What happened to S’pore’s pioneer e-commerce site?

Before the rise of Shopee, Lazada, and Qoo10, most Singaporeans shopped on Taobao.

However, shopping on Taobao was tedious. That was until Ezbuy, formerly 65daigou, came over and sorted out all Singaporeans’ logistics issues.

Founded in 2010, Ezbuy is dubbed Singapore’s largest global online shopping platform and the leader in cross-border e-commerce in Southeast Asia.

It connects consumers to top brands and sellers from China, USA, Korea, Taiwan, and local brands on popular shopping sites like Taobao and Amazon through its Global Marketplace.

Help consumers buy Taobao products

Ezbuy Singapore
Ezbuy website interface in 2016 / Image credit: Vanilla Pup

For the unknown, Taobao is a Chinese consumer-to-consumer (C2C) and business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce marketplace launched in 2003 by the Alibaba Group.

It provides a platform for individuals and small business owners to sell their products online through their own “stores”. There is also a Marketplace for individuals and small and medium enterprises and Tmall (also Tmall Global) for medium and large enterprises.

Taobao is often referred to as “the Amazon of China”, due to its huge volume of products available and daily sales.

According to Statista, in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2020, the gross value of goods (GMV) traded on Taobao reached approximately 3.390 billion yuan (S $ 711 billion).

However, even though the benefits of Taobao were huge at the time, many Singaporeans found it difficult to buy from the site due to the language barrier and other logistical issues.

So Ezbuy stepped in to provide Singaporeans with a quick and easy way to buy everything they needed from the Chinese e-commerce giant.

The model was simple and efficient: customers would place orders using his Ezbuy’s website or app, and he would buy from Taobao and ship the goods to the customer. In fact, many Singaporeans would remember going to an Ezbuy collection station or collecting their Ezbuy packages from a truck parked at their empty platform.

Ezbuy collection truck
Image Credit: The Bottom To The Bottom

For the service, customers had to pay agent fees based on the total value of products purchased and international shipping charges.

Rates ranged from four percent to eight percent, for different membership levels. From time to time, the brand would run promotions where membership fees would be eliminated.

Although Ezbuy was not the only player in the country, he was one of the first to adopt an English interface, greatly expanding the audience to the local population and resulting in its rapid growth.

Acquisition by LightInTheBox

According to data from Crunchbase, Ezbuy raised US $ 20 million (S $ 27.12 million) in Series B funding. Two years later, he raised an additional US $ 17.6 million (S $ 23.87 million). Singaporean dollars) in Series C funding.

Ezbuy financing
Ezbuy funding information / Crunchbase screenshot

Shortly after its Series C funding, US-listed Chinese online retailer LightInTheBox acquired Ezbuy for nearly US $ 86 million (S $ 116.63 million).

Founded in 2007, LightInTheBox sources directly from Chinese manufacturers and sells them to online shoppers around the world.

In a press release dated November 8, 2018 announcing the “definitive acquisition agreement” of Ezbuy, LITB said: “The two companies will work together to maximize the business synergies created to take advantage of opportunities to grow their businesses “.

Another closing condition for the acquisition included the appointment of ezbuy co-founder and CEO He Jian as CEO of LITB.

In an interview with Vulcan Post in 2018, Wendy Liu, CEO of Ezbuy in Singapore, clarified that despite the acquisition, “the two companies will operate separately” and that there will be no change in the team and operations.

She confirmed that sellers and traders on LITB will also be able to sell on ezbuy, and buyers in Singapore and Southeast Asia will be able to purchase LITB products on ezbuy.

“ezbuy and LITB will share vendor resources. Through this agreement, ezbuy and LITB customers can enjoy more varieties of products,” she added.

At this time, it also seemed that Ezbuy was not doing well and his performance was declining.

The gradual decline of Ezbuy

acquisition ezbuy singapore
Image Credit: SingSaver

According to a report by company founder Momentum Works in 2018, Ezbuy saw a number of hires – from Alibaba and Rocket Internet – go in no time.

In 2017, Ezbuy founder He Jian engaged in a war of words with Alibaba founder and chairman Jack Ma, accusing the e-commerce giant of “bullying” behavior after the more than a thousand accounts on ezbuy.

Ezbuy had published a letter on December 8, 2017 explaining how more than 300 purchasing accounts, which were used to place orders on Taobao, faced technical restrictions this month.

Press release Ezbuy 2017
A press release from Ezbuy to customers dated December 8, 2017 / Image credit: The Low Down

In response, the Alibaba Group released a statement saying that Ezbuy’s act of setting up accounts to buy items from Taobao and resell them was an act of scalping. This had led to the interruption of around 30,000 orders.

However, before Ezbuy’s confrontation with Taobao, his performance in the region was already declining. Figures from regional online shopping comparison site iPrice show that in the third quarter of 2017, Ezbuy was ranked third in e-commerce in Singapore with 2.3 million monthly visits, behind Qoo10 and Lazada.

Wendy also shared in an interview with Channel News Asia in 2018 that Ezbuy was not profitable after eight years of operation.

YearSingapore RankingMonthly web visits
Q3 20173rd2.3 million
Q3 20184th1.7 million
Q3 20194th1.3 million
Q3 20205th1.5 million
Q1 20215th1.07 million
Ezbuy Singapore Ranking and Monthly Web Visits / iPrice Statistics

By the third quarter of 2018, it had fallen to the country’s fourth place with 1.7 million monthly visits. In the first quarter of 2021, Ezbuy was ranked fifth in Singapore with just 1.07 million monthly visits.

By comparison, Shopee saw over 12 million monthly visits in the first quarter of 2021, while Lazada and Amazon had seven million and six million, respectively.

What caused Ezbuy’s problems?

First of all, Ezbuy daigou The business model is not as scalable as the market model used by ecommerce platforms like Shopee and Lazada. Daigou is a form of surrogate shopping in China as a way to receive goods through third party platforms such as Ezbuy.

While the model initially worked as Singapore’s e-commerce scene was emerging, the rise of competitors like Lazada and Shopee eroded Ezbuy’s competitive edge.

Even though Taobao still touts itself as a cheaper alternative to Singaporeans, they can still get a wide variety of products on Shopee and Lazada for a similar cost.

the daigou The model has also led to overconfidence in its ability to continuously buy directly from Chinese market platforms like Taobao. It turned out to be extremely destructive when Taobao simply suspended the accounts of Ezbuy buyers.

An alternative could have been to strengthen its technological capacities so as to be able to have a platform completely independent of most markets.

Next, a TechInAsia article published in 2018 points out that Ezbuy hasn’t done enough outside of Singapore, stating that “Ezbuy’s story is Southeast Asia. However, it never managed to grow outside of Singapore.

It is not known what the size of Ezbuy’s target market is. In an interview with Vulcan Post before its acquisition, Wendy mentioned that Ezbuy had over three million customers. However, a quick search of Ezbuy’s website shows that the number has remained unchanged.

SimilarWeb data also shows that 96.8% of Ezbuy’s web visitors are from Singapore.

What’s next for Ezbuy?

Ezbuy Singapore
Image Credit: Ezbuy

Ultimately, Ezbuy still has a valuable Singaporean consumer base, which it can build upon if used correctly. According to SimilarWeb, it still received 1.18 million visitors to its site in June 2021, of which 96.8% were from Singapore.

It is therefore always possible for Ezbuy to evolve its business model to also capture sellers on its platform.

It can also be inspired by the books of Shopee and Lazada. Both platforms have done well in engaging users on their sites. From eye-catching jingles to in-app entertainment to games, Shopee has used many tactics to keep customers coming back.

The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the opportunities that lie in Singapore’s e-commerce sector. As the e-commerce industry in Singapore continues to grow, Ezbuy can capitalize on upcoming trends to make a comeback, rather than fading into the shadows as a forgotten e-commerce site.

Featured Image Credit: Ezbuy

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