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Alibaba urges global brands to ‘digitise’ their entire business ” “Discovery for fashion is going online, where you’re not constrained by having to display the entire catalogue,” David Jou, Pomelo co-founder and CEO, said in an interview last week in Bangkok. “But e-commerce for fashion is plagued by the problem of returns because the clothes don’t fit or they don’t look good. Having the online-to-offline model cuts down returns because the consumer only buys what they have tried on.” Pomelo is part of the wave of companies promoting the so-called online-to-offline commerce, a business strategy to increase the conversion from browsing to buying by blurring the line between online and physical retail. Customers can be drawn from online channels to make purchases in physical stores, or complete their buying online after checking out an item in a bricks-and-mortar space. In China, Alibaba Group, the parent company of the South China Morning Post, has called this strategy New Retail. Its chain of Hema supermarkets, for instance, allows shoppers to place orders online for live seafood ahead of time for pickup or delivery, or to be cooked and consumed on the premises. Amazon has moved to integrate its various online offerings with its network of Whole Foods stores in the US. JD, the Chinese e-commerce operator, led a US$19 million investment round last year into Pomelo, which also counts investors like 500 Startups, Hong Leong Group and Jungle Ventures. JD.com hastens race in Southeast Asia with Google tie-up Pomelo currently has two micro-retail sites in Bangkok, one at Interchange 21 at Asok and the other at All Seasons Place in the central business district. The company has identified 800 locations for potential micro-retail sites in Thailand, which “have to be on your daily path” for convenience, Jou said. In Singapore, the company has previously operated a pop-up store and is now looking for space to open its first site.
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