With high property prices in Hong Kong – which show no sign of decreasing – and with landlords increasing rents as soon as they see how profitable your company is, businesses are starting to move away from the traditional way of selling products and services in a store.
Instead, they are looking towards delivering these products and services to you online.
Imagine being able to curtail expensive overhead costs such as rent, renovations, supplies and large inventory – and how much money that would save a business that is just starting out, as well as in the long run?
I started my own on-demand and on-location beauty company, Sponge, after realising upon moving from New York to Hong Kong that paying high rent for a salon or spa space in the city puts you 100 steps behind before you’ve even started.
Instead, Sponge conveniently sends beauty professionals to your home or another location of your choice at the click of a button.
Appointments are listed, booked and paid for online.
It seems I’m not the only one to have realised that this is the way forward.
A post shared by BYDEAU (@givebydeau) on Jun 21, 2018 at 6:40pm PDT
Take Bydeau, an on-demand flower and gift delivery service.
Its founder Jennifer Margolin combines the traditional industry of florists and gifts, with the modern conveniences of mobile ordering and on-demand delivery.
“We do not have a physical retail store,” Margolin says.
“The flowers and gifts we offer are a curated selection and are always on-trend and in-season.
“By not having a physical shop and offering limited but seasonal options, it helps us to be more thoughtful with our inventory.
“We do not need to order a bunch of flowers and gifts to fill a retail location and hope they sell.”
She says: “By not having a physical location and by using data to order inventory, we can cut down on wastage – which is eco-friendly – and we save money by not throwing away unsold inventory.”
We have also become increasingly used to getting things now – and from anywhere in the world.
We click on a website and within a few milliseconds we have access to information, products and services that someone 10 years ago could not have imagined having access to.
The increasing demand for convenience has pushed companies to rethink their business models and mould them to our fast-paced lives.
“Millennials are an important group for all Hong Kong businesses to target and it is no surprise that technology plays an important role in their lives,” says Fanny Moizant, co-founder of the pre-owned fashion reseller, Vestiaire Collective.
“We live in a connected world and the millennials are really fuelling this need and desire for us to stay connected 24/7.
“So Hong Kong businesses are definitely capitalising on this trend in any way possible.”
Vestiaire Collective’s online global marketplace for premium and luxury pre-owned fashion items has seven million members.
It makes shopping easy through a personalised and streamlined process that is accessible anywhere in the world.
“We wanted to tap into the convenience of being able to buy or sell from anywhere in the world, at any time, and gather a global audience of fashion addicts,” Moizant says.
“Digital answers to the consumers’ lack of time and addresses our desire to shop within an environment that is 100 per cent tailor-made.
“The use of tools like filters and alerts allow us to receive only information that we want.
“Through Vestiaire Collective, women can shop [for] each other’s wardrobes no matter where they are in the world – from Paris to LA, New York to Hong Kong.”
The team at OnTheList, which offers members-only weekly flash sales in Hong Kong – where premium brands offer items from past-seasons at exclusive prices – has a showroom in Central and has started to explore using e-commerce flash sales.
Co-founder Delphine Lefay thinks there is an increasing demand and expectation from customers to be able to shop through multiple touch points.
“Businesses are definitely progressing towards omnichannel retailing through aligning physical and online stores, as well as mobile apps,” Lefay says.
“With the digital revolution expanding its footprint in retail, a huge part of a brand’s success depends on how fast and well they are able to adapt.”
Some businesses have seen additional benefits to offering products and services online, including increased exposure.
Kotur is a celebrity-loved line of clutches and minaudières – small decorative handbags without straps or a handle – that is often spotted on the red carpet.
Its founder, Fiona Kotur, started selling her line of products through retailers including Bergdorf Goodman, Harvey Nichols, Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus in 2005.
She then added a Kotur e-commerce platform in 2010.
“We were surprised by the success of our online business even back then, and went on to focus sales primarily on our website, and a few select others, including Moda Operandi and Net-a-Porter,” Kotur says.
“The move to online was a logical evolution when our bricks and mortar retailers started developing their own online businesses and started benefiting from double the exposure.”
Kotur says she has seen an evolution in the way Hong Kong brands operate.
They now launch with an e-commerce platform as opposed to a store, and participate in the occasional pop-up or trunk sale.
“Hong Kong shoppers are increasingly open to online shopping,” she says.