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This S’pore Startup Invested 6 Figures To Build A Marketplace App For Local Fashion Brands

lili fashion app singapore

When it comes to shopping for new clothes, we often trawl different stores before we decide on our purchase.

The same happens when we online shop — we browse multiple websites before we finally add the desired item(s) to cart.

However, a new app aims to make the shopping experience easier for consumers by building an online marketplace of sorts for multiple fashion brands — much like ASOS, but with a local spin.

Through the app, you can also view “hot deals” at a glance so you can easily browse through apparels that are currently on sale.

Some local fashion brands that are already onboard the platform include The Closet Lover, MDS, HerVelvetVase, The Tinsel Rack, Love, Bonito, WardrobeMess, AforArcade, The Editor’s Market and Our Second Nature.

An Idea Born During COVID-19

Co-founder Michelle Zhao, 32, started her career at Singapore Airlines, then worked as a public relations manager at a multi-national corporation before embarking on LiLi app.

Along with her four other co-founders, they came together to contribute their different skillsets to the business.

This includes management consulting for the business model, computer science to build the app and analyse data, marketing to promote the app, finance for funding, as well as overseas business experience to expand the business internationally later.

Together, they invested a six-figure sum to put their idea in motion and took several months to build the app.

lili fashion app singapore
Image Credit: LiLi

LiLi was actually established during the circuit breaker. The co-founders noted that retail was one of the hardest-hit sectors due to COVID-19, and wanted to do something to salvage it.

“We saw an attractive opportunity to support local businesses to go mobile accelerated by the COVID-19 situation,” explained Michelle.

“The main problem is that not many local shops have the know-how to promote mobile sales to overcome declining offline revenue.”

They saw their app as a tech solution that could help fill the gap for this business need.

Their app, which adopts a machine learning-based recommendation, also offers a differentiated solution to the customers.

lili fashion app singapore
Image Credit: LiLi

But why women’s fashion?

Michelle confessed her personal passion for the local fashion industry. The former flight attendant loves to shop at local shopping haunts like Far East Plaza and Bugis Street.

However, when she dons the clothes bought from these places, her friends always asked if they are bought overseas instead.

That’s when she felt that there was an “information gap”.

“People do not realise that all the good items are already available in local shops,” she lamented.

I know Singapore has many compelling local fashion items, but many people assume that the local fashion scene is not as updated as Japan, Hong Kong and Korea.

I wanted to break that perception and show people that we have local solutions and (can) be trendy.

– Michelle Zhao, co-founder of LiLi app

AI-Powered App That Makes Tailored Recommendation

lili fashion app singapore
Image Credit: LiLi

According to Michelle, LiLi stands out from other fashion apps because of its data-driven nature.

“We do not rely on human judgment on what to recommend, which can be wrong or right depending on an individual’s intuition.”

“We are investing heavily in data analysis and artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning to make a tailored recommendation.”

However, the current app is only a beta version to gather some initial data set. The full version of the app, which will be powered by the machine learning engine, will only be launched later this month.

Michelle acknowledged that users have their own preference on what they want, depending on their life stages, cultural backgrounds, fashion styles, and the price range.

“Our core machine learning will quickly figure out what each user likes, and will make tailored recommendation towards that user’s specific needs,” she explained.

“This will help local fashion businesses quickly ramp up the mobile revenue.”

Currently, many shops rely on social media like Instagram to promote their mobile sales, but they are very expensive. At the same time, conversion to purchase effectiveness is very low.

LiLi can help local fashion shops on these issues by offering a cost-effective way to promote mobile sales.

– Michelle Zhao, co-founder of LiLi app

Saw 10,000 Downloads In A Month

lili fashion app singapore
Image Credit: LiLi

When asked about customer response so far, Michelle said that they are seeing “early signs of success with increase in daily usage.”

She added that they have surpassed 10,000 downloads for their beta service in just a month.

Since the current app is still a beta version, it is admittedly not up to par in terms of speed especially with the increase in user activities, but they are working hard to resolve this issue ahead of the official app release.

Sharing her thoughts about the e-commerce landscape in Singapore, Michelle said that they have observed that it is dominated by a couple of large platforms.

“We think category killers will emerge tailoring for specific needs because there is a long-tail of diverse customer needs, and one-stop solution approach by large platforms cannot tailor for such needs.”

“We have picked up women’s fashion as it is currently underserved in our view.”

Moving forward, Michelle hopes that LiLi will be a “top-of-the-mind app for women’s fashion” — in Singapore first, before expanding to neighbouring countries in Southeast Asia.

Featured Image Credit: LiLi

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