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Why Reebonz’s new owners pivoted to a “live shopping entertainment” model to sell luxury goods

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In September last year, homegrown luxury goods marketplace Reebonz was cast into the spotlight when it filed for liquidation after racking up multimillion-dollar debts.

In a bid to pay off these debts, Reebonz has put up its eight-storey e-commerce hub at Tampines North that’s worth S$40 million for sale.

Following its liquidation, Reebonz has since saw a change in ownership. On 27 December 2021, Reebonz announced on its Facebook page that LiveCommerceEntertainment (LCE) has acquired “all brand assets of Reebonz.com and will operate under a new management.”

However, the company Reebonz Limited still exists and is currently under liquidation.

Reebonz.com has since relaunched as ReebonzLIVE!, in which it conducts “daily live selling shows” on its social media channels, direct from Italy and Europe.

This pivot towards live-streaming is not at all surprising, since the new owners specialise in live commerce.

LCE was started up amid the Covid-19 pandemic

livecommerce entertainment
Image Credit: LiveCommerce Entertainment

LCE describes itself as a “B2B marketplace connecting brands and live-streamers to start live-selling on Facebook and Instagram Live”.

It was launched in the second half of 2021, and the business idea came about to help resolve some of the problems that its five co-founders observed in the industry.

For many live sellers, there was the demands of having to manage operations, sourcing, payments and inventory while doing daily live-streaming at the same time. For brands, we felt that it was a good time to explore triggering demand by creating new engaging live sales channels given the drop in retail traffic due to Covid-19.

Additionally, we realised that consumers were excited and engaged when watching these live streams as our hosts can engage them, share with them not only great shopping deals, but also the content and community effect of people shopping together.

– Jacob Wee, co-founder of LiveCommerce Entertainment

Tommy Po, fellow co-founder of LCE, noted that brands are always looking for new and exciting channels to grow sales and they realise that they can help empower individuals to become live streamers and key opinion leaders (KOLs).

Beyond connecting brands and live sellers, LCE also builds and operates in-house branded live selling channels for various product categories such as fashion, beauty and lifestyle.

The two co-founders — who have backgrounds in operations, technology and merchandising — said that they have achieved “good proof-of-concept” as they have onboarded over 50 brands in the last two months. This figure is a testament to how they are helping retail brands address a pain point in starting up a new channel to boost sales.

Although LCE is still in its beta launch phase, it has worked together with many brands to engage in live selling such as Skin Inc, Alexandr & Co, Fearlest, Trulife, Quadha, K Ginseng Farm, Ssunsu, among others.

Cashing in on China’s booming livestreaming trend

Covid-19 has been a huge driver of growth in the e-commerce industry, but both Jacob and Tommy are particularly betting big on the livestreaming trend, which is already thriving in China.

livestreaming china
Livestreaming e-commerce sales in China from 2019 to 2023 / Source: eMarketer

According to a report by 36Kr Research, over RMB 900 billion (US$141.7 billion) worth of goods were sold through livestreams in the country in 2020, which was double the amount in 2019.

In 2020, over RMB 900 billion (USD 141.7 billion) worth of goods were sold through livestreams in the country, double the amount in 2019, according to a report by 36Kr Research.

Since the pandemic, the livestreaming industry in China has also received a major boost, propelling China’s biggest e-commerce and livestreaming platforms such as Taobao and Douyin to jump in on the hype.

Closer to home, the e-commerce livestreaming trend has also accelerated during the pandemic in Singapore and Southeast Asia.

“In referencing China, we believe live commerce will grow as a percentage of all e-commerce sales,” said Jacob, adding that he is confident that it will be the future of e-commerce.

Part of the appeal of shopping through livestreaming is that it can help compensate for shopping remotely in a way that browsing web pages doesn’t. According to a survey from the China Consumer Association, people like this method of shopping because it’s more social and interactive. They can also get a better understanding of a product.

Breaking down the appeal of live streaming, Tommy said that it all boils down to the concept of live entertainment.

When you watch and connect with the brand channel or live stream host and other viewers in the community, they become your extended family of friends that you would like to come back daily to hang out with together. At the same time, the live shopping experience is exciting and also provides a sense of competition amongst viewers, when there are limited stocks. (You need to) make quick buying decisions if you love what you see on (the) show.

Not to mention, the great deals being offered on each live show with real-time product demonstrations and Q&As. It is almost as good as being in the retail shopfront, without having to jostle with the crowd or looking for parking space, with the added convenience of having the product delivered directly to your doorstep.

– Tommy Po, co-founder of LiveCommerce Entertainment

Commenting on the live commerce landscape in Singapore, Jacob noted that more people are starting to watch live selling shows on social channels and more individuals are trying to start live selling.

“We believe it’s a great opportunity as when consumer behaviour adopts it, they will be enticed to watch multiple channels and watch different hosts every day.”

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KakiKakiLive channel, anchored by Jade Seah / Image Credit: ReebonzLIVE

“Our channels provide live entertainment and content for our viewers, who ultimately become the community of the brand channel. An example of this would be our KakiKakiLive channel, anchored by Jade Seah. This channel now has a healthy community of viewers who connect regularly with Jade and amongst (fellow viewers),” he added.

Why they acquired Reebonz

According to LCE, it is unable to disclose the sum of the acquisition deal, citing confidential agreements.

However, what’s clear is that the takeover of Reebonz was because the founders still had a lot of faith in the potential of the brand.

On its website, it stated that the founders of LCE were “loyal fans of Reebonz” ever since its founding in 2009 so they wanted to “bring back the joy and excitement (they) felt shopping with Reebonz”.

We felt that Reebonz has been a great brand in fashion luxury. Despite its recent issues, they have built many followers — satisfied and loyal fans — over the years, not just in Singapore, but the whole of Asia.

We felt relaunching it as ReebonzLIVE will bring back the excitement of what the brand stands for, and it was in line with our strategy to also operate and manage various branded live selling channels in various product categories, in addition to our B2B marketplace strategy.

– Jacob Wee, co-founder of LiveCommerce Entertainment

Although Reebonz has moved away from its online marketplace model to adopt a “live shopping entertainment” strategy, Jacob feels that it is not a far-fetched move, since live-streaming still sits within the e-commerce space.

“To relaunch it as ReebonzLIVE! and streaming from overseas is fresh and exciting. We did not want to operate (with) the previous business model as a business-to-consumer (B2C) marketplace would require a lot more investment to restart all their backend technology systems,” he explained.

“(We wanted to) bring Reebonz members a new and exciting shopping experience, which we will also launch to Reebonz customers in other countries (across) Asia.”

In particular, LCE is looking to open up ReebonzLIVE to Malaysia, Hong Kong and Taiwan next.

Since its launch in end December last year, LCE has been ramping up marketing efforts for ReebonzLIVE to lure past customers. According to the co-founders, the relaunch has “exceeded expectations” but they did not share sales or revenue figures, or transaction volumes.

While an all-new business model serves as a good foundation for a restart, some has cast doubts on the feasibility of live-streaming in the luxury goods space, citing that it takes away the ‘premium feel’ of the luxury shopping experience.

However, LCE holds an entirely different opinion on this. In contrast, they feel that livestreaming sales actually “complements and enhances” the luxury shopping experience.

Image Credit: Screenshot of Reebonz livestream

In live video shopping, our fashionable hosts of ReebonzLIVE will try on bags and clothing accessories in front of camera to give viewers a feel of how the product would look like.

In addition, it (offers an) interactive format where customers can ask questions live to the hosts and also (chat) amongst the community of viewers on the channel to make a decision. It is more social in this aspect versus shopping alone on your app, and that’s what social commerce is about — connection with others.

– Tommy Po, co-founder of LiveCommerce Entertainment

As opposed to the traditional way of reading product descriptions and clicking into pictures, he feels that social commerce provides an “elevated” experience.

Furthermore, he finds that most customers today are already comfortable with online shopping of luxury goods, and to do the same via livestream would be a natural progression.

“Most of luxury brands have already gone livestreaming in China, and we believe it’s a matter of time (before) many retailers in Asia will start to build this as a core sales channel,” summed up Tommy.

Rebuilding trust among Reebonz customers

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Image Credit: ReebonzLIVE

Following the relaunch, ReebonzLIVE first has to address the elephant in the room: regaining the broken trust among its customers. With the past saga, how can they ensure customers that history would not repeat itself?

While Jacob admits that the news of a troubled Reebonz has definitely impacted the brand’s reputation, at the same time, he seeks comfort in the fact that “only a few hundred customers were really affected in relation to the millions of members it has”.

So far, they have received emails and messages from past customers who still have unresolved matters with Reebonz Limited, but LCE is unfortunately “not in a position to solve past issues” and directed them to follow up with Acres Advisory instead.

LCE is also not aware if the past management of Reebonz has cleared all debts owed to creditors, as Reebonz Limited is currently managed by the liquidators so they are not privy to any of the developments.

Ultimately, the majority of customers have had a positive shopping experience with Reebonz, and they strongly believe that they can continue to deliver on this front.

“As we looked at the bigger picture of millions of happy and satisfied members and customers in the Reebonz community, we felt that the brand is still very much intact, more so in many other countries,” said Jacob.

When asked how LCE sources for the luxury goods that are to be sold via ReebonzLIVE, Tommy shared that the company has “reestablished contacts” with Reebonz’s key suppliers for brand new luxury goods in Europe, and they are confident that these “supply sources are credible”.

He added that suppliers were happy to rekindle the working relationship as many of them were not affected by the saga, and Reebonz had actually been their biggest customer in Southeast Asia for many years.

Additionally, when it comes to live streaming, they make it a point to stream directly from brand boutiques and showrooms to help instil confidence among buyers that they are buying from authentic sources.

On that note, LCE does not intend to relaunch Reebonz’s past C2B2C marketplace model, in which users consign preloved luxury items to be sold on the platform, as there would be a “higher risk of quality issues or customers disputing authenticity”.

It will soon roll out a new marketplace via live selling

Reebonz currently has a strong foothold in luxury fashion, but it will gradually expand into other product categories such as beauty and wellness.

For instance, its beauty segment will be launched in the next few weeks. The company will work together with hundreds of beauty brands to showcase great deals via ReebonzLIVE to its viewers.

ReebonzLIVE will also launch its own marketplace model via live selling soon, which will officially launch in March 2022.

“Our concept of ReebonzLIVE as a marketplace will be to showcase many brands co-hosting live selling shows every hour, very much like a TV home-shopping network on ReebonzLIVE. We will first start this concept with beauty brands, where we co-host shows with the brand’s own sales consultant or ambassador,” said Jacob.

In the meantime, LCE will further expand its in-house live selling channels by increasing the number of live shows per month.

“(This serves as a) platform for them to showcase their products and services … (and) will be a totally new way for brands to launch products with ReebonzLIVE,” he added.

Moving forward, LCE plans to carry on operating multiple in-house B2C live selling channels in various product categories and expand them regionally.

“The big picture (in which) LCE can make the biggest impact is to aggregate as many brands and live sellers onto our B2B live commerce marketplace and expand it.”

“As we think of building our own ecosystem, we will also launch our B2C app and website of all our live-selling channels beyond just operating on Facebook and Instagram Live once we are at scale.”

Featured Image Credit: The Vault Online / ReebonzLIVE

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