Thailand has a diverse arts scene brimming with artistic crafts that showcase the Thai street fashion style born from the dreams of young and talented designers who remain passionately respectful of their cultural origins. These fashion-forward products encapsulate a rich history of a proud people and while highly desirable, cannot be found easily outside the kingdom.
In 2017, Singaporeans were fortunate enough to briefly connect with these amazingly talented people when Artbox; Bangkok’s pop-up creative flea market, came to Singapore. For an ephemeral moment, the Bayfront area was transported to the Land of Smiles, as the event spaces turned into a kaleidoscope of stalls manned by passionate Thai people unveiling their vibrant culture through food, trinkets and lifestyle products.
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Posted by ShopJJ on Sunday, April 16, 2017
However, the event drew such huge numbers of Singaporeans that many attendees complained that their experience was less than enjoyable simply due to the overcrowding.
(The Straits Times, 2017)
Instead of squeezing with the crowds at Artbox, we could take a flight to Bangkok and come back looking stunning with their uniquely fashion-forward clothes. While a trip to Bangkok is always a soul-warming experience, how many of us have the time and the money to fly every time we want to purchase more of their street wear? Thankfully with e-commerce, we don’t need to squeeze through crowds or take a flight to gain access to foreign designer products. I had the pleasure of speaking with Mr Michael Ryan Chan; co-founder of ShopJJ, to learn more about how e-commerce is enabling online shoppers to scour local communities from all over the world to discover hidden gems of extraordinarily talented independent designers.
Michael and his fellow co-founders, Mark and Silas, started ShopJJ to shorten the geographical distance between consumers around the world and the gifted but under-the-radar Thai designers. Visit the ShopJJ website to find authentic Thai fashion designer products and pick out something you like, best of all, the product you pick will be shipped directly to your doorstep. No need to fly to Bangkok or contend with the crowds at Artbox.
Trends in the region
One encouraging trend that Michael has observed is the growth in e-commerce users that are not only savvy with buying online but also comfortable buying products online. Platforms like Alibaba and Qoo10 have been a huge force in increasing the trust that consumers have with buying products online and now, online shopping has become commonplace in Singapore. Most notably on Singles’ Day 2017, Singaporeans went on a buying frenzy, with Qoo10 receiving more than 130 orders per minute. Lazada also reported that there were four times as many shoppers on their website within the first hour of the sales compared to 2016 Singles’ Day (The Straits Times, 2017). In 2015, e-commerce accounted for 2.1% of all retail and by 2025, is expected to account for 6.7% and be worth $7.5 billion (Channel News Asia. 2017).
Riding on the trends
As e-commerce gains popularity in Singapore, more Singaporeans will be looking for foreign products and new platforms like ShopJJ which offer niche products that are not easily found on the bigger platforms like Alibaba and Lazada, will have the opportunity to tap on this growing market. Thai products in particular, are of exquisite quality given that Thailand has a proud history of sculpture and craft which has been flourishing since the 13th century. Today’s Thai designers blend respect for the craft, immaculate attention to detail, pride over their heart-work, creativity and passion to craft products with the artistic style of their street fashion while retaining their Thai cultural origins. This defining Thai quality makes their products highly desirable but most of the sellers lack the expertise to bring their products to Singapore. Therefore Michael shared that ShopJJ seeks to connect Singaporeans and others around the world to these talented Thai designers by providing logistics to allow the Thai designers to easily ship their products wherever they are demanded. Additionally, ShopJJ provides expertise in digital content and services to ensure that online shoppers fully appreciate the intricacies of each product from the online listings. For example, ShopJJ provides grain photography and English copywriting to ensure that the Thai products are appealing to online shoppers outside Thailand.
Singapore has become a regional hub for digital creativity; in 2014, around 80% of the work done by the communications sector had a regional scope (The Straits Times, 2014). On the other hand, Michael feels that Thailand offers unique physical creativity, creating exceptional physical products and crafts. Therefore he views the relationship that ShopJJ has with the Thai designers as symbiotic. If the Thais didn’t make such desirable products, ShopJJ cannot exist. Conversely, if Michael and his co-founders didn’t start ShopJJ, the Thai designers may not have much of a future in the fourth industrial revolution.
As an up and coming e-commerce platform selling a niche product, expanding reach is the main challenge for ShopJJ. They have a brilliant product offering, but if Singaporeans are unaware of their platform, the idea; no matter how brilliant will have limited success. As such, Michael shared that ShopJJ will be focusing more on marketing and one of the best ways to expand awareness is by showcasing their products in “artsy” events. For example, ShopJJ will be selling their products in the Light to Night festival at the Padang which is sure to draw Singaporean hipsters, a key market segment that will be most appreciative of quality Thai products.
Helping to establish ShopJJ in Singapore, JTC has provided highly subsidised rental of an office space. As a start-up, costs are a key factor and by subsidising rental, ShopJJ can dedicate more resources into infrastructure development and marketing.
Call to Singaporean companies
Our Senior Minister of State for Law and Finance; Indranee Rajah said that “20 years from now, the way people purchase is very different and by that time online platforms will be mainstays” (The Straits Times, 2017) and as detailed in this article, there is plenty of research to back up her prediction. Singaporean companies need to seize the opportunity by finding their niche in this growing e-commerce market and connect consumers with quality suppliers just as what ShopJJ is doing by connecting Singaporeans and the world to the talented craftsmen of Thailand.
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TODAYonline. (2017). Artbox Singapore implements crowd control measures. [online] Available at: http://www.todayonline.com/lifestyle/artbox-singapore-implements-crowd-control-measures [Accessed 31 Jan. 2018].