This article previously was published in Cross-Border Magazine
Proudly founded in Singapore, HipVan is creating affordable furniture and home decoration for its customers. Inspired by the problem that in Singapore, there were limited furnishing options, high retail mark-ups and (a lot of) low quality products, HipVan seeks to help their customers build a stylish home they will love every day. Currently, HipVan is accessible in Singapore, Malaysia and the United States, focusing mainly on serving the first two markets. Shobhit Datta, co-founder of HipVan, tells us about the challenges they faced.
What are the key drivers in the success of HipVan?
We focus on providing affordable designer furniture for our customers. Previously, designer furniture was often only accessible for the fortunate people. Every day, our hard-working team is doing their very best to make designer furniture more accessible for everybody. One of the ways we decided to do that is by choosing a pure, cost-effective online business. We only work with one Experience Store in Singapore.
What does HipVan do to improve its business?
To improve our business, we focus on multiple things. First is to consistently improve on our designs and to source better products. Our second key factor is the focus on our service levels; when we provide a good service to our customers, they will remain happy. An important aspect of this is optimising our channels and on-site performance to improve conversion rates.
HipVan is expanding internationally, and currently has an online store in Malaysia, Singapore and the United States. What were the cross-border challenges in this expansion?
As furniture is often bulky, and normally requires assembly, our industry faces more logistical challenges than others. With over three thousand designs, it was necessary to establish a presence on the ground and have the resources to assemble furniture in the locations where we sell our products, for example in our current markets.
What are the big differences in selling in these different countries?
In South East Asia, the online consumer is not yet used to buying furniture online. It requires a bond of trust, which we need to establish first, through our customer service. They are the main contact point, alongside the web shop, for our customers and can persuade them to buy online on our shop. They create the bond between web shop and consumer.
Another big difference is how we can set-up our logistics and fulfilment department. Singapore is compact, which makes it easy to serve the whole country. For other countries, expansion will be more deliberate. We will have to take a city-by-city approach to establish our brand and services.
The furniture market hasn’t got the easiest products to ship in general. How does HipVan cope with selling furniture in the logistics department?
In Singapore we have an in-house team that has been especially trained to assemble all kinds of furniture. In other countries we use third-party partners.
How is HipVan expanding into the future?
We will keep on introducing new products, new designer furniture at great value. This way, we are trying to become of even more interest to our customers. Another aspect we are focusing on is more technical; we would like to develop tech features like image search, and also look into AR to make it possible for all our customers to create a beautiful home.
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