Love, Bonito sets the bar for fashion e-Commerce in Southeast Asia
In partnership with eTail Asia 2022, Tech Wire Asia had the pleasure to interview Joan Yeoh, Country Director at Love Bonito. Together we discussed omnichannel experiences, trends, new technologies, and future plans.
About two decades ago, e-Commerce was still in its infancy stage. While there were already brands building their presence online, many consumers still preferred offline shopping. However, as technology continued to improve, so did e-Commerce.
Realizing the endless opportunities in e-Commerce, brands were soon expanding their digital presence, offering more savings to consumers. One such brand was Love, Bonito. What started in 2005 as a blog marketplace for pre-loved clothes soon grew into one of the biggest fashion retailers in Southeast Asia.
In fact, the digital fashion industry has evolved tremendously over the last few years as technology has enabled businesses to cater to specific customer needs. Today, e-Commerce fashion apps and websites are providing consumers a seamless experience, from the moment they open the app to receiving the product.
For brands like Love, Bonito, the technological innovation in e-Commerce has enabled them to expand their businesses and be the largest direct-to-consumer womenswear brand in Southeast Asia. Love, Bonito also recently US$ 50 million for its Series C funding, led by global investment firm Primavera Capital Group with participation from Adastria and Odine Capital.
With a dominant presence in Southeast Asia, the brand is looking to expand into key markets such as Hong Kong, Japan, the Philippines, and the United States. This includes plans to boost omnichannel offerings in these markets, with plans to open physical stores in Japan and Hong Kong.
Fashion needs an omnichannel experience
Part of the brand’s success is its capability to provide consumers with a seamless experience on their platform. Love, Bonito continues to invest in emerging technologies and is now focused on perfecting the omnichannel experience for their customers.
“Omnichannel no longer means just having a separate online and offline channel for different segments of customers. We believe that the future of retail is not just online or offline, but an integration of both. Customers do not only expect convenience but also seek connection and being part of a community,” said Joan Yeoh, Country Director at Love, Bonito.
For Yeoh, the fashion industry is quite different compared to other industries as some customers still prefer physical stores to try on and feel new clothes. As such, she believes that while brands look to e-commerce, physical and social touchpoints should not be neglected.
At the same time, the brand also recognizes the importance of an in-store experience in e-Commerce for customers who may not be able to get to the stores. For example, Love, Bonito live streams on its social media pages to help give customers a better idea of what the clothes look like when tried on real women and in movement.
For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the brand was able to leverage its omnichannel experience as moved from offline to online due to lockdowns.
“What we did then was we rejigged omnichannel efforts to place more emphasis on online since there were uncertainties on movement control measures,” commented Yeoh.
The pandemic also brought about new trends that evolved customer needs, i.e. as more people work from home, this resulted in less demand for workwear and instead, ladies started looking for comfortable yet presentable outfits for virtual meetings at home. Yeoh added that the brand pivoted to designing comfort pieces like its Staples and Loungewear line to accommodate the demand. The fashion retailer also continuously optimizes to replicate the benefits of physical stores online e.g. organizing virtual styling sessions.
Data and emerging technologies at Love, Bonito
When it comes to understanding customer wants and needs, data is key for any organization. Most businesses use customer data for predictive analysis today.
“I love how we combine both art and science in our designs. We have a team of talented designers and seamstresses who work tirelessly to create our apparel and in-house prints, and I personally think they are works of art!” commented Yeoh.
According to Yeoh, the in-house data team at Love, Bonito tracks and monitors over 100 product attributes per SKU, allowing them to understand what makes a winning design and how they can replicate it, as well as gain important takeaways from under-performers. Designers work with the data team to interpret the data collected and turn that into actionable customer insights that drive the design process.
“This synergy between design and data science is something we at Love, Bonito are definitely proud of. Through combining data and machine learning, we are also able to forecast demand based on the design and predict the number of pieces to be produced. This helps us ensure we don’t overproduce right from the get-go and reduce wastage,” added Yeoh.
Love, Bonito is also using its data science and AI to create greater personalization based on customers’ shopping habits to predict and recommend apparel that will suit them better. The company hopes to integrate both online and in-store experiences to create a more well-rounded omnichannel strategy.
While Love, Bonito has been successful, the e-Commerce industry can be rather competitive. Today, there is a myriad of brands competing to offer customers not just the best product but also the best omnichannel shopping experience for them. At the same time, retail fashion stores are also trying to remain relevant in the industry despite the challenges they faced over the last two years.
For Yeoh, one-way retail fashion stores can compete with online stores is through implementing omnichannel strategies and technologies that support that. This could range from having an e-Commerce website and stocking in e-Commerce marketplaces to live selling on social media. She believes that the most important thing is to be able to reach where customers are most effective and provide multiple touchpoints to engage with them.
“Of course, I still believe that human connection cannot be completely replaced by technology, and this is something retail stores can triumph in. Whether you are in e-Commerce or have a physical retail store, customers are more discerning than ever and they look for brands whose ethos resonates with them. As such, it is important to convey the brand’s mission and values to customers and carry that through your products and initiatives. For Love, Bonito, that is empowering the everyday Asian woman to have self-confidence at every stage of their life. This helps to build customer loyalty and brand love,” commented Yeoh.
Yeoh will be sharing more about how Love, Bonito innovates and scales its brand to become a global womenswear brand for the everyday Asian woman at eTail Asia 2022. She will also share how the brand leverages the right technology and the right people across the business to do so.
“Leveraging data science and enhancing customer experience is on my list of topics that I am keeping an ear out for at eTail Asia 2022. I’m looking forward to hearing thought leaders in different sectors share on important e-commerce and marketing topics all in one place – I’m definitely looking forward to gaining more insights from other leaders during my session and throughout the summit!” said Yeoh.