2023: I no longer hold a similar view today as I did in 2017, which is my thoughts as below. Since 2017, much has changed in the e-commerce industry, and in the reliability and setup of such portals like Lazada and Shopee, which now form a significant backbone of e-commerce in Malaysia. There are differing opinions on whether discounts ‘cheapen’ a brand, but as a commentator has pointed out, quite correctly, it is ultimately the consumer’s choice, and it is no place for me (or anyone) to gatekeep the accessibility of brands. It is better that they get such a discount from the official brand, as opposed to buying from other, potentially unreliable, sellers. The e-commerce landscape in Malaysia is quite different today than it was back in 2017 – and it is a far better place today than it was back then, both for sellers and buyers.
We had a long weekend here in Malaysia, and I’d spent a pretty packed few days wrestling with little monsters, so come Sunday, I was flat out of energy, and hiding in my cave. Quite literally. I spent most of the day lounging on my couch, catching up on blog reading (never let your unread posts build up in your feed reader past 500!), content in the knowledge that I’d had the prescience to write and schedule a blog post for today. Yay me!
The rest of the day was scheduled for mindless TV watching, with occasional trips to the fridge, and maybe to fix myself a meal. That was until I scanned Twitter in the afternoon, and came across a tweet that incensed me so greatly, I was galvanised into action, to fire up the computer, and to boot off my scheduled blog post to publish this rant instead.
I’d read that Clinique Malaysia has only just gone and launched an “Official Flagship Store” on local shopping portal, Lazada. My tweet, with its typo and all (It should read “My estimation of Clinique has dropped even further” – Ben had nothing to do with it, sorry Ben LOL 😀 ) pretty much sums up what I feel about this piece of news.
But I am curious as to what YOU might think. Is this a welcome piece of news for you? Does this irritate you as much as it does me (I’m often in the minority in my opinion of this, I’m aware)? Or do you not care because online shopping isn’t your thing? Let me know! (It’s OK not to agree with me 😀 )
I am an avid online shopper. But I am a very wary shopper, who treads very carefully. Unlike many people, I am very open to buying my cosmetics online. Often, without having first had a look or sniff at them. I buy makeup without swatching and I buy skincare without testing, relying primarily on blogs to give me a rough idea of what to expect.
But I am very careful about where I shop. If I can buy from the brand directly, I do so. If shipping costs or restrictions do not permit, I turn to reputable online stores, or online department stores to hook me up. The one place I do not turn to for my beauty purchases is Lazada.
The reason is simple. I don’t trust them when it comes to products I ingest, whether through my skin or orally. I won’t buy food or drink, and by the same token, I will not buy cosmetics. Lazada is kind of like Amazon. A virtual marketplace where sellers can hawk their wares, with logistics being taken care of by Lazada. Authenticity is always an issue and so is product integrity.
You just have to do a quick search on Lazada to see what I mean. By way of example, I’ve done a search on one of my favourite products from Clinique – the Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm.
You can see that there are over 500 items found for this search alone (not all of it specific), which I intentionally made very narrow. The first item is, from what I can tell, from the official Clinique store on Lazada, as there is a logo (which is easy to overlook). But I invite you to look at the range of prices of the various products. Every single item displayed on there is significantly CHEAPER than the official product. They do state that they are shipped from overseas, but for some people, that does not matter. It doesn’t matter to me, if I can save almost HALF the price. I can wait.
“Ah, but is it authentic?” You may say. Well, to be very honest, authenticity is not something that many people lay great score by. I’m just speaking the truth, for otherwise fake goods will not proliferate. For those of us for whom it matters, we won’t be on Lazada looking for “beauty deals”. We’d be on legitimate, reputable websites, snapping up their deals or getting gift with purchases. We’d be on Sephora (as much as I have my beef with them), and we’d be on the OFFICIAL CLINIQUE MALAYSIA WEBSITE! Yes, Clinique has their own website. Are you surprised?
This is the Clinique Malaysia website.
I’d actually bought from the Clinique website before, and if I’m to be honest, it was not the snappiest purchase I’d ever made. It took 3-4 days to arrive, which for me is unacceptable when you have to a) pay for shipping and b) deliver within a 20km radius. I do not know if they have improved in recent times, as I’d stopped using most Clinique skincare products for a while until the Moisture Surge Supercharged Concentrate earlier this year, that I particularly enjoy using. In a way, I sort of outgrew the brand, although their makeup seems to be improving and still interests me. But that’s a different story. But in terms of my purchase, I knew where I was buying from, who was the seller, and more importantly, who I can hold accountable if something goes wrong with my purchase.
What then pisses me off, is that a brand like Clinique would rather outsource their “Official Flagship Store”, as they call it, to a third party website, lose their branding and to customers like me, their credibility, instead of improving on their own website and delivery. I’d expect them to make their own website the flagship store. Isn’t that what it means? A “flagship store” is your primary location, your lead store, your first port of call, as it were. To let go of that, to a third party, when you have your own store on the internet, is mind-boggling to me, from a branding perspective.
What is interesting to me, is that I’d spoken to a few people in recent weeks, who told me that many brands were doing this i.e. using Lazada or 11Street (which I cannot stand! Don’t get me started on them) as their “Official Webstore” due to logistics. They don’t want to set up a department for digital marketing, or a team to handle their online store because of costs. They would rather pay someone else to do it for them, and leverage off their resources and logistics.
Enter Lazada, and in a smaller scale, 11 Street (A website I cannot understand, that is a mess and that I refuse to buy from after 1 experience. It was just toilet paper. You’d think it would be painless 😛 ).
This issue of logistics, and manpower is, I believe, why I’m starting to see more than a few beauty brands setting up “Official Stores” on platforms like Lazada and 11Street – Clinique now has it, Benefit is the other, and I see brands like Origins and Laneige on there. On 11Street, I see more of the smaller Korean brands – Mamonde, Innisfreee etc. Personally, I feel this move is a cheapening of the brand, and a watering down of the goodwill the brand name carries.
Everyone who has ever shopped at Lazada or 11street knows that you never pay full price there. There is always a discount code you can use, or discounts tied to credit cards, and prices on Lazada are always marked down. You’d be pretty much a fool to pay retail prices when shopping at Lazada. No one does! My example of a search on Clinique products on Lazada is proof. Why pay full price, when you can save 40%? Clinique has in essence, put themselves in direct competition with the grey market. It’s like they have set up stall in the pasar malam, thinking that their name alone will save the day and bring in the sales.
And that disappoints me.
Clinique has counters in department stores, and they even have their own stores in high-end malls. They have their own website, and are sold in Sephora, which has credibility and a certain status. Clinique is not a very expensive brand, but they are reputable, effective and has a certain standing in the beauty scene.
This is not a brand I associate with having a booth at a marketplace bazaar, which is what having an “Official Flagship Store” on Lazada really means. This is not a brand I expect to have people sidle up to and ask “Eh, got discount ah?” which is what selling on Lazada really means. This is not a brand I’d expect to trumpet “Buy our products on Lazada! We even have a sticker to show you it’s authentic!”. Why are they advertising for Lazada and boosting their popularity instead of trumpeting their own website and their own deals, without even having to mention authenticity because that’s a given?
Why should they do that? Why should they, or any brand for that matter, take to a platform where authenticity of product is questionable, to boast about their authenticity, if you buy at a higher price. Why don’t they just concentrate on their own website, or perhaps, if they’re lazy, leverage on more reputable platforms?
Lazada is where I’d go to buy a cheap gadget that I expect to fall apart after 2 uses, and am pleasantly surprised when it does not. It is where I’d go to buy a random item that does not cost very much money. It is not where I’d drop more than RM100 at. And Lazada is where I will NEVER EVER pay full price.
I’m sorry Clinique, Origins, Laneige et al, you have totally lost me with your strategy. Is it a millennial thing again? Do they think Lazada is where the millennials hang out? Millennials get a lot of flack, but they are not dumb. Given a choice, I’m quite sure anyone who actually cares about beauty, would buy their beauty products on the official website. Those who would buy from Lazada don’t really care. They are just there to score a deal, and in this instance, Clinique products from the “Official Flagship Store” are not a deal.
The only good thing is, you’d probably get a discount buying on Lazada thanks to the numerous discount codes available. In the long term, I feel it will destroy the brand from a credibility standpoint, once people are used to buying at a discount. But in the short term, perhaps they feel it’ll bring in more sales. It just won’t be from me, and frankly, I’m so disppointed in them. I feel like I’m being insulted by the brand for actually thinking their brand stands for something. But perhaps, this is a clear reflection that I am no longer their target market 🙂
What say you? Have you seen these Official Stores on Lazada and have you bought anything or have been moved to?
Will we start seeing flagship brands like Estee Lauder, La Mer, Lancome or Kiehl’s appear on Lazada in future too? If they do, I’d likely stop using and buying from them altogether!