Love.PrettyPlus+ was founded in 2013 by Xindy Ng and Raymond Ng with the belief that all plus sized ladies deserve to be pampered with a full range of stylish yet affordable clothing.
Beginning as a blogshop and having a presence on Facebook Live, the duo are no strangers to digital retail. In fact, while many other retailers begin with a brick and mortar store and expand into online channels, Xindy and Raymond have gone the other way, with their physical outlet only opening in 2020 during the pandemic.
Nonetheless, it hasn’t always been straightforward finding business solutions that work best for their company and clients. Currently, they are partnering with SHOPLINE, which has helped streamline their operations through omnichannel retailing.
SMEhorizon spoke to Xindy and Raymond about the digital journey they’ve had with Love.PrettyPlus+, how their partnership with SHOPLINE has worked for them, and the future plans for their business. SHOPLINE’s General Manager Jeff Lim also explains omnichannel retailing and how it can enhance businesses like Love.PrettyPlus+ .
Reaching out via Facebook Live
Love.PrettyPlus+ began in 2012 as a blogshop. Eventually, recounted Xindy, the pair started to look at how they could expand their business, allowing customers to visit their home to try the clothing, and also boosting their presence via social media.
“As many people started using Facebook Live to sell their products, we decided to give it a try as there is no cost incurred,” she recalled. “We started our first Facebook Live to showcase our products to customers and tried to broadcast to more people at once.”
“Overall, we’ve felt that Facebook Live is good in that it allows us to reach out to more people at one go. Instead of just a one-to-one fitting session, we are sharing our products to hundreds of customers at the same time.
“Our viewership increases as we do weekly Facebook Live, and customers are asking us to do more sessions as it’s a new source of entertainment for them. Over time, customers have become more confident about purchasing our products through our live sessions as we can show them the meticulous detail in the products and even have real models to try them on.
“It’s easier for them to visualize as compared to just purchasing through our website,” she said.
Hurdles to digitalisation faced by small business
Despite their business starting off online, expanding it through digital means has often been challenging. Like many other SMEs and startups, they did not feel they had the resources needed to properly digitalise their growing operations.
“We started out really small, issuing handwritten paper receipts to our customers, literally counted our stock on foolscap paper, and was constantly doing stock counts,” said Xindy. “We would have liked to digitalise our operations but the costs are too high for a small business like us. Even setting up a proper website costs easily a four figure sum, which would take us months to earn back.”
At the same time, finding out the best way to do things was a learning process for both Xindy and Raymond. “We were clueless and didn’t have a guide on how a website should be, or how to have a systematic inventory system” shared Xindy.
“The right channels and ways to run our marketing campaign in order to reach out to more customers also took us a long time to find,” she added. “We now believe in running advertisements on Facebook and Instagram but finding the right way within a limited budget makes things even more challenging.”
Streamlining their operations
While Raymond and Xindy have worked with other e-commerce platforms before, certain problems remained. In particular, while Facebook Live was successful in expanding their customer base, it also meant much more work that was, at that point still being done manually.
Raymond shared that it was previously very time consuming to take down the orders from their Facebook Live sessions, consolidate them, bill their customers and then enter the information into their e-commerce platform. On top of that, they would then have to pack and arrange for courier services separately.
Besides being tedious, it was also often a challenge to ensure that the inventories tallied.
According to Jeff, this difficulty is not uncommon for retailers, particularly in the fashion sector. “Products can change hands in seconds, and retailers have a hard time keeping up with their inventory, not to mention responding to enquiries manually across different platforms.”
This is where omnichannel retailing comes in. “The term sounds daunting,” Jeff continued, “but it becomes less so when you realise that it essentially means controlling everything including inventory, payments, owned online channels, physical stores and social media assets, from a single dashboard. Taking this step can reduce manpower costs as well as errors.”
For Love.PrettyPlus+, who had a SHOPLINE representative demonstrate the system and set up a trial account, the benefits have been significant. “We find that it’s so much easier and everything is lined from Facebook Live,” said Raymond. “The customer just needs to key in keywords, products are automatically added into their cart, and the inventory count tallies. Arrangement of courier is integrated as well.”
By streamlining their current operations, it has given them the time and opportunity to think of other ways to connect with their customer base. In particular, Raymond shared that they had always wanted to kick off a membership programme, but their previous e-commerce platform only offered it as an add-on app. “In SHOPLINE, it’s inclusive in the system,” he said.
Staying creative in serving customers
Building on their success, Love.PrettyPlus+ continues to explore ways to help their customers achieve their dream wardrobe. Xindy shared that other aspects of their business they are looking to digitalise include giving customers 360 degree views of their products, and a phone app where customers can view and make purchases easily.
Working with technology has also helped them weather the challenges of the current pandemic, which has been devastating for retailers across all sectors. In particular, Raymond noted the benefits of Facebook Live where they could showcase their products to many customers simultaneously while answering enquiries on the spot and build engagement with customers. Google Advertisements was another digital tool that helped them stand out amongst their competitors and reach the customers interested in their products.
Through his experience working with retailers like Love.PrettyPlus+, Jeff realised that the digital tools that they use can only get a business so far, and it’s really their own that plays a large part in the success.
“Merchants play an important role in differentiating one brand from the next,” he explained. “An inspiring brand story, well-designed catalogues and an understanding of visual merchandising can make a huge difference.”
The role of an e-commerce enabler like SHOPLINE, according to Jeff, is to offer merchants ease and comfort throughout the digitalisation journey.
“It should help them to manage their own sales channels in an organised and cost-efficient way, providing the same benefits of large-scale logistics players and marketplaces without having to work directly with them,” he continued.
In this way, technology partners can prove themselves to be great allies for retailers like Love.PrettyPlus+, as they further their passion of realising every plus sized lady’s dream wardrobe.