網路T恤的後戰國時代

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2013 / 2月

文‧林欣靜 圖‧楊文卿


哪一類的服飾最好賣?答案是貌不驚人的T恤。因為它的單價低、搭配性強、男女老少皆宜,粗估台灣每年商機高達新台幣數十億元。

 

T恤也是最容易在虛擬網路世界集聚人氣的商品,相較於實體店面,電腦螢幕更可將T恤豐富的色彩及圖樣完整呈現。因此T恤近幾年已成為競爭最激烈的網購商品之一,目前至少有數十家網路自營品牌投入市場。他們堅持「MIT」的原創設計、強調限時限量的「絕版行銷」,已成功將平凡無奇的棉質T恤,變身人人爭搶的平價潮T。


網站左上角高掛著鮮明的計時顯示器,彷彿正在嘲笑自己的猶豫不決;隨著一分一秒地倒數催促,原本「再買就要斬手指」的堅定意志,也在不知不覺間鬆動瓦解;最後,終於再度按下結帳選項。

製造稀有感的消費心理

這個會讓人手指頭不聽使喚的購物網站,是主打T恤的本土網路服飾品牌「敗衣網」。

2012年6月才上線的敗衣網,雖然起步較晚,商品類型也不多,但短短半年內已賣出八萬多件T恤,營業額超過新台幣4,000萬元。

在賣家與商店早已多不勝數的網購成衣市場,新進業者闖出這樣的成績實屬不易。敗衣網能殺出血路,得歸功於獨門的「逆轉流程」營運控管,以及運用斗大計時器營造「今天不買,明天就沒有」的搶購氛圍。

何謂「逆轉流程」?一般賣服飾的原則是「設計、生產、上架、販售」,敗衣網卻將其改成「設計、上架、販售、生產」。換句話說,消費者下單購買後得等整整14天的生產期才能拿到商品。

讓消費者心甘情願等待的關鍵,並非其他網路業者慣用的折扣戰,而是限時搶購、絕版行銷創造的附加價值;敗衣網上線初期,每天只上架一款T恤,並限時24小時搶購。目前雖然在消費者的強烈要求下,將開賣期延長為5天,但仍堅守時間一到立即下架、絕不再版的原則。

訂購T恤的消費者,還會收到一張特製的絕版證明,明確告知你這件衣服總計賣出多少件,大大提升商品的稀有感,深受害怕「撞衫」的年輕消費者歡迎。

避免囤貨風險的逆轉機制

敗衣網的經營者頗具名氣,他們是前幾年曾創辦知名社群網站「地圖日記」的網路金童郭書齊、郭家齊兄弟。他們為何又再度投入網路創業?

37歲、畢業於中興大學法商學院企管系的郭書齊指出,2008年擊敗全球76家網路新創公司、榮獲美國矽谷Demo秀「最佳人氣獎」的「地圖日記」,雖然有國際光環的加持、名聲響亮,會員數也衝破百萬人,卻苦尋不著穩定的獲利模式。

「做社群網站太辛苦了,根本不知道營收在哪?」他苦笑說。

痛定思痛後,他們開始轉向可匯集實際金流的電子商務。

2010年8月,郭氏兄弟創辦「百萬網友團購網」,並以每日一物的半價牛排、半價火鍋、半價泡湯的折扣券炒熱話題,不但成功帶動台灣網友的「揪團搶購」熱潮,也吸引美國最大團購網「Groupon」出資併購,傳聞併購金高達300萬美元(約合新台幣9,000萬元)。

雖然現金入袋,但創業能量豐沛的郭氏兄弟,並不甘於專業經理人的職務,他們最後選擇離開「Groupon台灣」,再度挑戰網路創業,並對準人人消費得起的民生物品,首先浮出檯面者則是T恤。

然而,科技人出身的郭氏兄弟,深知自己並無挑選與設計服飾的眼光,若是按照傳統的網購流程賣衣服,絕對沒有贏面。

其次,不管是自行生產或批貨銷售成衣,都免不了囤貨風險,這對初入行又資金有限的創業者將是一大考驗。

幾經思考後,他們決定將網購成衣的供應鏈拆解,由消費者決定每一款衣服及尺碼的銷量,賣家再下單生產。如此一來,就能達到「零庫存」目標,無須在季末時犧牲毛利、大打折扣促銷。

網路T恤的先行者「SOFU」

敗衣網會選擇T恤為主打商品,則是看上最近幾年已逐漸由涓涓清流、匯集成主流的網路原創T恤風潮。

網路原創T恤的先行者,首推2008年4月開站的「SOFU」(舒服)T恤。創辦人王中輝原為廣告公司的高階主管,為了能有多一點時間,照顧患有多重功能發展障礙的長子,毅然辭去高薪職務,投身網路創業。

當時既有的網購服飾賣家,如業績長紅的「東京著衣」與「天母嚴選」,皆是以預先批貨方式,在拍賣網站或購物中心上架經營。

「台灣最早架設獨立網站,自營品牌的網購服飾,首推如今年營收已高達新台幣數十億元的lativ(2007年創設),接下來就是SOFU。」眼光精準的王中輝說,獨立網站的起步雖然較為艱辛,但無須受制於大型網購平台的規則與抽成;長遠來說,其實是發展空間較大且能累積消費者品牌忠誠度的經營方式。

然而,創業資本額不到新台幣180萬元的王中輝,當然不可能像lativ般主打從頭到腳、男女老少通吃的國民服飾,他選擇由最安全的T恤切入市場。

王中輝分析,獨立網站最忌諱打開網頁空空蕩蕩、沒幾款商品可挑,而賣「圖T」,就是資金有限的最佳選擇。

「圖T的版型單純,容易控管品質;每一款圖案就是一件商品,能讓網站看起來非常豐富。」

台灣設計師的「星光大道」

任職廣告公司時認識的設計師、插畫家人脈,則是王中輝的獨門利器。為了提升T恤的設計感和多樣性,他廣向業界邀圖,也在網站上長期徵稿,務求消費者拿到的每一件商品,皆為台灣製造、台灣設計的優質產品。

「作家有出版社代為出書、歌手有唱片公司處理發片事宜,但台灣有源源不絕的設計人才,卻苦無合適的平台展現創意,我希望SOFU的定位除了賣T恤外,也能成為讓素人設計師登台亮相的星光大道,」他說。

曾經以花蓮新城托兒所建案,入圍「遠東建築獎」的知名建築師林祺錦,就是長期與SOFU合作的設計師之一。他曾將美國現代建築大師路易斯.康的名言「即使一塊磚頭也想成就大事」寫在T恤上;也曾凸顯台北市的綠地失衡問題,完成「Urban Heart」的環保訴求圖樣,相當受到認同理念的消費者好評。

林祺錦笑說,雖然畫圖T的收入(每款約數千元),僅為他正職的九牛一毛,卻可獲得不同的趣味與成就感。目前是數所大學建築系兼任講師的他,還打算設計一系列以「建築史」為題的圖T。

「圖T可傳達簡明易懂的理念,感染力極強,欣賞的客群也比一般的建案更廣,可讓創作者樂在其中,欲罷不能。」

辦比賽,匯集設計力的101原創T恤

在網路T恤的激戰中,2011年11月上線的「101原創T恤」,則祭出強勢行銷及高額獎金的設計比賽,力圖衝高銷量。

「101原創T恤」的母公司數字科技,原由網路媒合平台起家,旗下還擁有「8591寶物交易網」、「591房屋交易網」、「8891汽車交易網」等知名網站。「101原創T恤」則是該公司首度由看似「無本」的媒合交易,跨入實物零售。

數字科技總經理吳聰賢坦言,因為有lativ的成功經驗,他們才開始思索網購成衣的可能性。「我們旗下網站的會員數超過300萬人,基本盤的消費者已經存在。」

為避免與早已建立口碑的lativ正面對打,再加上既有網站的會員以年輕人為主,數字科技因而專注在最受年輕族群歡迎的T恤。

雖然切入市場的時間較晚,但早已是股票興櫃公司的數字科技,財力與實力皆非其他競爭對手可比擬;得到旗下網站奧援的101原創T恤,不管在行銷及廣納設計創意等各方面,皆比同業積極且大手筆。

例如它常在各大入口網站、偶像劇黃金時段、公車及鬧區的大型看板狂打廣告,砸重金爭取曝光;同時為保持商品的新鮮度與多樣性,每隔兩個月即舉辦一次大型徵稿設計比賽,冠軍獎金更高達6萬元至20萬元不等。

目前101原創T恤已舉辦過5屆設計大賽,累計投稿作品則超過萬件,但經過專業人士的審查後,實際商品化的比例只占10%,入選者則可獲得3,000~5,000元的「版權買斷費」。

「101原創T恤是結合媒合概念的零售平台,藉由密集比賽,創造優秀作品與消費者的交流機會,」吳聰賢解釋。

開啟「平價潮T」的市場

至於究竟哪一類型的圖稿較能獲得青睞?吳聰賢指出,市場接受度常是考量關鍵。「多數消費者不喜歡把很複雜的花色穿在身上,簡單且富有童趣,還能讓人會心一笑的作品最受歡迎。」

例如曾獲第三屆設計大賽首獎的「Capture」,就是以素樸又不失可愛的插畫風格,描繪按下相機快門的瞬間;意在言外的設計,讓眾多網友盛讚是「最適合旅行」的圖T,狂銷六千多件。

由於行銷與「圖」海戰術的運用得宜,101原創T恤的去年營收已高達新台幣1億5,000萬元,今年則計畫增設網站的商品類別,將由既有的平價潮T,擴大為平價潮服。

值得特別注意的是,不管是以絕版行銷突圍的敗衣網、堅持台灣設計師創作的SOFU,以及企圖心十足的101原創T恤,產品皆以高級精梳棉、水洗處理及MIT生產為號召,顯示產品的質感、耐穿性與舒適度,早已成為消費者挑選網路服飾的基本要求;設計感與花色,則是更上一層樓的競爭。

在新品牌輩出的網路T恤「後戰國時代」,一件不到400元的圖T,因為有了更多創意加持而價值倍增;消費者當然也不吝下單,買得安心,更穿得高興。

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EN

Battle of the T-Shirts

Lin Hsin-ching /photos courtesy of Yang Wen-ching /tr. by Geof Aberhart

What item of clothing is the best seller? Scarves? Skirts? Shoes? Nope. It’s the unassuming T-shirt. Affordable, easy to accessorize, and suitable for people of all ages, this simple garment is at the heart of a billion-NT-dollar industry.

 

T-shirts also readily draw crowds online; when displayed on screens, the shirts’ colors seem more radiant and their patterns more vivid than when on display in brick-and-mortar stores. As a result, the T-shirt market has become one of the most competitive markets online in recent years, with dozens of brands entering the fray. These proudly Taiwan-made original designs, done in runs limited in time and number, have transformed the ordinary cotton T-shirt into a must-have fashion item.


Websites sport eye-catching countdown timers, seemingly mocking the hesitant; as each second ticks down, the once-strong determination to not buy another shirt begins to waver, until all of a sudden you somehow find yourself at the checkout screen again, clicking the button to buy just one more.

Nurturing a sense of scarcity

At the forefront of this kind of “just one more” selling is Buy365, a clothing website that has become the big kahuna in Taiwan’s online T-shirt market.

Despite having just a small range of products and being a newcomer to the market, in the seven short months since its June 2012 launch, Buy365 has already sold more than 80,000 shirts, bringing in over NT$40 million.

With so many other sellers and stores already well established online, achieving such a level as a new face is far from easy, but the minds behind Buy365 have carved out a place with blood, sweat, and tears. Ultimately, the biggest contributor to their success is their unique “quick turnaround” system, bolstered by the “now or never” feeling created by the on-screen countdown.

So what is this “quick turnaround system”? Other clothing sellers operate on a process of “design, produce, stock, sell,” but Buy365 has turned that on its ear, instead pursuing a process of “design, stock, sell, produce.” What this means is that when a customer places an order, they will have to wait for 14 days while their order is being made and fulfilled before they can get their hands on it.

The key to making customers happy to wait isn’t engaging in price wars like many other online sellers, but rather selling shirts in time-limited runs, with the subsequent rarity of those shirts giving them extra value to customers. In their early days, Buy365 sold just one shirt design a day, limiting each sale to just 24 hours. Today, responding to the clamor from their customers, they run each sale for five days, but Buy365 remains adamant that once a sale is over, that design will never be sold again.

Avoiding overloading

The names behind Buy365 are fairly familiar ones, having previously founded social networking site Atlas­post several years ago. With Jerry and Andy Kuo having become Internet golden boys once, what made them want to strike out in another direction?

Jerry Kuo, a 37-year-old graduate from National ­Chung ­Hsing University’s business school, rose to attention in the online startup space in 2008, when Atlas­post took on 76 other startups at the DEMO conference and walked away with the People’s Choice Award. However, despite international support, a strong reputation, and a user base of over 1 million, Atlaspost simply couldn’t find a stable, profitable business model.

“Running a social networking site is too much stress, especially when you don’t know where the money’s going to be coming from,” says Kuo, forcing a smile.

And so when the brothers were ready for another challenge, they chose this time to focus on something everyone buys, and the first thing that came to mind was T-shirts.

However, the two were well aware that while they had the technical knowhow, they didn’t have anything like the same level of ability when it came to selecting and designing clothes. As a result, if they went the traditional route, they didn’t stand a chance.

On top of that, regardless whether they made their own clothes or sold retail-ready ones, they would still have to deal with the problem of inventory, which is a major test for any aspiring entrepreneur with limited funds and resources.

After thinking long and hard about the challenges they faced, the brothers decided to subvert the standard approach for online clothing sellers, letting their customers decide how many of each design would be made and in what sizes, then entering production once the orders were in. This way, they would be operating with zero inventory and without the worry of leftover stock that would have to be discounted come the end of the season.

SOFU, Internet T-shirt sales pioneer

The Kuos chose to make T-shirts their big focus after having seen the online market for designer T-shirts gradually become part of the mainstream over the previous few years.

The real pioneer in the market is SOFU (a play on the Mandarin shufu, meaning “comfortable”), a site that launched in April 2008. Founder Eric Wang was previously a senior manager in an advertising firm, but stepped down from his high-paying position to spend more time with his developmentally disabled eldest son, and to try his hand at doing business online.

Some stores, including the popular Ma­yuki and Go­To­Buy, had already set up shop on the Yahoo!Kimo sales platform, selling shirts through preorders.

“The first independent online clothing brand was lativ in 2007, which is still making billions of NT dollars a year. SOFU is second,” says the bright-eyed Wang. Although the first few steps in setting up an independent website can be hard going, independence also leaves them free of the rules and restrictions of working with large-scale online platforms, as well as avoiding having to pay said platforms a cut of the profits. In the long run, these independent sites actually stand a better chance of earning their customers’ loyalty and have more room to grow than their larger cousins.

Of course, with startup capital of just under NT$1.8 million there was no way Wang could completely take on lativ’s comprehensive top-to-toe clothing options. Instead, he chose to focus on a safe bet—T-shirts.

“T-shirts are simple to design and easy to manage quality-wise,” says Wang. “And each design is a single product, so that can make the site look even more rich with content.”

Exposure for Taiwanese designers

Wang also came to the business with a secret weapon—the connections with artists and designers he’d made during his time in advertising. In order to boost both the artistry and the variety of his T-shirts, Wang solicited designs both from the industry and through his website, as well as insisting all the shirts be designed by Taiwanese designers and made in Taiwan.

“Writers have publishers, singers have labels, but Taiwan’s designers still don’t really have a good avenue to get their own creativity out there. I want SOFU to be more than just a T-shirt store—I want it to be a way for Taiwan’s designers to get noticed.”

Andy Lin, an architect well known for work like the Sin­chen Kindergarten in Hua­lien and a past Far Eastern Outstanding Architectural Design Award nominee, is a long-time design collaborator at SOFU. Amongst his contributions is a shirt bearing the famous quote from American modernist architect Louis Isadore Kahn, “Even a brick wants to be something.” He also created a shirt highlighting Tai­pei City’s paucity of green spaces with an environmentally aware design entitled “Urban Heart,” a design that was well received by like-minded customers.

“T-shirts with designs can be an easy, uncomplicated way to get a message across, and to do it in a way that can be almost viral. And with more people being able to appreciate T-shirt designs than architecture, being able to design these has been an absolute pleasure. I couldn’t quit this even if I wanted to,” says Lin.

Design 101

In November 2011, as the market was heating up, 101.com.tw launched with a marketing campaign involving a T-shirt design competition offering big prizes.

101.com.tw was the brainchild of tech company ­ADDCN, which operates a range of websites well known in Taiwan in areas as diverse as real-estate rental listings, car sales, and online-game time sales. Unlike the other sites, though, 101.com.tw sells directly to consumers rather than matching buyers and sellers.

Wu Cong­xian, general manager of ADDCN, admits that the success of lativ was what got them thinking about the feasibility of online clothing sales. “We basically already had a potential customer base in the form of the 3-million-plus members of our websites.”

To avoid going head to head with the already well-established lativ, ­ADDCN decided to focus on T-shirts specifically, something popular with the younger people who make up the bulk of their user base.

Despite breaking into the market relatively late, it already had the capability and financial strength to stand toe to toe with its more established competitors, and by making use of its network of sites to promote the competition, ADDCN enjoyed a long reach both in marketing and in its ability to bring on board more designers.

When the site was ready to go live, it already had gained tremendous exposure through advertising on online portals, on primetime television, on the sides of buses, and in busy pedestrian areas. To maintain freshness and variety, every two months they hold another large-scale competition to get submissions, with the winning designer receiving between NT$60,000 and NT$200,000.

Currently, 101.com.tw’s T-shirt design competition is in its fifth iteration and has received over 10,000 submissions so far. However, once the designs have been assessed by professionals, only 10% of them will actually become products, although every finalist is paid between NT$3,000 and NT$5,000 for the copyright to their designs.

A new market

So what kind of design is it that attracts the most attention? As Wu Cong­xian explains, market acceptance is a crucial consideration. “Most customers don’t want to wear overly complex patterns,” says Wu. “It’s the simple, almost childlike designs that make people smile which go down best.”

Take, for example, “Capture,” the first-placed design from the third competition, which was a sketched, captioned image of a camera just as the shutter is about to be pressed. The simple design earned praise online as being particularly well suited to travel, and more than 6000 shirts sporting the design were shipped.

Through skilled marketing and tactics, 101.com.tw was able to rake in over NT$150 million in 2012, and this year they plan to expand into other items, moving from just affordable and trendy T-shirts to a full range of affordable and trendy clothing.

Even with so many newcomers entering the industry in this competitive boom, and even though the shirts may sell for under NT$400 apiece, they’re still more than worth the price. Given the creativity and quality of the work, is it any wonder so many customers are leaping at opportunities to add a little uniqueness to their wardrobes?

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