BACK in the days of clunky dial-up connection and flip phones, Roger Yuen already believed firmly that the Internet would significantly change the way people lived, worked and played.
The 60-year-old technology entrepreneur developed a keen interest in digital media while working for Japanese conglomerate SoftBank in the nineties.
In 2010, he capitalised on a gap in the market and founded Clozette, a lifestyle and social network catering to millennial women.
Through this online platform, users contribute fashion and beauty content and interact with other users in the community.
"In those early days, when Instagram wasn't around, it was quite difficult for women to share their outfits and bags online," said Mr Yuen. "We saw that as something we could address."
Clozette has grown in tandem with the rise of social media, amassing over 3.3 million users in Singapore, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines to date.
As the startup gained traction over the years, fashion and beauty companies began to express interest in collaborating with Clozette users.
"Brands told us they really like the way some of our users write and that was when we started building a regional network of content creators," said Mr Yuen.
Boasting a collective reach of over 450 million eyeballs, Clozette's 3,000 content creators work with brands to push out user-generated advertorial content on social media, typically in the form of articles, photos and short-form videos.
He added that such forms of digital engagement has well eclipsed traditional methods of advertising.
"Millennials don't really watch television or read magazines anymore. Everyone is now online and that's where brands try to be."
According to a 2016 study by social media management firm Sprout Social, 63 per cent of millennials stay updated on brands through social media, and spend an average of 25 hours per week online.
Amid the information overload of the Internet era, having "snackable" content is essential for effective engagement, said Mr Yuen. "Fewer words, lots of visuals, and now, even videos."
Partnerships are now a key growth engine for Clozette, which has serviced several notable brands including French beauty giant L'Oreal and luxury fashion house Gucci.
Apart from connecting brands with its network of content creators, gamification is another digital solution Clozette offers.
Gamification is the application of game-playing as a digital marketing strategy.
Earlier, Clozette partnered jewellery retailer Pandora to launch a memory-matching game featuring Pandora's latest collection of charms for its bracelets. More than 37,000 plays were recorded in Singapore after three weeks.
Said Mr Yuen: "People tend to play over and over again to get a higher score. When they're finally done playing, they would be familiar with all the new charms already. It's product discovery in a fun way; you're not forcing consumers to know your product."
With the advent of online shipping, Mr Yuen now has his money on social commerce - the use of social networks to drive e-commerce transactions.
Clozette recently tied up with online fashion retailer Zalora to launch "shoppable" content on its platform.
'Shop the look'
Users browsing through lookbooks of Clozette ambassadors decked in Zalora outfits can now "shop the look" as they scroll through the page, said Mr Yuen. By clicking on the item of interest, browsers will be redirected to Zalora for checkout.
He noted that conversion rates has been "quite good" so far, and added: "Social commerce is now viable because of the technology available to power it, and that's where we're heading."
With an inclination towards technology, keeping up with the rapidly evolving digital landscape comes naturally to Mr Yuen.
"Whatever I do today, it's very much technology-driven. It's not really work to me, but something I pursue out of interest."
The challenge, he notes, lies in identifying the different digital preferences within the millennial subgroups.
"Don't make the mistake of typecasting millennials. There are over two billion millennials in Asia alone and they can be very different from each other."
The term "millennial" can refer to somebody as young as 22 and as old as 36, both of whom are at different stages in life.
To better understand the needs of this generation, Mr Yuen makes a regular effort to have informal group discussions with his nieces.
He said: "Understanding millennials is complex, it takes time. But it's rewarding when you get it right because brands will trust that you know your stuff. As a small startup, we have put in a lot of hard work to gain the trust of big brands, but we persevered over the years."