This was a startup that I met back in March at Arabnet, I know that there are a lot of flash sales sites popping up especially in the MENA and I usually steer away from them. But a quick chat with the ladies at their booths changed my initial perception and I asked them if they would answer a couple of questions, and they were nice enough to agree. Below are their answers.
What is Chouchic?
CHOUCHIC.com offers high-end brands, exclusive customer care, and a modern and convenient shopping experience for chouchic members breaking the barrier between in-store retail and on-line shopping dedicated to the Middle East. The website combines discounted luxury items with the ultimate must haves from top international brands introduced daily for a limited time of one week only. Clients can browse over 100 designer collections such as Phillip lim, Versace, Victoria Beckham, Sergio Rossi, Alexander McQueen, Issa London, Bulmarine, Temperly London and many more. Orders are shipped all over the Middle East with a fast free of charge delivery. You can also invite your family and friends and earn $15 chic credit after their first purchase.
Why did Chouchic start?
The initial Idea originated 10 years ago in Paris with French pioneer Vente Privee, and on a later date adapted by Gilt Groupe in the US and many others in Europe. When my partner Sara was living in Europe, having access to flash sale sites made her an addict fast. Once she got accustomed to browsing and purchasing quickly for bargain selected items online, akin to items and deals found in boutiques, it replaced her entire shopping retail experience; there were now sales on the best brands EVERYDAY!
However, these sites had international delivery restrictions, so it was the perfect time to commit to this project and bring the experience of fast, convenient, fashionable discounted luxury to the Middle East. Why wait for 2 weeks to get it from the US when you can get it in 2 days from us?
Where is Chouchic based? And to which markets does it cater?
Chouchic.com is based in Lebanon, however it caters to all the Middle East, primarily Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and UAE.
Who are the key players at Chouchic? When was Chouchic launched?
Sara Darwiche and Dina Azar launched Chouchic.com in Lebanon and the Middle East in September 2011. With combined backgrounds in business and fashion, we were able to bestow this innovative online shopping destination.
How many employees are currently working at Chouchic?
Currently, Chouchic’s team constitutes of 5 employees.
How much was the initial funding and how was it secured?
The project was self-funded with a seed investment of 50K.
What are some of the obstacles that Chouchic faced when securing funding?
When you have an innovative idea with a rapid growth, securing funding is not hard. Even though we are not looking for current funding, we have been approached by several interested investors.
General & Operations:
Can you give us any statics on the number of users and what is the percentage of return visitors?
Chouchic .com has over 5000 registered members. On a daily basis, we have 60% returning visitors and 40% new members.
Why do think people will use Chouchic, What is your favourite feature on the website?
Our Online service provides savvy shoppers with the indulgence of eliminating the challenge of sorting through the items to find the best deals. Our user friendly and luxurious layout provides our members with easy navigation to find the best possible prices on high-end designer brands from their own comfort zone. Moreover, given that humans are visual creatures, we facilitate the customer’s online shopping experience by providing them with high resolution, multi side views photos of every item with the option of enlarging/zooming in and out to ensure they get a feel of the item’s color, fit, and details. Chouchic also arranges for free worldwide delivery; the price displayed on the website is the final prices the customer pays with no additional taxes or delivery charges. We have also ensured an easy, quick, and hassle free registration (easy as 1 2 3); we know how annoying online registration can get with never ending questions.
How does the website generate money?
The website generates money by selling products-designer brands at a discount-just like any brick & mortar store but online.
Have you carried out any marketing? What have you done so far?
Our marketing strategy is heavily driven by Social Media. Our platforms include: Chouchic.com FB page, Twitter account, Youtube channel, and our blog that launched 2 months ago. These channels proved to be highly effective, and resulted in an increase in brand awareness, enhanced consumer loyalty, and most importantly these digital platforms are key catalysts in driving up our sale figures. To keep our members on their toes, we send out email reminders 10 mins before the start of all new sales to keep them updated with our new offerings.
We also developed a series of viral commercials that were shared on Youtube and FB – the videos were very memorable and created a positive buzz around our brand. We tried to keep them short and funny, straight to the point about the 3 main elements a customer would like to delete from his retail shopping experience, and hence the reason why shopping online from your own comfort zone is a must.
Being the first to pioneer an online flash sale-shopping destination in Lebanon is an attention-grabbing topic for many bloggers and magazines. We regularly have interviews, articles, and press releases published either online or in magazines to maintain our presence and develop a top of mind shopping destination.
The Chouchic team has also been active regarding social media conferences. My partner Sara was a panellist during Social Media Week that was held at Silkor headquarters in Dowtown. We also participated in the Arabnet Summit that took place in Habtoor Metropolitan. Chouchic’s presence at these social events helps increase brand awareness about the site and the idea behind it (flash sales). Furthermore, enhancing Chouchic’s network is a vital element in the website’s growth and expansion plans.
What are you planning on doing in the future?
We are planning to maintain, if not increase the fast growth and constant engagement of our fan base on social media. We are also working on an online marketing campaign to spread the reach of Chouchic.com geographically.
What did you find to have the best return and on what basis was it measured? Social, emails, blogs, SEM, SEO and by how much? Any tips for better marketing?
A combination of the above-mentioned tools is considered to be a very effective strategy with the best return since each channel functions differently and has its own target audience. However, I personally believe that FB is the most effective out of all since it ensures the most effective target reach. It keeps users updated and connected and helps in continuous engagement. Attracting more people on FB, many of whom will turn into avid followers and fans, will eventually translate into sales.
We have found Google Analytics as a great tool to track our website and social media activity. We are able to track the origin of login, whether it was direct or indirect through FB, blog, or email links. This analysis helps us focus our marketing efforts in the right and most effective direction. Measuring social media ROI is not only based on dollar amounts; it also includes effective engagement, enriching customer experience, and understanding their needs. Enhancing these 3 mentioned points would eventually increase ROI in the long run.
What should start-ups from the region focus on when marketing their products/services?
A common mistake most start-ups commit is focusing on the design and appeal and forgetting what is really far more important: content. Content should be valuable, precise, and targeted to your specific audience. There is a lot of content out there; you should be smart in providing the exact info that will convince customers and lure them to your product/service and hence seal the deal.
When marketing products/services, one should follow a social media plan that combines a perfect mix amongst all channels such as Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube. Social Media is known as content marketing and hence, start-ups today should primarily focus on their content for the purpose of engaging their fans/followers. Their biggest challenge is to keep their users/fans always engaged and connected to guarantee them as loyal fans and not one-time visitors. To ensure that, they should incorporate attention grabbing posts, quotes, questions, etc that inspire continuous engagement. Moreover, they should always ensure that their posts are authentic, yet personal at the same time to maintain a high sense of liability and interaction.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs in the region?
The right attitude is one of the most important factors in turning your business idea into a reality. There are a lot of great ideas out there, but only a few survive; hard work, enthusiasm, and persistence are key points to make it happen.
Entrepreneurs should also keep in mind that their business plan is merely a hypothesis; changes come along the way and they should be ready to accept them and adapt.
Any plans to expand in the future?
We hope to make Chouchic.com the leading fashion and luxury e-commerce website in the Middle East, up there with Vente Privee and Gilt globally. We are very ambitious with aggressive plans and we want to build a huge member base and expand across various ranges of products.
We wish the ChouChic team the best of luck, and thank them for taking the time to answering our questions. If you’d like to stay updated with the latest startups from the MENA please sign up to receive our newsletter.