With Malaysia’s eCommerce industry taking off since the introduction of eCommerce platforms in the country a decade ago, many merchants can take their business into this tiger cub economy and expand their offerings into this country. Malaysia’s eCommerce industry is forecasted to generate US$ 4.3 billion in revenue in 2020, and is expected to grow to US$ 5.9 billion in 2024.1 Furthermore, as of 2019, there are more than 25 million active users in the country, which accounts for 80% of the population, and 75% of them have made purchases online.2
One of these product categories that Malaysians have an appetite for is modest fashion. Modest fashion accounted for US$ 283 billion globally in 2018, and it is projected to hit US$ 402 billion in 2024. For the Muslim majority country where 61.3% of its population are Muslims3, Malaysia is poised to have a growing modest fashion market, as they are not afraid of spending big when it comes to purchasing fashion products.4
So what are the key trends that you’ll need to look out for if you’re considering entering this product vertical in Malaysia? Let’s find out:
More Muslim women in Malaysia are becoming affluent, and they have taken to luxury hijab brands to showcase their newfound wealth and status.5 This demand for luxury hijabs are currently being filled by local Malaysian brands like Bawal Exclusive and dUCk Scarves.
Notably, Bawal Exclusive’s most expensive item sold to date was a RM 50,000 hijab made from imported Japanese textiles and Swarovski crystals.6 The custom-made hijab was ordered and bought for the Hari Raya season in 2019.
On the other hand, dUCk Scarves, run by prolific Malaysian influencer Vivy Yusuf, launched a limited edition piece that costs upwards of RM 800 containing a Swarovski-studded skyline of Kuala Lumpur for the Miss Universe event. Within the first five minutes, the item was sold out. Additionally, this brand has since sold over 1 million scarves in 2018 from its launch in 2014.7
The affluence and willingness of these Muslim shoppers to spend on premium materials outside of Malaysia is a sign that the Muslimah wants to make a statement with what they wear. Merchants can look towards offering these premium modest fashion items by sourcing their premium materials from countries that produce them.
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Muslim millenials no longer see hijabs and traditional Malay clothes as something that is old-fashioned. This is reflected in how dUCk Scarves position themselves as a “lifestyle brand for the modern city girl.”
Like the aforementioned dUCk Scarves, Naelofar Hijab, founded by Muslimah influencer Neelofa, is another successful modest fashion brand that sells well in Malaysia. Their headscarves cost between RM 50 and RM 100 a pop, and they hit RM 50 million in the first year of operations, exceeding twice its initial target, and the sales increased by 30% the following year of operations in 2015.8
Aside from brands that sell hijabs, some notable Malaysian shops that sell modest fashion include Mimpikita and Shawlpublika. Within their product offerings, the clothing items need to meet the criteria of covering the body and the limbs, so these modest fashion brands also include things outside of traditional Malay wear and innovate with different cuts that are trendy.
For instance, Shawlpublika has a type of baju kurung that combines saree cloth and modern peplum cuts to tie their design to traditional wear while appearing more fashion-forward.
eCommerce brands in general need not limit themselves to selling only modest fashion pieces. While dUCk Scarves and Naelofar Hijab have expanded their offerings to include fashion accessories, global brands can opt to partially include modest fashion pieces into their existing lineup to cater to the Muslim buyer.
For instance, Uniqlo partnered with Hana Tajima to release a modest wear line in 2015.9 The fact that the collaboration is ongoing until Fall/Winter 2019 shows that the product line is successful and commercially viable. What’s important is that your brand is able to understand, empathise, and cater to the needs of the Muslim consumer’s modesty, and be sensitive to Islamic practices so as to not cause a backlash.
For instance, in 1997, Nike unintentional use of the arabic script for “Allah” sparked a global Muslim boycott10 that is still felt in their new product releases like the Nike Airmax.11 It doesn’t hurt to learn more about the Islamic cultural practices before selling anything to these consumers.
With all these insights in mind, how can you ensure that your modest fashion products reach the Muslim online shopper in Malaysia?
Before you can make any sales, it helps to get your product in front of the eyes of your potential buyers. With eCommerce marketplaces like Shopee and Lazada still topping the charts in monthly website visits,12 it would make sense to offer your product there to get in front of the largest audiences in Malaysia.
Additionally, Zalora, the top fashion marketplace in Malaysia, has a dedicated section just for modest fashion.13 In 2019, modest fashion products on Zalora had an average selling rate of around 57.5% from 2,810 stock-keeping units. You can also choose to list products on localised online platforms like Qoo10, Hermo, Go Shop and 11Street, among others, to get your products in front of a wider audience.
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Most Malaysians need to trust a brand before purchasing an item from an online shop. One of the ways they do their due diligence on the brand is to interact with them online, so this is the perfect opportunity for you to engage with your potential customers.
Malaysia is said to be the fourth largest market for social commerce adopters.14 Furthermore, Vase.ai’s 2019 survey found that 87% of survey respondents had bought something through apps like Facebook, Facebook Messenger or Whatsapp, which means that, as its name suggests, there is an interactive element between the buyer and seller in the eCommerce space.15
Aside from staying active on social media channels, you can win over the trust of your consumers by engaging in a local influencer who can promote your products. Brands like Fashion Valet would engage influencers to wear their products and use a branded hashtag to create inroads to a wider audience. You could combine this tactic with a promotional discount tied to the influencer for a more aggressive market entry in order to capture the modest fashion market.
For eCommerce merchants, catering to Malaysia’s majority Muslim population is a move that can make your brand more localised to the religious customs of the country. This helps to give your online business a leg up from other global players that have yet to understand these consumers and tap into this specific niche.
Aside from ensuring that your products are visible to the right audiences, it also helps to be operationally ready to deliver on an excellent customer experience. Most of Malaysia’s online shoppers are found in the Klang Valley, so it’s good to have a shipping partner with a strong network in this region to give your online shoppers a great eCommerce experience. Janio can help you by internationally shipping fashion products into Malaysia, so that you can provide a seamless shopping experience from click to doorstep.
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