enable one-click payments and easier refunds, Seller Instant Messaging to bridge the communication between sellers and buyers, and a Seller App, which allows its sellers to do business on-the-go, and providing them with real-time insights on their Lazada store based on data analytics.

This is proof that as one of the largest platform in Southeast Asia now after six years, Lazada is not resting on its laurels and is continuing to find ways to stay ahead, according to Ligtenberg.

“We see ourselves as the number one online shopping and selling destination in Southeast Asia and this is largely due to the start-up culture we’ve maintained: being nimble, innovative, and having an entrepreneurial mindset – not being afraid to experiment to find out what works best,” he explains.

“Constantly innovating, coupled with an open mindset where all ranks actively interact with each other, has helped develop a culture that motivates staff to always strive for the next frontier.”

Part of the innovation will come from collaborating with brands, like its LiveUp Loyalty programme with Netflix and Redmart, as well as big well-known brands like Razer.

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