Jakarta. Taking note of sartorial leaders in the United States and Europe, the Indonesian fashion industry is starting to realize the opportunities of e-commerce in high-end design and ready-to-wear retail.
Though the new shopping territory is still largely uncharted in Indonesia, a few product pioneers are already testing out the Internet market.
Their customer base, however, is still several steps behind. Shopping online, from the comfort of home, is not yet seen as an upgrade — or even as an alternative — to shopping in a store.
“In Indonesia, it’s a bit different. People love going to the mall. They like to be seen carrying shopping bags,” said Jo Elaine, editor-in-chief of bobobobo.com. “They like talking to [sales representatives], they like asking questions.”
While fashion e-commerce in the United States uses services such as live chat to communicate with customers, applications such as Blackberry Messenger, Line, and WhatsApp are more commonly used to provide customer service to the Indonesian market.
Five months ago, thedresscodes.com was ready to open its designer dress rental services — online only. But as founder Cindy Mulyasasmita soon realized, her customers preferred to try on and rent the dresses in person, even though the whole process can be done with the click of a mouse.
“I think the biggest challenge is to educate and let people know that shopping online is very convenient,” Cindy said.
As it turned out, a detailed description accompanying product photos from several angles was still not enough for consumers who are used to discovering items for themselves.
Indonesian consumers tend to feel more comfortable talking one-on-one with sales representatives instead of reading ready-written information.
To overcome this obstacle, the pioneers are approaching the new market with a more familiar online vehicle: social media.
Instagram and Facebook are the two most common social media outlets used to reach Indonesian consumers.
Frequently posting on social media is a strategy used by Ethnicity.co.id to gain consumer attention and increase brand recognition. Launched less than a month ago, Ethnicity takes traditional Indonesian patterns and reprints them on modern silhouettes, such as sleeveless tops and light outerwear.
“Our goal is to create simple and practical everyday wear with a touch of Indonesian culture,” Ethnicity’s art director Syarifah Dwi Rahma said.
Ethnicity also uses Indonesian female celebrities as brand representatives to showcase their products to a large following on Instagram.
Cotton Ink, an independent Indonesian womenswear brand — launched in 2008 and considered the first fashion e-commerce producer in Indonesia — takes advantage of all the social networking tools used by their target market.
“Cotton Ink’s customers are avid users of social media and networking sites, and are therefore very tech savvy,” assistant director Elisa Kuswari said .
“We use all means of social media, including Instagram, Blog, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest,” she added.
Each social media outlet is strategized to deliver a different message to followers and customers.
Cotton Ink shares pictures of their products and of people wearing their clothing and accessories on Instagram — but uses Facebook and Twitter to share new product releases and to announce upcoming events.
Andra Alodita, an Indonesian blogger and fashion enthusiast, discovered bobobobo.com, which features Indonesian designers and artisans who produce limited, unique products, through Instagram.
“I saw a friend post about Bobobobo and I followed them, and then I started browsing,” Andra said.
Jo noticed a difference in Bobobobo’s customers on Facebook and their customers on Instagram. The former tend to buy more affordable items, while the latter seek out more expensive specialty items. Jo is therefore not hesitant to present items with a higher price tag.
“You kind of assume that the market is relatively sophisticated,” Jo said.
Using a credit card for online purchases is a practice that still makes many Indonesians feel uncomfortable.
Most customers would rather go to the store to and use their credit card in person instead of typing in the info online.
As Andra explained on her blog, she chose to make her purchase at Bobobobo by bank transfer because it made her feel safer than using a card.
As for shipping, JNE has proven to be a reliable courier for delivery in Indonesia as Bobobobo, Dresscodes, Ethnicity, and Cotton Ink all use their services.
Andra received her purchases less than 24 hours after placing her order on Bobobobo because the warehouse is in the same city as her home.
This convenience, along with high quality products and sustainable packaging, made her want to continue shopping online at Bobobobo.
She finds the user-friendly website of Bobobobo to be attractive and exclusive.
“I feel like I’m shopping in a boutique — only, it’s online,” Andra said.
“There should be more high-end fashion e-commerce like Bobobobo,” Andra continued, adding, “I’m honestly too lazy to shop in stores. E-commerce puts me more at ease because there aren’t any distractions.”
Although Bobobobo doesn’t target an international market, orders are nevertheless coming in from abroad.
The nature of e-commerce renders distance a non-issue, so people overseas can find and purchase Indonesian products just as easily as domestic customers.
That is one of the reasons that Ethnicity decided to go into e-commerce prior to developing a brick-and-mortar storefront.
In addition to the aim of a smaller investment, the newly launched brand also has the overarching goal of reaching a global market.
“I want people around the world to wear ethnic Indonesian clothes on a daily basis,” Syarifah said, “going to the mall or traveling, without consciously realizing that they’re wearing a part of Indonesia’s culture.”
Although the online Indonesian retail is still new enough that Ethnicity, Bobobobo, Cotton Ink, and Dresscodes have a corner on the market, the competition is starting to pick up.
“We are constantly challenged by the birth and growth of more online fashion brands in Indonesia,” Elisa said.
“The more players there are, the more the customers and audience realize that this is something they should pay attention to,” Jo said. 
Indonesia’s Fashion Ecommerce Startup Sale Stock Raises $27 Mn Series B Funding
Indonesia-based fashion ecommerce startup Sale Stock has raised $27 Mn in Series B in a round led by VC firm Gobi Partners. Other investors Alpha JWC Ventures, Convergence Ventures, KIP, MNC and SMDV also participated in the funding round.
Commenting on the funding, Sale Stock co-founder Lingga Madu said that the newly raised funds will be used for strengthening the company’s market position and to step towards profitability.
In the Indonesian startup ecosystem Sale Stock is considered to be a media shy firm, as it hasn’t yet shared any information regarding the previous fundraising. However, it is listed as a portfolio company of Ardent Ventures, which has now merged with Wavemaker.
The startup began operations in 2014. Apart from Lingga Madu, his wife Ariza Novianti is a founding member of the startup. Other co-founders are Stanislaus Tandelilin, Ivan Samuel Heydemans and Listiarso Wastuargo.
Sale Stock offers fashion ecommerce for women through the web, mobile applications, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, LINE, Direct Message on Instagram, to BBM chat app. The company has a ‘no discount policy’ but compared to its Indonesian counterparts, the prices of the SKUs are less expensive. The startup claims to manage low prices by eliminating middlemen, cutting overhead costs and focussing on online sales.
In September 2016, Sale Stock had laid off a major portion of its workforce. The move came despite claims of achieving 25% growth within 18 months of operations. Despite the layoffs, SaleStock secured the top spot in the Indonesia’s best startup-to-work-for list released by online job-seekers community platform Jobplanet in December 2016.
Indonesia with a population of 250 Mn has huge potential as far as ecommerce and fashion ecommerce is concerned. Also, with a global increase in smartphone usage, the country’s mobile-first economy offers elevated opportunities for growth. Data shows that 64% of Indonesia’s 100 Mn internet users prefer mobile over desktops for shopping.
As per a Google consumer survey, an estimated 7.4 Mn people shopped online in 2015, resulting in sales of around $3.6 Bn. By 2020 Indonesia’s e-market is reportedly valued to grow to $130 Bn. Other startups in the fashion ecommerce space in Indonesia apart from Stock Sale include Berrybenka, Zalora, Tokopedia and MatahariStore among others. With the recent fundraise Sale Stock will look to strengthen its technology platform. It may also look to recover losses resulting from low-margin offerings on its fashion ecommerce venture.