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Showpo looks to US opportunity

Showpo Jane LuOnline fashion retailer Showpo is preparing to build up its international business in 2018 as competition within Australia’s fast-growing e-commerce market intensifies.

The retailer is working on launching three-hour delivery, based out of Los Angeles, California, in a bid to match local competitors, while its influential social-media assets will be increasingly directed at driving business in the states.

Founder and CEO Jane Lu signalled the investment in an interview with Internet Retailing, saying that initial tests last year had been encouraging, prompting the creation of a comprehensive product, marketing and logistics strategy.

“The market is huge and it’s about trying to trace back what we’ve done well here and do it overseas,” Lu said.

Founded in 2010 out of Lu’s garage, Showpo has grown to become one of the largest online fashion retailers in Australia, turning over more than $30 million last year with a team of over 40.

But as established competitors begin to invest more heavily in digital platforms to capitalise on double-digit growth in online shopping, cross-border e-commerce is becoming a bigger priority for the business.

Lu believes the business could become even larger overseas than at home in the coming years if its range of internally designed garments are a hit with American shoppers.

There are no immediate plans to open an office in LA though, Lu said she doesn’t want to move to the US and will instead look to do the best they can remotely.

“Not having people over there makes it harder…[but] Showpo is a big lifestyle business for me, it’s about what I’m getting out of it and I personally don’t want to move over there,” Lu said.

Showpo isn’t the only Australian online retailer looking overseas this year, with wine e-tailer Vinomofo targeting a US launch in the next few months.

National Online Retailers Association executive director Paul Greenberg believes the investment reflects a growing desire from prominent e-commerce businesses to expand their horizons past the limitations of Australia’s relatively small population.

“There’s a massive opportunity in a flat world, in Australia with 20 million shoppers we have to be careful…but the big opportunity for a lot of e-tailers is international, cross border trade and going global will be big this year,” he explained.

At home Showpo intends to step up its investment in its product range this year, stepping up efforts to expand its SKU count in a bid to reach more customers.

Lu said competition in Australia’s online fashion market was intensifying, but that ultimately Showpo remains well poised against players like Amazon because it designs its own products and commands a loyal following.

Showpo currently has more than 1.3 million followers on Instagram and 1.1 million Facebook likes, two channels which have become central marketing channels for the business.

In Australia, Showpo has plans to launch a three-hour delivery offer as a premium service in 2018 as a growing number of its peers, including bricks-and-mortar player Cue, move on faster fulfilment.

But when asked whether increasing digital competition from bricks-and-mortar retailers was on her mind for the year ahead, Lu said she hadn’t noticed any change.

“I personally don’t pay too much attention to it, I hate going into bricks-and-mortar stores myself, so I don’t really look at competition that much,” she said.

Ultimately, according to Lu, services like free returns and fast shipping will remain less important than product, the area that she said Showpo will continue to invest most heavily in.

“There’s only so much you can do with your offer in terms of shipping and returns, at the end of the day it’s all about the product,” Lue explained.

“That’s where the future of our growth is, we’re always going to be racing just so we can keep up with micro trends.”

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