Hong Kong e-commerce site aims to be more than its Goxip name as it expands into Thailand
The start-up will fund the expansion next month with the additional US$5m capital it secured in February from investors including Meitu and daughters of casino magnate Stanley Ho and Malaysian billionaire Vincent Tan
There were two conflicting reports on how entrepreneur Juliette Gimenez came up with Goxip, a Hong Kong-based online shopping service start-up that uses image recognition technology to help buyers find the items they’re looking for. One says she was looking for Taylor Swift’s boots, and another says they were Jessica Alba’s.
“They were Jessica Alba’s,” Gimenez said. “I really like her style and what she wears … But in magazines, it’s always the expensive items that are being tagged.”
Gimenez said she had also found it inconvenient to look for an item in a similar style on other fast fashion brand websites or on rival platform Asos, and thought someone had to do something about it.
“That was the beginning of Goxip,” she said. That was also two years ago when she was based in Bangkok and working for Cdiscount, an e-commerce platform launched in 2014.
Gimenez, who was born in France and raised in Hong Kong, first worked as an investment banker after she finished university in the UK where she majored in economics.
“After a few years, I felt that it was not me and that it was not something that I could do forever and so I came back to Hong Kong,” she said.
Back in Hong Kong, she was given the opportunity to manage Caffe Habitu, a local coffee chain, where she learned how to manage a business – from marketing to operations, understanding end consumer experience.
One venture to another
Then on, she moved from one business venture to another.
With friends, she established Ubuyibuy, a platform offering discounts to customers that was acquired by Groupon.
In 2011, she moved to LivingSocial, another platform offering discounts to buyers, and as director of sales, she travelled extensively in Asia to oversee the group’s business in five countries – South Korea, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia.
After two years at LivingSocial, she was appointed director of e-commerce at Thailand’s Big C Supercenter, working from 2013 to 2016 and during the time when the Thais began using smartphones and mobile internet penetration grew exponentially.
The idea of a high-end fashion e-commerce platform started to take shape when she was working at Cdiscount, as she found that brands were reluctant to join the site despite its high traffic volume and a user base of a few million.
“Most of them said to me, ‘hey, Juliette, we really like you as a person, but the site is quite ugly’. So with us and our competitors, there’s a definite disconnect and we were not getting the high-end market because brands did not want to put their products next to infant formulas or diapers,” Gimenez said.
It was a missed opportunity for the platform, she said, as luxury brands were gaining traction in Southeast Asia, thanks to the influence of Korean pop stars, and spending on luxury items was rising.
Goxip first started out by aggregating content from about 50 celebrity magazines from around the world, hence its name. It became popular among Facebook users in the Philippines because of the celebrity news, Gimenez said. It had image-recognition technology then, but the picture quality was not ideal.
In 2016, Gimenez joined the Breakthrough HK competition for unfunded Hong Kong start-ups at the Rise Conference to see if others would like the idea. Unlike other e-commerce sites, Goxip allows buyers to upload images of their desired items and then list down their matches.
The judges liked her idea, and Goxip beat 19 other start-ups in the competition. Soon afterwards, the start-up secured its seed funding from Chryseis Tan, daughter of Malaysian billionaire and founder of Berjaya Corporation Vincent Tan, who invested US$1.62 million in May 2016.
With seed funding secured, Goxip’s next hurdle was convincing luxury brands to sell their ware on the site. After getting its first merchandiser, UK-based retailer MatchesFashion that carries brands like Balenciaga, Gucci, and Dolce & Gabbana, pitching to others became easier.
Gimenez said Goxip’s value was in helping buyers find the same-style items at the cheapest price from its database of 500 merchants with 37,000 brands and six million products.
Avinash Sachdeva, a senior analyst at research and consulting firm Frost & Sullivan said image recognition technology could reduce the overall shopping time and boost overall sales conversion rates.
“Some of the e-comm players have been trying to integrate the technology; however, it will take some more time to come to mainstream e-commerce,” Sachdeva said in an email interview.
Goxip isn’t the only start-up with the technology. Other e-commerce sites that offer visual search tools include Asos and Pinterest, which launched the feature through their apps in 2017.
Market research firm Nielsen said smaller niche players in China were adopting unique business strategies to cater to customers not served by mainstream e-commerce platforms.
Gimenez said she felt that they had made it when Harrods agreed to join the site. Her next goal is to get Gucci to sell directly on Goxip.
“A few years ago, they [Gucci] changed their designer, and the brand has a new look, and they’re not very traditional any more, which is cool and that is why those in their late 20s and early 30s like the brand now.”
In February, Goxip secured an additional US$5 million in funding from a group of investors including Chinese beauty filter app Meitu, Stanley Ho’s daughter Sabrina Ho, and Chryseis Tan. The capital will be used to launch the site in Thailand in April and its influencer marketing campaign in the second quarter of the year.
(The full version of this article is published in the April issue of The Peak magazine, available at selected bookstores)