How This Vietnamese Start-up Brings Luxury to the Emerging Middle Class
leflair doesn’t want to become just a regular online store
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
While working in Vietnam for Lazada more than four years ago, Loic Gautier, the co-founder and CEO of leflair, observed a shift in the rapidly growing middle class: Flush with a higher disposable income, they wanted to buy foreign brands to reflect their new social status, but many of these items still remained out of reach.
“At that time, most [e-commerce] players were focused on delivering the cheapest products by the thousands to reach scale as fast as possible in a race to become Vietnam’s first ‘everything store’,” says Gautier.
But Gautier wanted to do more. He wanted to make foreign brands more affordable and accessible to the country’s emerging middle class.
“Although this consumer segment is mostly present in the two main cities--Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi--almost half of our customers order from outside those two cities, where offline retail is far less developed compared to the political and economical capitals. It means that for them, not only we are making brands more affordable, we are also the nearest source of supply,” he says.
According to Gautier, 30 percent of leflair’s customers spend an average of $100 per month.
“You don’t need to explain a woman why she should buy a Furla bag, especially when this one is 50 percent off,” Gautier says.
Customer service is key
In a luxury marketplace, clients have certain expectations when it comes to customer service.
“We do the extra effort in customer service and all the customer touch points. We make [it a point to develop] a strong brand for leflair and never compromise on the quality of the merchandise we sell in exchange of a short-term push of revenue,” Gautier says.
Since leflair does not purchase the stock of brands upfront, their relationship with them is more of a collaborative one, not just in terms of the selling process, but also in content production and marketing activities.
Gautier says the most successful brands are those that have a consistent strategy. He adds it is important for a brand to understand that it cannot have large amounts sold in a short amount of time. He notes that some degree of compromise is necessary to succeed on the platform.
Though leflair is currently focused on becoming the largest cross-border e-commerce site focused on fashion and beauty brands, Gautier wants to bring this model to other Southeast Asian countries that are in the midst of an economic resurgence as well.
“Any country which sees a large share of its population growing from low to middle income and an increasing demand for higher quality products and international brands is fertile ground for us. 2018 should therefore be the year where we prepare our company for geographical expansion,” he says.