We’ve examined a fair number of the “Everything-In-The-World” online retailers that have emerged to challenge Amazon and other early entrants in this field. Some of them are based in China, taking advantage of the manufacturing might of that nation for their sourcing, and to keep their prices low as well. LightInTheBox.com is one of these, and you’ll be amazed by the breadth of their product offerings, and quite pleased by their reasonable pricing.
The company describes itself as a global online retail form that “delivers products directly to consumers around the world. They began operations in 2007, and offer customers a particularly convenient way to shop for a wide variety of products. While you can generalize their product lines by saying they fall into the three categories of apparel, small accessories and gadgets, and home and garden, you could also examine each of these categories (and we will) and conclude that they cover and extraordinary range of goods.
The firm maintains warehouses not only in China but also in the United States and Europe, and this permits global customers to shop at the company’s website with greatly increased assurance as to payment processing, customer service, returns, and responsiveness. We will examine all of these factors as we take a closer look at what’s inside the Box – but really we should ask what isn’t inside the box, at LightInTheBox.
It’s hard to know where to begin, but let’s start with a listing of their product categories. LightInTheBox offer fashion and clothing, and in that category alone there are over 188,000 products on offer. Weddings and events garners an additional 55,000, while Home and Garden has over 88,000 offerings. There are similar numbers of products offered under Phones and Electronics, Sports and Lifestyle, Shoes (over 39,000), jewelry and watches, cell phone accessories (and when did that become a category of its own?), and cool gadgets.
With all those products on the shelves, we thought it made sense to focus in on those products that were popular and trending, to get an idea of what the consumers who visit the site consider to be its most attractive offerings. For the ladies, we found women’s shoes, wedding dresses, lingerie, yoga fitness clothing, and unique home décor furniture figured prominently. For the men, radio controlled helicopters were trending strongly. And presumably for everyone, camcorder video cameras, wireless security systems, cell phones, and tablet computers.
We decided to look at men’s shoes for our price sampling. We found an ankle-pair of sneakers sells for US$28.00, a round-toe, flat heel, ankle level leather boots for $42, and a pair of stylish, polished leather, pointed-toe, low-heel, ankle-level boots for $45. Our survey of other categories confirmed the impression that the firm really is able to offer consistently low prices on a vast array of goods.
The firm knows that its customers live all over the world, and they extend a warm welcome in the form of customer service department that can speak 27 different languages. We don’t believe that each member of this department can speak each of those languages, but, you know, between all of their members, they have that many languages covered. And equally amazing, LightInTheBox.com offers its content in 27 languages as well. Frankly, we’ve never seen that kind of linguistic versatility before. It’s quite amazing, and a tribute to the increasing power and capability of the computing world. We take our hats off to the company for making this efforts. Arigato, Danka, Che Che, and Thanks.
Now let’s look at what happens when you order retail products from a China-based company. It turns out that you receive payment processing and customer service that is roughly comparable to what you will receive from a domestic firm. Because of the local warehousing that the company performs, they are able to offer global express shipping with delivery within three to five business days. They also work with only the most secure payment providers, supporting highly secure payment transactions.
For all products except for certain made-to-order goods, cancellation is possible at any time up to the moment the order is shipped. And a comprehensive product tracking system permits you to determine when shipping has occurred, and to follow your product in its exciting voyage from warehouse – to your house.
Once a product has shipped, customers who receive an item and are not satisfied are offered a straightforward return policy. They will upon your request provide you with a product return form, and once you receive it, they ask that you fill it out and include it in the box with your return. Upon receiving the returned product and form, they will process, and let you know if store credit or a refund will be available to you.
When it comes to shipping costs, the website has an app that permits you to estimate your shipping costs, based on the type of product, and whether it is available locally, or from their China-based warehouse. The actual shipping costs will appear only at checkout, but the estimated costs will give you a good handle on the amount you can expect to pay, which will help you avoid surprises after you’ve gone through the entire process of selecting and preparing to pay.
When it comes to shipping, the 3-5 days delivery is their expedited shipping service, and involves the highest cost. In recognition of customers’ desires to save money, they also offer two slower shipping methods. The slowest, which can involve a month-long wait or more, is also the cheapest. But if you want to translate patience into savings, and want an item but do not particularly need to have it right now, this is a useful option that really will result in substantial savings.
The company regrets that as of now, they cannot ship to PO Boxes, or to military APO/FPO addresses. This is a limitation shared by a number of online retailers, and let’s hope that the global transport/retail systems that are now emerging will support deliveries of these types in the future.
As with any company that has this kind of ambitious business strategy, there have been situations where they were unable to provide the service customers hoped for or expected, and there have been criticisms online concerning product delivery and returns. To be fair, the firm does not over-promise when it comes to its return policy, but clearly there have been customers who expected to get a refund that ultimately was not offered. Our only comment would be that if you stick with products you are highly confident you will be satisfied with upon delivery, you won’t go wrong. Moreover, the number of satisfied customers, who tend to leave very few comments, likely dwarfs the number who were not satisfied.
Our survey has persuaded us that there really is another major player in the increasingly crowded space of online-everything retail. This remarkable new form of shopping turns out to be an enduring phenomenon, and LightInTheBox.com is offering solid service, and a remarkable range of low-priced goods of reasonable quality, along with a quite good level of customer service. Although many of us are not (yet) familiar with shopping across the ocean for goods, it’s becoming easier and safer to do so by the day, and the savings that can be had are very impressive. The brave new world that the Internet is creating for us has extended to online retail, and the sooner we adapt ourselves to it, the more selection we will have, and the more money we will save.