Launched in April this year, Hipvan.com is a homegrown online lifestyle products store founded by a team of e-commerce professionals with a love for well-designed products.

The website carries a wide range of goods, from fashion apparel and jewellery; to furniture, home accessories and kitchen items; to facial and body care products.

We felt there was a need for a platform that provides great designer products at the right price in Singapore,” explains co-founder Deborah Wee, “Our goal is to become the preferred  digital platform for designer lifestyle products in Southeast Asia and make designer products accessible to more people.”

Thanks to their industry experience and network, the Hipvan.com team was able to quickly put together the full value chain of e-commerce capabilities, including warehousing, logistics, site development, payment gateway and more, by partnering established service providers.

But as Ms Wee found out, the team’s industry know-how could only take them so far. When it came to selecting the right products, they had little to fall back on.

“In the beginning, all our decisions were gut-driven. And since there was no data, you were never sure what would or would not work,” recalled Ms Wee, “But we knew from the start that building a great brand and company is a journey and not a one-time event, so we focused on getting the right products for the first few months of our operations.” “Now that we have been online for some time, we can start to utilise customer purchase and browsing behaviour and feedback to guide our product selection and other decisions.”

The team relies on a range of data to optimise their decisions on marketing, merchandising and site layout, says co-founder Shobhit Datta. These include services such as Google Analytics and MixPanel, which help to convert raw data into statistical insights for online businesses.

While number crunching is an important source of business intelligence for online retailers, ultimately, Mr Datta believes that keeping customers happy is the best marketing strategy.

“Instead of spending tens of thousands of dollars on online marketing every month, we focus on improving our shopping platform and having products that our customers love,” he shares, “We have been successful with referral marketing, where we offer small credits to existing customers who invite their friends to buy from us. Facebook has also been a great marketing channel.”

As e-commerce continues to grow and take up a growing share of the retail pie worldwide, traditional retailers can no longer ignore this irreversible trend. Instead, they should leverage e-commerce to compete in the global marketplace, points out Mr Datta.

“E-commerce requires substantial investment. Some businesses are better off having their own e-commerce capability but for most SMEs, the answer would be to work with a platform which can aggregate customers for them,” he advises. 

  • E-commerce site is more than a shopfront, payment gateway and fulfilment are critical parts of the value chain
  • Create an enjoyable online shopping experience for customers
  • Provide incentives for customers to invite and refer friends
  • Seek inputs from users on how to improve the online shopping experience