Ask any young woman in Singapore where she can get affordable clothes from indie sellers online, and she’ll most likely point you to a blog hosted on Livejournal. The blog/journal website blossomed around five to six years ago as a popular space for young people to experiment with e-commerce, most commonly the sale of women’s clothing.
About 50,000 of such blog shops and millions of dollars in transactions were enough to catch the attention of Livejournal’s parent company SUP Media, which launched a dedicated Singapore portal last year. But even so, the website lacked built-in e-commerce features, and users paid for their purchases through third-party services like PayPal or the local iBanking services.
That’s all about to change. With the launch of LJCheckout a couple of weeks ago, blog shop owners now have the option to integrate a full-fledged e-commerce system into their blogs.
Livejournal will get a small cut of each transaction, finally giving the company a chance to tap into this burgeoning market –
an estimated S$1.6 million was spent on blogshopping last year. Update: A user survey conducted by LiveJournal polled 400 blogs and found that the estimated blogshop transactions on LiveJournal in 2011 are around S$100 million.
LJCheckout is powered by Singapore-based TackThis, which offers sleek e-commerce shopping carts for a plethora of websites, including Facebook, WordPress, and Tumblr. A free basic account lets users check-out up to 10 items, while monthly subscription plans offer more options. For users who are unsure, a 30-day trial lets them test out the system before committing.
Filling up the payment gateway role is Malaysia-based MOLPay, which, on top of virtual payment, offers the additional convenience of allowing physical payment channels such as AXS stations in Singapore.
As far as I know, there is currently no competition offering such a comprehensive end-to-end e-commerce system. Google has its Checkout and Wallet products, but neither are available outside of the US and UK. This should give LiveJournal and its users a significant boost, though it remains to be seen whether blog shop owners will take the time and effort to revamp their shops and integrate LJCheckout.
Sally Tan, who runs Thread Theory, said she and her partners will adopt a wait-and-see approach. “We haven’t really started trying (LJCheckout), primarily because we’re afraid it will screw up our site design in case we want to go back to the old system,” she said.
“Plus, they charge monthly subscription and commission per item, so it’s not really appealing to us,” she added.
LJCheckout marks the company’s attempt to localise its website further to capitalise on its strengths, and it will be interesting to see if LiveJournal does the same for other markets, and if competing services start to edge in for a slice of the pie.