Several years ago, I discovered a young tech entrepreneur called Anna Vladamyrska and profiled her as someone to watch. She and her background are so interesting and impressive her profile is one of the most highly-trafficked pieces I’ve ever written with nearly a million views to date.
Her accolades, education and drive are impressive–she holds a Columbia undergraduate degree, is studying at Stanford as a Knight-Hennessy scholar, and McKinsey had named her one their Next Generation of Women Leaders. But more than her background, it is her conviction, vision and drive to bring livestream social shopping to the Western world–specifically to fashion– via her virtual group shopping platform called ShopParty which truly resonated.
In a world where everyone is screaming Metaverse, Vladamyrska is stopping to say: It’s not the Metaverse—yet. There’s something between here and there and it’s livestream social shopping, which Vladymyrska believes is the next major wave of how consumers will shop.
Livestream social shopping is a digital shopping concept where brands showcase their products for sale via video to groups of people in a virtual audience. While this may be a new idea for people in the West, this sort of shopping is already deeply-rooted within the modern shopping landscape in the Far East.
I caught up with Anna recently and I asked her about what she thinks about the evolution of fashion e-commerce, why she believes women are the drivers of digital shopping technology, and why honesty is the cornerstone value of ShopParty.
You stand strongly in your conviction there is something between here and the Metaverse when it comes to fashion e-commerce, and you believe that something is livestream group shopping. Why?
Firstly, the technology for shopping in the Metaverse still has to evolve. It will be another five to ten years before the technological progress in hardware, improved realism, integration of crypto payments, and scalability will be at a point to fulfill the dream of Metaverse commerce.
In the meantime, there are markets and interim platforms to be developed that will sustain and support the Metaverse as a future commercial space and I see this as livestream or interactive online shopping.
Livestream shopping is the connection between how we shop now and how we shop in the interactive virtual experience of the Metaverse for multiple reasons. First, livestream naturally lends itself to capturing consumers as a gateway for a large segment of the market not drawn to other Metaverse platforms such as gaming. There aren’t avatars to create, technology to learn, or wallets to create. Also, livestream is not too far from the way some people already shop, such as home shopping television or even online, so consumers are used to the environment somewhat already, livestream social shopping just adds the components of group dynamics as well as interactivity.
Second, and also most importantly, it is much more simple to use for both brands and customers alike because it can be realized on every device right now. If you have an iphone you can successfully participate in livestream shopping both as a business and as a consumer with great success.
Describe how you see the demand ecosystem for livestream shopping and the role women play in this marketplace.
We look to the East for the biggest indicator of ripeness for this market in the West. China’s TaoBoa and WeChat platforms have shown sales almost tripling in growth in three years to over $60 billion, a number which has demonstrated clearly to retailers that livestream is the next real opportunity of e-commerce. Also, as mentioned before, consumers are somewhat used to participating in this type of shopping landscape. Classic televised home shopping networks still generate over $10 billion annually while online shopping—which surged during the pandemic—commands 20% of all sales. The numbers are obvious. So what we are seeing now is that 49% brands plan to increase investment in livestream shopping in 2022 and the most forward-looking are already exploring live shopping opportunities with famed personalities such as Paris Hilton.
As for women, they play an enormous role in any kind of e-commerce evolution moving forward and will be especially important to the success of the Metaverse as a consumer platform. Women comprise only 45% of the gaming population but are the power behind e-commerce with up to 85% of all consumer purchase decisions made by women. So much of the success of the future of e-commerce relies on how we approach this demographic.
To your point, livestream shopping is something already so present in Asia, why has it taken so long for brands to try to adopt this technology in the West?
Livestream shopping was propelled by Alibaba’s TaoBao live on China’s version of Black Friday, Singles Day. It created a new category of celebrities and influencers in Asia, who stake their own reputation and public recognition in support of a brand or a product. They examine and use products in front of potential customers and offer support with personal assessments about the value of the product. This motivated both Asian and Western brands to utilize this channel in Asia.
Livestream in the US and the rest of the West has also accelerated to catch to Asia in this concept, but platforms like Instagram Live, Amazon Live, and TikTok have been slower to integrate live streaming into social media. They are still experimenting with live shopping and social media combinations that will engage Western consumers.
We’ve taken the experimentation out of the equation at ShopParty. We have based our platform on social media interaction and have created the idea that shopping is a party, and so for our targeted demographic shopping is a social event enjoyed with trusted friends. This also helps build our and our brands’ businesses because the platform is a conduit for referral marketing which is one of the strongest types of marketing. Statistical data shows that consumers referred by a friend convert to buy at four times higher rate and a 37% higher retention rate and according to Nielsen, 92% of consumers trust referrals from people they know.
One of the critiques about the Metaverse, especially in the luxury sector, is that the technology isn’t there yet to support the translation of luxury brands on Metaverse platforms. You argue that with Livestream group shopping, brands are able to better control their image and therefore thrive in this environment. How?
Luxury companies have staked millions in their brands and want to protect their multi-billion revenues. They are all about marketing quality products with fine craftsmanship and exquisite materials, but they also rely on creating incomparable retail experiences and emotional brand loyalty.
In the Metaverse, the challenge to translate physical expressions of luxury into virtual ones is real. It’s still technologically very difficult to create a sleek and seamless representation of a brand, especially a luxury one, in the Metaverse environment which is not yet advanced enough to truly translate the finer points of a luxury brand. This is tricky for that sector because it’s these finer points which make a luxury brand what it is. So if these finer points are unable to be communicated in the Metaverse, it’s understandable luxury brands would hesitate to fully adopt to the concept. Or any brand, for that matter. Also, operating in the Metaverse places more emphasis on creating a distinctive user experience within the technology rather than the experience with the brand itself, so there is some disconnect here.
However, in the livestream environment the physical aspects of the product and staging are magnified and the staging itself can be a direct representation of the brand to a tee—it’s a real-world environment being translated to the consumer via video. This is very desirable to companies as they are able to retain their brand integrity—it’s much easier to control the experience in livestream because it’s very close to a real world experience, whereas the experience in the virtual world is still undefined.
Live streaming offers luxury brands a bridge with more easily adoptable solutions, allowing brands to gain confidence in emerging technology, teams, and marketing.
What sort of technology do people need to get started?
The incredible thing about how livestream shopping works is that it is so easy to accomplish from a technology perspective–content can be created though any smartphone, tablet, or computer. At ShopParty, we have developed a fashion-oriented livestream shopping state-of-the-art solution that we believe will enhance the potential for user engagement more than our competitors and it can be easily accessed and used by both consumers and brands alike.
Values play an important role at ShopParty? Talk to us about the values which drive your platform.
We look at a very specific set of values for our consumers and partners and integrate them deeply into our brand philosophy. Our heart is committed to our female-led retail entrepreneurs and every brand we bring on board must sync with our mission to help promote women-owned businesses, whether they are women-owned or not. We are also very proud that ShopParty also promotes qualified brands that support the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development goals that include ending poverty and promoting gender equality.
In terms of other values, we’re a digital shopping party, so we value being fun and engaging. For us, this means we work to create a seamless experience for our customers that makes the user experience simple and exciting.
Most importantly, though, we are driven by honesty at all touch points. It’s critical that our users and consumers trust us. We build trust through our ethos and our platform, but also through partnering with brands brands that we, ourselves, can put our trust into. We demand transparency from our brands and we demand the same love from them toward our users that we have.