More than 10 million Chinese visited Europe as tourists last year. Each of them is spending more than € 500 on average per day on luxury products. Shopeur is providing first-class shopping services for these clients.
The German-Chinese network DC-HUB sent six German startups in September for four weeks to Shanghai within their Start-up Class 2018. Johannes Sréter, co-founder and CEO of Shopeur, talked to SUPERIOR Business before he left for Shanghai. The interview is also part of the Superior Magazine # 64 digital issue, which is also available as print and download.
Johannes, you are one of the founders of Shopeur. Who are your co-founders? Why did you decide to connect and work together?
My co-founders are Christoph Hofer, Markus Sutor and Florian Mück. I have already known Christoph and Markus for a long time, so we had quite a good idea of what working together would be like. Christoph's background is business consulting as well as project management and Markus had founded several companies before so they both brought valuable experience to the table. Flo runs his own IT company which allowed us to start our project with an overall very professional setup.
What inspired you to start Shopeur?
The idea for Shopeur originates from my PhD research on the socio-cultural influence of Chinese travellers on European destinations. I often came across recurring challenges that Chinese travellers faced on their trips across Europe from limited availability of desired products or language barriers to difficulties with tax refund processes. When my research showed that European luxury brands experienced similar hurdles while interacting with their Chinese clients the idea for Shopeur was born. We believe that our service eases the current pains and will make travelling to Europe even more pleasant for our Chinese guests.
Which problems does Shopeur tackle exactly? And, which products and services does Shopeur provide to solve them?
Shopeur offers Chinese travellers a digital service within the familiar user environment of WeChat which enables them to plan and customise their luxury shopping experience even pre-trip or while they are on their journey across Europe. We ensure the availability of desired products at luxury brand stores, deliver orders straight to our clients' accommodation and help them with oftentimes confusing tax refund processes. Our fully integrated payment solution offers even more convenience since popular Chinese mobile payment options such as WePay are not yet readily available at European retailers. We provide Chinese luxury shoppers with a one-stop multi-brand solution while working in close cooperation with local and international luxury brands.
Shopeur combines shopping with experiencing luxury brands and lifestyle. The omni-channel approach allows Shopeur's customers to enjoy the service regardless of whether they go shopping online or at traditional brick-and-mortar stores.
Who are your main competitors? Which advantages do you provide compared to them?
Major Chinese travel and ecommerce platforms are constantly expanding their service portfolio, and some even started catering to the needs of Chinese travellers abroad. Although most of these services for Chinese travellers to Europe are still at an early stage this only highlights the importance and customer value of the target audience.
In Europe, companies such as Eastsong Consulting, an agency managing Chinese local tour guides in Europe, are among our competitors although their focus lies on Chinese group travellers more than on individual and independent travellers. Farfetch is currently developing a personal shopping app, but it has not been launched yet and it won't mainly target Chinese customers.
Shopeur's key USP is the service portfolio combined in our WeChat Mini-Program and our direct cooperation with European luxury brands as well as platforms granting our service access to exclusive distribution networks and limited editions. The pre-order feature ensures a high customer satisfaction and a tailored premium service which Chinese travellers who are increasingly sophisticated are looking for.
You already have a couple of business partners. Who is especially interesting for you as partner?
We value all our partners since each enables us to provide a different service element to our customers. Travel partners such as Air China and various luxury hotels across Europe are important, they ensure safe arrival and pleasant stay for our clients. Our luxury eCommerce partners allow us to offer our hotel delivery service across Europe. And our network of store managers at leading European luxury brands ensures the availability of pre-ordered products for in-store collection. In addition, with our selection of small local luxury manufacturers with their truly exceptional craftsmanship our clients get a glimpse behind the curtain of European luxury lifestyle.
You are already on the market with Shopeur. What have you achieve so far?
Besides recruiting an amazing cross-functional German-Chinese team that is committed to fulfilling every possible request of our clients we have managed to extend our luxury partner network both across online as well as traditional retail. We launched our Mini-Program in July 2018 allowing our customers to interact with us as well as their family and friends directly on WeChat, thus ensuring an even more convenient way of shopping. Our 2018 promotion partnership with China's leading airline Air China has further validated our service commitment. We were also honoured to have been selected as a finalist at this year's ITB China Travel Startup of the Year 2018 award.
Are you looking for further investments? If yes, what is the most important thing prospective investors should know about your company?
After the launch of our service in October 2017 and the successful track record over the last quarters which saw continuous growth in sales as well as an increasing number of customers and partner brands we are currently looking for investment.
Although numbers are important to impress potential investors we believe that our cross-cultural team and the depth of knowledge acquired over the years are truly invaluable assets. Trying to bridge the cultural gap between Europe and China has taught us many things and has forced us to question our perceptions on a regular basis since trends and expectations tend to change quickly on the much faster paced Chinese market. Our knowledge and understanding of our customers' needs gathered in the industry is our strong point and highly appreciated experience not easily copied. That is why our partners turn to us for advice on how to market to their Chinese target audience and it has opened doors to even some of the most reclusive luxury brands.
You are now going to Shanghai with DC-HUB. What do you expect from this trip?
Since we recently launched our WeChat Mini-Program we are excited to test all current and some future features on the actual target market. Trends and preferences in China are developing and changing fast so it is important for us to dive into the daily life in one of China's undoubtedly most vibrant and cosmopolitan cities. DC-HUB has been working hard to connect us with exciting contacts and we are looking forward to meeting Chinese investors, partners from the travel industry and fellow start-up entrepreneurs.
What are your main goals for the next 12 months?
Opening an office in China in order to move our customer service and marketing team even closer to our clients. Further extending our customer base with the help of present and new partners. Securing investment to fuel the expansion across various Chinese travel segments. Dipping our toes in the water of additional source markets in South East Asia.
Thank you for the interview and have a successful trip to Shanghai!