How China is shaping the future of shopping

This article is the second in an FT series examining the retail future

Tech entrepreneur Dan Dan Lee has been waiting several years for the smartphone generation to be a respected American entertainment: shopping channel red

The idea of ​​selling products through video demonstrations dates back to the 1980s, when the Home Shopping Network and QVC first appeared on U.S. television.

Fast-forward to 2021 and live video has become a key feature of China’s largest ecommerce applications, such as Taiobao Live, and Pinduduwe. Shopping is also becoming an integral part of China’s most popular social video app, Quishou and Diane, as the Chinese version of TightTock’s bytens.

Yet consumers in North America and Europe often leave flat, static online stores that look like miniature versions of their desktop websites.

“Almost everything is mobile-first,” says Lee, who lives and works in Hollywood. “Entertainment is mobile-first, social mobile-first, but ecommerce is in the Stone Age.”

Lee hopes to change that with his start-up PopShop Live, a new generation mobile shopping app that uses the most essential features of smartphones – cameras and communications – for business.

Liana Lynn of Los Angeles has a livestream at Wonderland Gift Shop and Art Gallery PopShop Live

Chinese inspiration

Inspired by the rapid expansion of mobile commerce in China, new ventures including PopShop, Verishop, UiUO and NTWRK are interested in the choice of Instagram and TickTock to redefine online retail for a new generation of customers.

Former banker and Snapchat executive Imran Khan wants his US-based online retail start-up Verishop to become a “digital mall”

He said Amazon is great for finding items “for convenience”, but for fast-growing segments in ecommerce like fashion, beauty and homewear, “people want to hear the opinions of others and understand the story of the product.”

In the UK, the app is identifying itself as a “QVC for the Tiktok generation” with dedicated video channels for OUUO handbags, cosmetics and perfumes.

After joining the South in the south-west of Austin in 201 Pop, Lee was encouraged to re-launch the shopping channel in the social media age of the festival.

He started working on video-centric experiences to make second-hand items work as apps for business. But the idea of ​​starting to use live, interactive feeds with American customers will take a few years.

Q12020 vs. Q12021 (%) Bar chart shows eCommerce sales sharing from smartphones

“It took a while to figure out the product experience,” Lee said. “The video itself doesn’t make much of a difference in shopping. We have a stronger focus on entertainment and the community.”

Today, retailers in New York’s Midtown Comics and Lee’s Wallis, which sell crystal and tarot cards, Minnesota Mall of AmericaThe largest shopping mall in the United States, PopShop offers schedules for displaying their wares, answering customers’ questions, giving live performances, or chatting with visitors.

Often they are shop owners who have had to close their doors to real customers by turning their empty shops into studios over the past year.

It has taken the epidemic

“I think Kovid is helping a lot of people better imagine what the future holds,” Lee said.

In November, PopShop was paid 100 100 million for a fundraising round led by Benmark, an initial investor in Uber, Instagram and Snapchat. According to app Annie, tracking mobile usage increased the time spent on retail applications worldwide by 30 percent in 2020.

Most of the renewed interest of investors in live streaming as well as big companies like the new Facebook is driven by the belief that the shopping habit developed during carnivirus lockdowns will soon be matched with Chinese ecommerce applications around the world.

Peter Thomas Roth

Skincare expert Peter Thomas Roth participates in the presentation of Getty Images by shopping channel QVC © Astrid Stavierz / KiVC

Their argument is that if Amazon provides the basic necessities, video chat providers start-ups or the ability to actually shop with social networks and friends will drive more entertaining ecommerce – donated by entrepreneur Anderson Horowitz. “shopatainment

Taobao Live has become one of the fastest growing parts of Alibaba, with RMB generating more than বিল 400 billion ($ 62 billion) in consumer spending by 2020, according to the Chinese ecommerce group. Similar models have landed in Japan, South Korea and Southeast Asia, where a smartphone is the first and only computing device for many consumers.

But Internet companies in the United States and Europe are lagging behind.

“Right now, big companies in the U.S. aren’t exactly as good,” says Steve Saracino, founder of Activate Capital in the U.S. and the future of mobile-social commerce. “China is far ahead of us in this regard.”

Mobile shopping has increased in the main retail season of 2020

Not everyone is a believer. Harley Finkelstein, president of the Canadian ecommerce group Shopify, said it was “extremely interesting” to study China for retail trends, but it was not always clear which idea would reach other markets. “I do not know [yet] If the live video is going to be one. ”

Finkelstein said in an interview earlier this year that a suitable mobile app has been a “table stack” among online retailers for years. He added, “We don’t need a team called ‘Mobile’ because it’s a team like us called ‘Color TV’.”

Testing on a larger screen

Yet, Americans still seem to prefer to check out the big screen. A study by Adobe late last year found that 39 percent of U.S. ecommerce spending was on smartphones, with most spending on laptops and other devices. Adobe says that laptops and PCs can sell twice as much as smartphones that visit a shopping site,

FT Series: Retail futures

The articles in this series will see:

Walmart vs. Amazon: The struggle for grocery dominance

Japanese retail and epidemic lessons

Can Online Marketplaces Live Their Hype?

The kind of shopping apps that Western consumers have adopted so far have become more useful than entertainment. Shopify’s year-old app shop tries to match the two to say that people over 24 months use the shop every month to track parcel shipments from order with the Shopify store.

Customers, however, will now be able to discover and purchase new products in pre-purchased places, without the app.

“There’s a difference between buying and buying,” Finkelstein said. “There are a lot of places where a customer can go shopping to buy something but I think customers are showing that they really want to shop: they want to find new brands and new products, they want to get an experience.”

For example, Varishop’s “Shop Party” feature, which was launched in December, helps little friends combine zoom-style video chat with his browsing. It was a hit when lockdowns prevented people from shopping together in the real world.

In addition, Verishop’s “ShopPable” content feed of videos posted by brands and handpicked influencers is already driving users 10 percent of the products added to their virtual carts.

“It’s a new concept in the United States that inspires people to buy things,” Khan said. “All ecommerce [today] Searching but searching you can’t find any stories. ‘

Beauty blogger Austin Lee Jiaki

Beauty blogger Austin Lee Ziaki applies lipstick while livestring on Shanghai’s ecommerce platform Taobao via Get VTG / VCG Getty

Until recently, enterprising capitalists in Silicon Valley were reluctant to support new online retail ideas outside of certain verticals, such as food supply. “No one wanted to go against Amazon,” Khan said.

Leopard of PopShop saw that a new approach to global e-commerce was needed to convince investors that it could be an epidemic and a small group of enterprising capitalists.

Tick ​​tock and muscle on Instagram

While live-streaming and video shopping apps remain small for the time being, this has not stopped the world’s two largest social media groups from taking big steps in ecommerce recently.

Tick ​​tock Plans to roll out live-streamed shopping, Where its influencers or “creators” push products to their millions of followers and introduce new features to allow brands to display product catalogs.

Facebook recently announced plans to launch creator-hosted stores, after adding a dedicated shopping tab to its flagship app and Instagram. The company is building a platform for retailers that Facebook executives say will soon be rolled out to its other apps, Messenger and WhatsApp.

Increase in retail ecommerce

“It’s too early but we’re seeing a lot of traction,” said Ashley Yuki, product management director at Instagram.

As well as further personalizing product and retailer recommendations, adding shopping links to live videos is a big focus, he added. “People want to discover products from people they believe in – the people around them are also creators.”

Inspired by China’s all-in-one app WeChat, Facebook has spent years trying to transform its various services into a “super app.”

George Lee, director of product management at Facebook, admits that American and European shopping apps are “lagging behind” due to their Asian competitors’ legacy of desktop computing.

“The way we’re building our trade infrastructure is that traders are hopeful they can quickly list our products on our systems and we can present them in a variety of ways that tradition may not be historically Western,” he said.

Shopify said last month that it saw the number of stores selling through Facebook and Instagram, as well as the total volume of business on social networks more than double last year.

But it may take a few more years for American and European customers to fully embrace the modern version of the home shopping network after becoming accustomed to shopping on PCs and laptops.

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