Livestreamed shopping in the U.S. has turned into a kind of Wild West for fashion.
And Toronto-based app ShopThing is moving in, looking to pioneer a new version of selling by video while the market is still developing — and establish a retail gig economy to boot.
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Selling via video is by no means new — HSN and QVC have done it for years. But Alibaba’s massive success in building livestreaming into what’s become a $430 billion industry in Asia has kicked off something of a retail land grab in the West.
Just how the practice ultimately translates to the U.S. remains to be seen, but ShopThing founder and chief executive officer Maggie Adhami-Boynton is looking to bring in an approach that’s caught fire in Canada.
The 15-year start-up veteran and Harvard Master’s graduate founded ShopThing in 2018, establishing the company in its home market. In March, ShopThing launched its iOS app with a waitlist of 50,000 users. That has quickly grown to 100,000 downloads (overall the company has over 200,000 customers) and last month ShopThing set up a new base with a U.S. headquarters and distribution center in New Jersey.
Adhami-Boynton is a technologist who has now linked her professional life with her personal passion for fashion, style and retail.
Instead of two or three hours with a host talking about goods — as is generally the case in China — ShopThing taps influencers who create short video clips, selling individual items from stores.
“We’re taking TikTok meets Instagram and live shopping and combining it into one,” Adhami-Boynton said in an interview.
The influencer walks followers through their shopping adventures and, if they find a buyer, picks up the item and has it shipped to them. ShopThing changes a 20 percent fee and handles shipping.
A scroll through the ShopThing feed is like following someone through a store as they quickly point out things they like and give some basic details. A price and a countdown clock appear over the video.
“It’s less about the brand pushing their agenda and more about the influencer,” Adhami-Boynton said.
If Adhami-Boynton has anything to say about it, retailers will start to see more shoppers wandering around their stores narrating the experience for their ShopThing followers.
The CEO sees herself as building “the most accessible gig economy yet.”
Where Uber drivers need a car and Airbnb renters need a house, ShopThing sellers already have what they need and don’t need to either make goods or hold inventory.
“You could make it a side hustle,” she said.
And brands could ultimately get in on the action.
“The plan for us is to get to a place where we have 10, 20, 30 million customers,” said Adhami-Boynton, noting the scale will feed new kinds of connections. “We already started to build relationships with the brands where they will pay that 20 percent service fee and we remove this from the customer.”
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