Martell Hardenberg, Co-founder and Managing Director, Lazada

For about two years now, many in Singapore have wondered if Rocket Internet-backed online shopping mall Lazada had forgotten about the city-state.

In March 2012, the website was first launched in all of its five markets — Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines. Singapore waited with bated breath. The months flew by. It didn’t happen. There was no news.

At the media launch today, Maximilian Bittner, CEO, Lazada, talked about the lack of destination websites in Singapore, even with new players like Rakuten in the e-commerce scene. The site is finally live in the country, looking to fill a gap. It also faces competition from sites like Q0010, and Omigo.

The delay in launching Lazada in Singapore can be attributed to the company’s experience dealing with developing markets. A developed market like Singapore comes with its own set of unique challenges, like having to bring in new and interesting brands, rather than just providing convenience to its customers.

Also Read: E-Commerce Infographic: Understanding online shoppers in Malaysia

Currently, there are eight categories available on Lazada Singapore, including health and beauty, mobile and tablets, and watches.

Martell Hardenberg, Co-founder and Managing Director, told e27 that the team is working on bringing the total number of categories to 13 by next week. He added that the fashion category will go live in the third quarter of 2014.

“We’re bringing in brands that are not yet in Singapore,” he said, adding, “In terms of fashion, part of our DNA is fashion as well. Our focus is really lifestyle… and one part of it is fashion.”

With more than 1,700 employees across Southeast Asia, there are about 45 overlooking operations in Singapore.

Marketplace model
Like sister company Zalora, Lazada has implemented a marketplace to provide an even broader array of goods. Out of its entire inventory, 60 per cent comes from its sourcing team, and 40 per cent from its marketplace merchants. “I will not see ourselves becoming a marketplace (entirely),” said Bittner.

While Lazada does not charge merchants a fee for signing up, the firm does take a percentage of every transaction. The percentage, according to Hardenberg, varies according to product categories.

“Our focus is not only on sales, but also the experience sellers have on our platform. For example, having a dedicated Partners Support Centre where sellers can call… Most sellers are keen to explore e-commerce, but they don’t know how,” said Hardenberg. “It takes much more than just opening a website.”

He also concluded that the firm will not require much effort in raising awareness in Singapore. After all, Lazada has been active in the neighbouring countries, having accumulated 79 million page visits in the first quarter of 2014.