What occurred to S’pore’s pioneer e-commerce website?


Before the rise of Shopee, Lazada, and Qoo10, most Singaporeans shopped on Taobao.

However, shopping on Taobao was cumbersome. That was until Ezbuy, formerly 65daigou, showed up and solved all the Singapore’s logistic problems.

Founded in 2010, Ezbuy is Singapore’s largest global online shopping platform and market leader in cross-border e-commerce in Southeast Asia.

It connects consumers with top brands and sellers from China, the US, Korea, Taiwan and local brands on popular shopping sites like Taobao and Amazon through its global marketplace.

Consumers buying goods from Taobao. support

Ezbuy’s website UI in 2016 / Photo credit: Vanilla Pup

For the stranger, Taobao is a Chinese consumer-to-consumer (C2C) and business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce marketplace founded by the Alibaba Group in 2003.

It provides a platform for individuals and small business owners to sell their products online through their own “stores”. There is also a marketplace for individuals and small and medium businesses and Tmall (also Tmall Global) for medium to large businesses.

Taobao is often referred to as “the Amazon of China” as there is a huge amount of products and sales available every day.

According to Statista, the gross product value (GMV) processed on Taobao for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2020 was approximately 3.39 trillion yuan ($ 711 billion).

Although the benefits of Taobao were enormous at the time, many Singaporeans faced challenges when shopping on the site due to language barriers and other logistical issues.

Ezbuy stepped in to provide Singaporeans with a quick and easy way to buy everything they needed from the Chinese e-commerce giant.

The model was simple and effective: customers placed orders through Ezbuy’s website or app, bought from Taobao, and shipped the goods to the customer. In fact, many Singaporeans remember going to an Ezbuy collection point or picking up their Ezbuy packages from a truck parked on their empty decks.

Ezbuy collection truckPhoto credit: The Low Down

Customers had to pay an agent fee for the service, based on the total value of the products purchased plus the international shipping fee.

The rates ranged from four to eight percent for different membership levels. Occasionally, the brand ran promotions that removed membership fees.

While not the only player in the country, Ezbuy was one of the first to adopt an English user interface, which dramatically expanded audiences to include the local population and fueled its rapid growth.

Acquisition by LightInTheBox

According to Crunchbase data, Ezbuy raised $ 20 million ($ 27.12 million) to help fund the Series B. Two years later, she raised an additional $ 17.6 million (SGD 23.87 million) in Series C funding.

Ezbuy funding Ezbuy funding information / screenshot from Crunchbase

Shortly after its Series C funding, US-listed Chinese online retailer LightInTheBox acquired Ezbuy for nearly $ 86 million ($ 116.63 million).

Founded in 2007, LightInTheBox sources products directly from China-based manufacturers and sells them to online shoppers around the world.

In a November 8, 2018 press release announcing the “definitive agreement to acquire” Ezbuy, LITB said, “Both companies will work together to maximize the business synergies created to capitalize on opportunities to expand their businesses . “

Another condition for completing the acquisition was the appointment of ezbuy’s co-founder and CEO He Jian as CEO of LITB.

In an interview with Vulcan Post in 2018, Wendy Liu, CEO of Ezbuy in Singapore, made it clear that despite the takeover, “both companies operate separately” and that there are no changes to the team or operations.

She confirmed that LITB sellers and distributors can also sell on ezbuy and that buyers from Singapore and Southeast Asia can buy LITB products on ezbuy.

“Ezbuy and LITB will share the sellers’ resources. As a result of this agreement, ezbuy and LITB customers can enjoy more product variants, ”she added.

At the time, it also seemed that Ezbuy was not doing well and his performance was deteriorating.

The gradual decline of Ezbuy

ezbuy singapore acquisitionImage source: SingSaver

According to a 2018 report by venture builder Momentum Works, Ezbuy has left quite a number of employees – from Alibaba and Rocket Internet – in a short period of time

In 2017, Ezbuy founder He Jian waged a war of words with Alibaba’s founder and President Jack Ma, accusing the e-commerce giant of “bullying” after more than a thousand accounts at ezbuy were frozen.

Ezbuy had issued a letter on December 8, 2017, explaining how over 300 shopping accounts used to place orders on Taobao were faced with technical limitations this month.

Ezbuy press release 2017A press release from Ezbuy to customers dated December 8, 2017 / Photo credit: The Low Down

In response, the Alibaba Group issued a statement stating that Ezbuy’s act of creating accounts to buy and resell items from Taobao was an act of scalping. This had disrupted an estimated 30,000 orders.

However, prior to Ezbuy’s clash with Taobao, its performance in the region was already in decline. Figures from regional online shopping comparison website iPrice show that Ezbuy was the third largest e-commerce player in Singapore in the third quarter of 2017, with 2.3 million monthly visits behind Qoo10 and Lazada.

Wendy also shared in a 2018 interview with Channel News Asia that Ezbuy was not profitable after eight years of operation.

year Ranking in Singapore Monthly web visits
Q3 2017 3rd 2.3 million
Q3 2018 4th 1.7 million
Q3 2019 4th 1.3 million
3rd quarter 2020 5. 1.5 million
Q1 2021 5. 1.07 million

Ezbuys ranking in Singapore and monthly web visits / statistics from iPrice

In the third quarter of 2018, it had fallen to fourth place in the country with 1.7 million monthly visits. In the first quarter of 2021, Ezbuy ranked fifth in Singapore with just 1.07 million monthly visits.

By comparison, Shopee had over 12 million monthly visits in the first quarter of 2021, while Lazada and Amazon had seven and six million, respectively.

What caused Ezbuys problems?

First, Ezbuy’s Daigou business model isn’t as scalable as the marketplace model that ecommerce platforms like Shopee and Lazada use. Daigou is a form of replacement shopping in China to get goods through third party platforms like Ezbuy.

While the model worked in the early days of the Singapore e-commerce scene, the rise of rivals like Lazada and Shopee has undermined Ezbuy’s competitive advantage.

While Taobao still presents itself as a cheaper alternative for Singaporeans, Shopee and Lazada still offer a wide range of products at similar costs.

The Daigou model has also created an excessive reliance on its ability to continuously buy directly from the platforms of Chinese marketplaces such as Taobao. This proved extremely destructive when Taobao simply put the Ezbuy buyers’ accounts on hold.

An alternative could have been to build its technological capacity so that it can have a platform that is completely independent of many marketplaces.

Next, a TechInAsia article published in 2018 highlights that Ezbuy hasn’t done enough outside of Singapore, stating, “The story of Ezbuy is Southeast Asia. However, he never managed to expand outside of Singapore. “

It is unclear how large Ezbuy’s target market is. In a pre-acquisition interview with Vulcan Post, Wendy mentioned that Ezbuy has over three million customers. However, a quick search on the Ezbuy website reveals that the number has stayed the same.

SimilarWeb data also shows that 96.8 percent of Ezbuy web visitors are from Singapore.

What’s next with Ezbuy?

Ezbuy SingaporeImage source: Ezbuy

Ultimately, Ezbuy still has a valuable Singaporean consumer base that it can benefit from when used properly. According to SimilarWeb, it had 1.18 million visitors to its site in June 2021, 96.8 percent of them from Singapore.

It is therefore still possible for Ezbuy to further develop its business model in order to also attract sellers on its platform.

It can also take a sheet from Shopee and Lazada’s books. Both platforms have done well in engaging users on their websites. From catchy jingles to in-app entertainment to games, Shopee has used many tactics to get customers to come back.

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the opportunities that lie in Singapore’s e-commerce sector. As Singapore’s ecommerce industry continues to grow, Ezbuy can tap into emerging trends to make a comeback rather than dwelling as a forgotten ecommerce site.

Highlighted Image Source: Ezbuy




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