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Building an online brand might sound like an easy feat for budding e-entrepreneurs. Yet, creating a niche for the brand is a whole other ball game. Many commerce brands start off with the intention to stay and play their part as one of the consumer’s list of choices, but not many live to see through years of operation. Among other reasons why the brand does not work out, one would be failing to create a niche for itself.

One startup managed to flip the script, by creating a niche brand of items which might not necessarily be labelled as ‘cheap’, but more and more Malaysians are willing to shell out the extra moolah for an item of quality these days, and Epik-Shop is wants to capitalise on that.

Flying With Quality Intact

Image Credit: Epik-Shop

Epik-Shop is a brand conceived by AirAsia mogul, Tony Fernandes, who then passed the reigns over to a team who clearly loves fashion and have the observant eye to curate what best fits under the brand’s identity, alongside its beauty and lifestyle offerings. Jia-Wei, Epik-Shop’s Head of Commercial told Vulcan Post that they are a curated online marketplace for the modern fashion nomad.

The way they do it is host stores which aim to sell their fare to the South East Asian market. Their proposition is that of wishing to connect these global brands to ASEAN, where they will store, manage, market, sell and deliver the items from said brands to customers in Malaysia, Singapore and Bangkok. That way, these brands are able to easily reach a world of new customers and grow their following at the same time.

Notebooks from Things For Whenever on Epik-Shop
Notebooks from Things For Whenever on Epik-Shop

“We want you to be able to shop your global favourites alongside curated, independent, boutiques. We want to give our shoppers the convenience of shopping their cult favourites and enable them to discover their new favourites on one platform,” Jia-Wei said.

Singling Out The Uniques

Jia-Wei, (right) alongside Aida Salleh, Epik-Shop’s merchandising lead. (Image Credit: Epik-Shop)

Unlike AirAsia whose name carries a more “budget” nature, Epik-Shop’s items are not synonymous with that.

They build on the fact that they are different and have already decided that yes, it is okay to be that way. Jia-Wei shared, “We want to be a ‘value-driven’ site and not a ‘discount-driven’ site.” They believe that this will take time as the Malaysian consumer has become used to incentivised, or subsidised buying, which really isn’t sustainable.

“Our products are unique, not heavily discounted, affordable and of really great quality. Building a sustainable business allows the independent designers to grow as well and contribute to the overall creative industries of the region,” said Jia-Wei.

They validate their business model by testing a lot, and often, in order to measure what exactly shoppers are looking for, their behaviour on the site, what is selling, and what isn’t. This is how they differentiate themselves from the saturated e-commerce industry.

“All this data is useful not only to us, to help inform our business decisions, but also to the merchant, to help plan their future collections and buying. It would be remiss for us to just settle on what we think is the best business model. We haven’t found it yet, but we’re confident that with the right data and an agile team, we will get there,” said Jia-Wei.

It’s All About Trust

Image Credit: Epik-Shop
Image Credit: Epik-Shop

Thus far, since their launch in November 2015, Epik-Shop has engaged an estimate of 200 brands and boutiques who are selling their niche items on site to an equal amount of shoppers. With this, they plan to grow their offering even further. As of March this year, they even managed to sign a deal with Garmentory, a site which represents small, indie contemporary fashion boutiques in the US and Canada.

“In addition we are looking to grow our ASEAN product range, and will have over 60 ASEAN merchants available on the site by end of July. We will also be shipping to more countries, including Australia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Brunei, Thailand and Philippines by Q3 this year,” said Jia-Wei.

Their lofty ambitions are not merely dreams, as they are backed up by Epik-Shop’s humble desire to if anything, gain the trust of their consumers. Jia-Wei noted, “I think it takes time to build the trust of shoppers, and we are invested in making sure that we earn that trust.”

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