"Entrepreneurship is in my DNA and the journey is one that’s familiar to me.
"I have been an entrepreneur since my college days, starting with a clothing brand called 97Bros, and eventually, a jewelry brand called 18Celebration. Due to budgetary constraints, I began to dabble in a new form of marketing – tapping into the power of online influencers. While influencer marketing was still in its infancy at the time, it has proven to be the right platform for my brands, which quickly gained traction and exposure.
"I have always had a fiery entrepreneurial spirit. Armed with this passion, in 2019 I kick-started a holistic skincare company with a business partner. We named it CLEF Skincare - CLEF being a combination of CLean and EFfective, the two core principles of our products," says Kaii Lim, Co-founder and CEO of CLEF Skincare.
From ideation to implementation, CLEF grew rapidly, fueled by innovative marketing, product innovation and strategic partnerships. One of the key partnerships was with SASA which provided us with the platform to stock our products in 72 of their stores, and our sales reached 50,000 sold products in just over a period of 20 months!
With the swift success of CLEF in Malaysia, I wanted to expand the brand further. While Malaysia is my home ground, it is ultimately a small market and the only way for CLEF to expand was to go international. To get the brand name out to overseas customers, my team and I strategically targeted the right influencers in each country and identified suitable platforms for our marketing outreach efforts.
Within a brief period of one year, our overseas sales had penetrated 17 countries, and to this day, our four biggest markets for CLEF products remain the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. We also serve other markets in Europe, such as Germany and Spain, and in Asia, such as Singapore and China.
Solving CLEF’s logistical challenge
Any online retail business should know that logistical issues would create unwanted delays, disrupt the customer experience and cause dissatisfaction that could rebound on them. During the early days of our international expansion, we faced multiple logistical challenges - long shipping times, delivery issues at the last mile, lack of verified receipt of the shipment, mis-delivery and more.
Once we started using FedEx, we had immediate access to a hose of e-commerce solutions. We discovered an ideal balance between speed and cost, and I was able to pass the convenience of a hassle-free shipping experience on to my customers – a big win for my business and for my customers. One feature that stood out for me was FedEx Ship Manager™, which allowed my team to prepare shipments and print shipping labels online. The platform also ensured everyone involved remained updated of the status of each shipment, as regular notifications and updates would be sent to both my team and the customer.
This is complemented by the FedEx Delivery Manager International™ solution where CLEF’s customers can customize their deliveries to fit their busy lives. Our customers can set notifications and will receive a tracking number showing where the products are currently in the logistical process. This has benefitted the business, as our customers need not be concerned about mis-deliveries, for example. They have peace of mind in the shipping process, which is very important to me for good customer experience.
The importance of logistics for SMEs
As business owners, we are cognizant that a positive customer experience is vital to a company’s long-term business sustainability. We maintain a proactive, dedicated customer team to listen to customers’ feedback and address their pain points. We continue to focus on R&D to improve and expand our product range while beefing up our marketing and sales strategies.
One of the most crucial propositions is also in keeping the transit period as short as possible. Our alliance with FedEx has been a strategic one, in that it has improved our shipping times and reliability to US, Asia and Europe. Other important aspects include efficiency in terms of the ability to manage shipments online and support international shipment requirements, all of which have helped CLEF in not just retaining our customer base but also in support of our market expansion.
Collaborating with a trusted, experienced and international logistics service provider will enable the scalability of a business. Taking CLEF as an example, knowing the logistical capacity and transit times allows me to scale up my sales accordingly and allows for long-term planning in my marketing and promotional efforts, as I know what quantities I can dispatch orders in and not experience delays in delivery
In conclusion, working with a seamless and reliable logistical service provider has placed CLEF on a stronger footing, as we continue to focus on broadening our reach in the international markets.