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Vintage meets technology: How THE FIFTH COLLECTION is using technology innovation to build trust with customers

Posted 2 years ago in Small business by
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The first of it’s kind in Asia, THE FIFTH COLLECTION is a luxury trading platform that hosts a beautiful and very carefully curated collection of vintage and pre-loved luxury fashion. Launched in Singapore in 2013, the platform now sells pieces to customers all over the world.

Born from a bag

Co-founders and husband and wife Michael and Nejla had the idea for the business when they were living in Shanghai but wondered if the market would be receptive. Then one day, Nejla went to lunch with a group of stylish Chinese friends that always had the latest designer bags and accessories. She was met with overwhelming excitement and curiosity about the unique vintage item she was wearing. It was a worn and initialed Hermes Kelly bags from the 60s that had belonged to her mother. In a world of new wealth, it seemed that there was a growing desire for something unique. Luxury with a personality. A mini Weibo storm later and they felt the time had come to pursue this idea.

The couple faced some skepticism when they first outlined their plans for the business. However with a background in start-up investment and entrepreneurship, and a genuine love of vintage fashion, they continued undeterred. Having previously spent 10 years living in Singapore, Michael and Nejla relocated back from Shanghai to launch THE FIFTH COLLECTION. They recently celebrated its third anniversary and won an award for Best Singapore Digital Startup.

THE FIFTH COLLECTION has built a solid base of loyal clients. This is due to its owners’ relentless commitment to the highest standards of customer service. Their orders are delivered the next day in sleek ‘origami’ charcoal boxes. They have a free 7-day return and refund policy and strong authenticity guarantees. ‘The customer comes first in all of our decision making. From individual queries about items and facilitating easy returns, to careful curation and a promise of authenticity,’ says Michael. ‘We stay away from spreadsheet decision making – there is no one stop solution for our customers.’

editor-in-chief-THE-FIFTH-COLLECTION

Images credited to The Fifth Collection Instagram

Personal touch key to success

THE FIFTH COLLECTION have found a way to offer a fully technology run eCommerce platform while retaining an approachable and very human element to the shopping experience. ‘The experience of buying vintage is very personal – it needs a human touch,’ says Nejla.

Shoppers on the platform interact directly with a member of the team using their live chat function. Moreover if you give them a call or pop by their offices you’ll always receive a warm welcome. ‘We wanted to re-inject the luxury into vintage pre-loved luxury, and ensuring a personal customer experience is key to this.’

Curation is another crucial element of the business’s success. THE FIFTH COLLECTION has a very careful process of selection and around how pieces are managed. ‘It’s not all about brands,’ Nejla says, ‘it’s about finding beautiful, unique pieces that are relevant for our customers.’

Using AI to combat counterfeit products

An issue that plagues the eCommerce industry, and especially fashion e-tailers, is combating counterfeit products. Always keeping an eye on the latest technology innovation in the business, THE FIFTH COLLECTION is the first to use a special AI. They use the artificial intelligence imaging software to ensure the authenticity of all the items sold on the platform. ‘It’s easy for a business to talk about authentication, but for long term business sustainability you have to get it right’. Michael explains, ‘We have and continue to invest a lot in proprietary knowledge and hard science to verify all of the pieces we sell.’

THE FIFTH COLLECTION invested in the technology in its development stage and are the only company in Asia using this verification software. Consequently its clients can rest assured that the Louis Vuitton Monogram Keepall or Chanel Classic Flap bag  are the real deal.

Integrating Xero as a living part of the business

From its eCommerce platform to the cutting AI software it uses, technology is foundational to the running of the business. Subsequently this made Xero a natural partner for Michael and Nejla. ‘Xero is phenomenal in every way. Not only does is make bookkeeping and accounting a simple function. It also gives us the option to tailor the service to suit our niche requirements. In particular, consignment accounting,’ says Michael.

‘Xero makes accounting a living thing,’ says Nejla. ‘We were used to accountants using old desktop software, entering data monthly, than a week later sending us a report by which point it was no longer useful or really relevant.’

‘Xero means that our accounts and financial information has become a management tool and not a trailing record – it’s a living part of our decision making,’ adds Michael, ‘Xero gives me the oversight to shift resources away from operations and processing and onto customer service – which is key to our business model.’

Michael has some sage words of advice for startups – what he refers to as the ‘2 to 3 rule’. ‘In my experience, things always take 2 to 3 times longer and will work out 2 to 3 times more expensive in reality,’ says Michael. ‘That’s why it’s so crucial to get the basics right. We’re big believers in building in a focused and measured pace.’

With their rapidly growing base of global customers it seems THE FIFTH COLLECTION is now primed for the next step – international expansion. They also just recently launched free worldwide shipping (and free worldwide return and refund). Subsequently it is perfect timing to go online and take a look at their beautiful collection!

2 comments

Michael Finn
April 28, 2017 at 3.29 pm

Thanks for the great interview and write-up, Simren!

Simren Priestley in reply to Michael Finn
April 28, 2017 at 4.02 pm

Thanks so much for showing me around the collection!

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