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#AsiaeCommerceAwards 2021 spills: Love, Bonito spills the tea on the future of retail

#AsiaeCommerceAwards 2021 spills: Love, Bonito spills the tea on the future of retail

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Love, Bonito was founded in 2010 and has since grown to 250 people strong, the brand said previously. It is headquartered in Singapore with country offices in Indonesia and Malaysia and an omnichannel presence across these three markets. In addition to its retail franchise in Cambodia, it ships internationally to 15 markets including Hong Kong, China, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, the US, Canada and Macau, among others. 

Last April, the fashion brand also promoted Dione Song to CEO, marking its first chief executive since the company's debut. It was also awarded gold for Best eCommerce Campaign – Cross-border / Multi-market at MARKETING-INTERACTIVE's Asia eCommerce Awards 2021. 

In an interview, Vanessa Yeo Barger (pictured), VP of brand at Love, Bonito, told MARKETING-INTERACTIVE that the brand had to tweak its offerings to adapt to consumers' WFH lifestyle during the pandemic. She also shared how the future of retail will be the integration of online and offline shopping, blurring the line between the two.

This interview is done as part of MARKETING-INTERACTIVE’s winners and finalists’ interview series for Asia eCommerce Awards 2021. To find out more about the awards, click here.

What have the past two years been like for you, given the sudden pivot to eCommerce?

Barger: The past two years have definitely been a challenging period for us, but I believe it has also enabled us to emerge stronger as a brand.

Fortunately, as Love, Bonito’s stronghold is in eCommerce, we were able to continue to pivot and meet customer needs even as shopping habits constantly shifted between offline and online due to the ongoing movement restrictions. While we have adopted an omnichannel business strategy for a couple of years, the pandemic further proved the importance of a seamless omnichannel experience for our customers. Hence, we are continuously looking to replicate the benefits of our physical stores online, such as exploring virtual styling sessions and hosting virtual conversations such as our recent International Women’s Day series on social media instead of physical events.

What was one challenge that took you by surprise and how did you pivot?

Barger: The pandemic brought about new trends such as WFH that evolved customer needs. While we initially thought this would be a temporary arrangement, it became gradually clear to us that this global trend is here to stay.

As such, even though workwear was our strong suit, we understood that ladies would be looking for comfortable yet presentable outfits for virtual meetings and naturally, lesser demand for traditional office wear. With such insights, we were able to pivot rather quickly to design and launch new lines amidst the pandemic, featuring evergreen and comfortable pieces like our Staples collection and Loungewear line to accommodate this change in demand.

With markets opening up, what are some trends you have your eyes on?

Barger: With the ease of restrictions, we expect more footfall to our physical stores and with learnings from the pandemic, are also constantly looking at integrating both online and offline channels more cohesively. We believe that the future of retail is not just online or offline, but an integration of both.

We currently have screens in-store to allow shoppers to check for in-store availability of their favourite items or make online purchases after trying them first-hand, and we also have community spaces in stores for hosting immersive brand experiences. With our [email protected] experiential store currently undergoing a refresh, our community can look forward to an enhanced omnichannel shopping experience.

In addition, the team at Love, Bonito is also constantly looking to leverage data insights and machine learning to create more personalised customer experiences, such as individualised recommendations based on their purchase history.

What do you think makes for great marketing these days?

Barger: Being purpose-driven gives us a huge advantage. Today’s consumers are more discerning than ever and we know from our interaction and feedback from customers that a brand’s values matter to them.

It is important to have a thoughtful approach to our purpose and mission and ensure that every move we make, which includes marketing, is aligned with that. For Love, Bonito, that is empowering the everyday Asian woman to be self-confident, and we convey that through the products and experiences that we create for our community.

For instance, when we launched LBCreate, the brand’s social impact arm, we partnered with Mattel for a limited Barbie collection to inspire women to believe in themselves and pursue their limitless potential. We also made a donation to Room to Read, a global charity in support of a world free from illiteracy and gender inequality, to support the education of 100 girls in low-income communities in Asia. This was just one of the many initiatives we did to empower Asian women across the world and we are excited that more of such similar initiatives are in the pipeline!

How do you feel about your win?

Barger: We are extremely thrilled to win Gold for Best eCommerce Campaign – Cross-border/Multi-market at the Asia eCommerce Awards 2021! This award is a testament to the hard work and dedication of #TeamLB. More importantly, we believe we are not just in the business of fashion, but in the business of women, and this win is a pat on the back that we are heading in the right direction in our efforts to champion women.

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