This Chinese ecommerce site for gadgets puts community before sales

Shenzhen-based startup KnewOne might make you rethink everything you thought you knew about how ecommerce is supposed to work. The launch page of this gadget retail website opens to a hodgepodge list of fitness trackers, smartphones, and wifi routers, none of which show their prices. Instead, each item thumbnail is accompanied by the number of likes, purchases, and reviews, along with a stub from the most upvoted user review.

You might be inclined to think that no one in their right mind would actually buy anything from this site, and not just because it doesn’t look like an ecommerce site. Only available in Chinese, it doesn’t promise the lowest prices, the widest selection, or the fastest shipping. It doesn’t offer much in the way of filters, suggest similar products for sale, or push sales promotions.

But the initial skepticism was assuaged when founder Spencer Sha told Tech in Asia that KnewOne has grown to roughly 200,000 users, at a rate of about 20,000 to 30,000 visitors per day. Monthly revenue ranges between RMB 1 million to over 2 million (US$160,000 to over $320,000), and it’s only been in business less than two years with a staff of about 20 people.

“The people on our website, the first thing they think of is not the price,” Sha says. “The first thing they think is, ‘I want a quality product, or a product that’s different.’”

To accomplish this, Sha created KnewOne as a community for gadget lovers first and an ecommerce site second. Users can write reviews, post photos, share to social media, and leave comments. They can follow other users with similar tastes in gadgets as their own. And in a country where the major ecommerce sites are inundated with fake reviews, KnewOne’s approach is refreshingly grassroots and genuine.

That feeling of community also results in a high rate of return customers, who Sha describes as mostly young urbanites with good salaries and students. Once a customer registers an account and follows a few fellow users, the landing page is transformed into a newsfeed of those users’ latest activity. Sha himself is an active user and one of the most popular accounts to follow.

“I made KnewOne for myself,” he says, “because I am looking for products and want to share with my friends.”

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Text:  TECHINASIA: Paul Bischoff  Jan 12, 2015  Editing by Steven Millward

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