When you travel overseas, you’re bound to come across one or two friends who will nudge you to help them buy some goods back on their behalf.
“You’re going Japan? Can help me buy back Tokyo Banana? I’ve been craving for it since my last trip!”
“You’re going Korea? Can help me buy some makeup and skincare? It’s so much cheaper there. Singapore so expensive lor!”
“You’re going to the US? Can you help me check if they carry this sneaker in stores? Singapore doesn’t carry this design leh.”
Well, if it’s a) convenient to buy the item, b) small and light enough to lug back to Singapore, and c) cheap, why not do your friend that favour right?
But if it doesn’t tick all these boxes, then clearly it’s just a hassle.
After all, you are there for a holiday, not to run shopping errands for your friend(s).
So the next time he/she forwards such requests to you, tell them to ShopandBox instead.
It’s Like Having A Personal Shopper Overseas
ShopandBox is a homegrown startup that offers a peer-to-peer personal shopping service.
So what it does is to essentially connect you (Shoppers) to personal shoppers (Boxers) based on shopping interests and geographical location, making shopping around the world for anything you want possible.
So who are the brains behind this ingenious service?
It was founded by 3 Singaporean friends – Xin-Lung Tai (CEO), Rebecca Chia (CMO), and Louis Tan (CTO) – back in November 2013, when Xin and Rebecca were still residing in Melbourne.
Xin and Rebecca were previously studying together in University of Melbourne (they are married to each other now), while Xin and Louis go way back since high school.
“ShopandBox was born soon after we noticed whenever we traveled overseas, friends, family and colleagues would give us their shopping lists to fulfil. It got to a point where it often felt like an inconvenience,” said Rebecca.
But Rebecca confessed that they too have been on the other end of the spectrum.
Once, Xin even asked someone to carry a rock band set from the US back to Australia!
Bearing these pain points in mind, the trio felt that they could turn it into a truly thriving global transactional marketplace.
Ultimately, they wanted to “create a business where you could shop from anywhere in the world without feeling guilty that you were inconveniencing someone or having to wait till you travelled somewhere to get what you couldn’t stop thinking about.”
“We wanted the business to be global from day one. That was what excited us – the ability to be able to connect with a random someone living on the other side of the globe, and building a global bridge to form a community to be able to shop across borders without any barriers.”
A Smooth-Sailing Start
According to Rebecca, the trio tested the idea extensively before they officially launched the service.
“We started by using an email system to collate orders and later on, we upgraded to a WordPress site before we collected enough feedback to launch version 1 of the website.”
“When we first turned on the tap in late 2013, this coincided with the launch of the Nexus 5 mobile phone which was launched in the US, UK, Japan, and Australia, but was not available in Singapore or Malaysia.”
“Within the first month of the launch, we saw a huge spike of orders for these phones from our Boxers in Australia and Japan. We were brand-new to the market but people wanted access to the phone, so they took the plunge to use our Boxers to get them their phones.
“The fact that it was available to them within 3 days (thanks to our DHL shipping partnership) also helped. We saw Shoppers come from Malaysia and Singapore but even more fascinating, from all around the globe like Greece and United Arab Emirates too!”
Subsequently, Shoppers use their service to buy makeup, shoes, bags, food, electronics, baby and homeware goods. Shoppers also often use Boxers to buy limited edition items that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to get locally.
But here’s the thing: is it actually cheaper to ShopandBox rather than ship directly from a US-based site?
“Because our Boxers can shop and consolidate items across multiple stores, it is often cheaper to use ShopandBox as opposed to shipping multiple times from different stores in the US and paying shipping three or four times,” said Rebecca.
“With ShopandBox, the Boxer will not only shop for items across stores and categories, they also check your items and repackage them to save you on international shipping.”
You Can Earn A Quick Buck As A Boxer
To date, ShopandBox has Boxers in 31 countries and these ‘shopping pals’ are avid shopaholics who help Shoppers shop like locals anywhere in the world.
“Our Boxers are shopping experts and locals in the country you’re shopping from.”
“This means they can access the best deals and share their local shopping secrets and tips with you. You don’t have to wait till someone is travelling in order to get an item that you want, which might have sold out by the time someone travels there,” said Rebecca.
“We take the hassle out of having to stuff your likely-to-be-full suitcase and ensure you get door-to-door delivery within 3 days of your parcel being sent out.”
With ShopandBox, you pay exactly what the item(s) cost plus a service fee and international shipping. There is no profiteering on items.
In fact, Shoppers themselves have the power to determine where they want to shop and at what price.
Boxers do not mark up the cost of items, and simply collect a small service fee as compensation of their time and effort. This service fee is shared between the Boxer and ShopandBox, and is usually between 10 to 14 per cent of the item cost.
“Boxers are casual and they work as much as they want to. We’ve had Boxers who’ve made as much as a few thousand in a month to those who do it more as a hobby because they love shopping so much.”
At the start, the business was initially bootstrapped, but they received a $1 million funding in late 2015 from 500 startups and some angel investors to bring ShopandBox to greater heights.
The ShopandBox team is now about 12-men strong, spread across Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Australia and the US.
Within 3 years, their Boxer base has grown to over 200 people across 31 different countries.
Commenting on their rapid expansion, Rebecca said that they hope to serve Shoppers in more countries so they can shop from more Boxers from around the world.
Sharing their future business plans, Rebecca said that ShopandBox is always evolving, with a very loyal repeat Shopper rate.
“Right now, our focus is on how to make the system smarter and even more personalised, while growing our content via our blog and video. We strive to be truly useful and educational for Shoppers. We are also focused on something very exciting in the works where you as a Shopper gets to feel like you’re shopping in person in another country – stay tuned!”
She also shared her business mantra: “Be data-driven from day 1 and listen to what your customers are saying.”
“Most of all, have fun! With ShopandBox, we love what we do, and are extremely fulfilled when we see Shoppers being ecstatic that they now have access to what they previously could only dream about!”
Featured Image Credit: Rebecca Chia, ShopandBox