Who needs one hour delivery when you can have it in two to four weeks?

 

A growing ecommerce trend I’ve been seeing in the last several months that is beginning to get real momentum is the ability to buy direct from overseas (mainly China) through the online marketplaces. Some of the more interesting sites to take a look at are “Light In The Box” and, more recently “Wish”. Plus, as the big international players like Alibaba, through their “11 Main” website and Rakuten through “Rakuten.com” (formery Buy.com) establish themselves more and more in the US as competitors to Amazon’s marketplace and eBay, Don’t be surprised to see more direct-from-China offerings appear on their sites as well. 

 

So, in the middle of all the investment in ship-from-store, Prime-Now, same day courier delivery, Uber-type same day services….here comes this niche business developing that has the entirely opposite appeal. That is, “I’m willing to wait a couple of weeks and can get along without it for a while just fine, if I can get what I want dirt cheap and at a fraction of the cost”. Crazy idea? Not exactly. Light in the Box for example has tens of thousands of sku’s across 16 categories, all shipped from China. Wish.com has taken a “mobile first” approach to their business, creating it as a mobile app. If you ignore the unusual (for lack of a better word) product assortment from Wish, and if you ignore their cheesy email campaigns, this might be one of the best designed mobile shopping experiences out there. The mobile app is actually fun to use and easy to transact from your mobile phone. They also happen to do a nice job of personalization as they get to know you and learn your shopping habits. 

 

Here’s my most recent personal example of buy direct from China: I thought it might be a good idea to have a spare iPhone 6 cable, given how they sometimes fray, but balked at the $20-$30 price at Apple. So I opted to try Wish. Paid $2 for the longer length ($30 size) and I even had a choice of colors rather than white-only. (I opted for UNT Mean Green). Three weeks later… voila! 

 

One pleasant surprise I had shopping the ship-from-China websites was no counterfeit goods! I am sure they are out there, but the legitimate marketplace sites seem to be doing a good job of filtering out counterfeit goods. Mainly what I am seeing are non-branded goods. 

 

So what does this trend mean to retailers? To me this is another good example of the need for retailers to have unique product offerings and unique customer experiences. Otherwise, you are a commodity business and price becomes the lowest common denominator. And once you are down to price, there will always be a cheaper alternative…. Even if it means waiting a couple of weeks for that parcel to arrive from China! 

 

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