Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the world had to adapt to a new way of life. One of these changes includes the shutting down of brick and mortar stores, forcing consumers to turn to online shopping. With this shift, in Canada alone, we saw e-commerce sales more than double year over year, with over a 110 percent increase compared to May 2019.
One company that benefited from this shift is ShopThing, a live shopping marketplace where influencers share and create partnered live shopping events. We sat down with the Founder & CEO of ShopThing, Maggie Adhami-Boynton, to discuss this new shopping trend and how it’s impacting retail in North America.
Alison: For those who don’t know, tell us about ShopThing.
Maggie: We are a live shopping marketplace that pairs influencers with brands to host incredibly engaging live shopping events. Think TikTok meets QVC, but leveraging mobile and influencers!
Live shopping has been a massive trend in Asia where influencers (called Key Opinion Leaders or KOLs) sell anything and everything using live video. It has quickly grown from an $18 billion industry to $430 billion in just 3 years! At ShopThing, we’ve taken this exciting momentum and curated it for the North American market with short video content, similar to TikTok or Instagram Stories (where you can skip forward or backward to view a specific item at your leisure).
Our influencers post hundreds of items to our App/Instagram daily, that are available for 24 hours to shop (similar to a flash sale), creating a sense of urgency and a fun (read: addicting) shopping experience!
That sounds like a fast-growing industry to be in! Why did you decide to create ShopThing?
I’ve been in the tech industry for 15 years, but my real passion was for fashion and retail. I stumbled upon the trend in Asia in 2018 and was immediately hooked, but found, to my dismay, that nothing of its kind existed in the North American market. It didn’t take long into piloting the concept before I found a product-market fit here and knew this would be the way the next generation shops.
When the pandemic hit in early 2020, retail was hit the hardest: unable to open their stores or move inventory. BUT the pandemic proved that people LOVE shopping AND crave connection. We partnered with retailers and brands to help them drive virtual foot traffic back into their stores, despite an extremely long lockdown.
My favourite part was when one of our brand partners told us that we helped them “keep the lights on” and pay their staff during what would have traditionally been their busiest season.
It’s incredible that you were able to help so many businesses during such turbulent times. Did you always aspire to be an entrepreneur?
I’ve always been an entrepreneur. From selling goldfish at the annual Persian New Year Market (yes, I did that!) or selling $30K/year on eBay at the tender age of 16, I’ve always had a love for business and entrepreneurship.
ShopThing was my opportunity to combine my 2 passions: tech + fashion. The timing was right and there was a need for this in the North American market. It’s been an incredibly exciting and fulfilling journey!
Being an entrepreneur can be a time-consuming path, how do you balance all of your priorities in life?
Let me start off by saying it’s never easy (there are crazy ups and downs), but it’s a rewarding rollercoaster of a ride, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I carve out time for my family, friends, and breaks to decompress (spending quality time with my kids is exhausting AND energizing at the same time!). That combined with an extremely supportive family and team, fuels me to tackle the daily challenges of entrepreneurship.
What’s one thing that you’re most proud of thus far in your career and for ShopThing?
#1: Creating ShopThing: Our amazing community of influencers and customers who are so fiercely loyal that some of them have even bought iPhones to shop with us—we don’t have an Android app yet. That is serious commitment!
#2: Raising US $10M Series A funding: Less than 2% of female entrepreneurs are funded, while 50% of businesses are run and founded by women. It’s definitely a huge accomplishment.
You use the term “transform” often in your marketing, tell us about how you’re transforming and disrupting the retail space?
Shopping has been stagnant for decades. Initially, brick-and-mortar created an inviting place for customers to interact, engage, and learn from sales associates before purchasing. The obvious drawback was having to physically travel to and from the stores, try things on, etc. Inevitably, technology incrementally created opportunities for us to shop from the comfort of our homes, so much so that today we can buy almost everything online (food, furniture, cars, and even rocket ships). The only downside to online shopping is what I call “catalogue fatigue”, the endless scrolling through thousands of static images on an e-commerce site, which ultimately hurts conversion rates for the retailer.
Enter live shopping. Live shopping is the perfect combination of the things we love most about in-store and online shopping. The engagement, experience, and convenience—it truly is the best of both. Bonus? ShopThing brings in the magic formula of influencers and the trust they bring with their reviews. Our customers tell us that more than half of their online purchases are made because of an influencer.
For retailers, it’s a way to drastically increase their brand awareness, grow their sales, and reach hundreds of thousands of customers that would never set foot in their store. Some companies report conversion rates approaching 30 percent with live commerce—up to ten times higher than in conventional e-commerce.
Live Shopping is undoubtedly disrupting the retail landscape and the future of how we shop and sell.
You’ve briefly touched on the pandemic and how it has impacted other retail businesses, but how has it impacted ShopThing?
The pandemic definitely accelerated our growth. We piloted live shopping with brands during a time when stores were closed and people were stuck at home – to immense success.
Naysayers thought this growth would only last as long as the lockdown. But, the world is now opening up again and people still want to shop in this way. Even more rewarding, retailers are excited to work in more ways with us. Now, brands are reaching out to us to be featured in our App and have face time with our half a million customers.
Is there anything interesting that you’re working on or exciting announcements?
#1: We launched our VIP membership program (in May 2022) – the absolute first of its kind in the live shopping space. Our VIPs have access to several special features that have been requested from us for a long time coming. Check it out!
#2: International shopping trips: did someone say shopping in Europe?! 💁♀️ We’re excited to be bringing the best of the best shopping from around the world to our customers this year, because who doesn’t love shopping in Paris?!
#3: Android App (2022) – our long-awaited Android App is FINALLY coming this year (we’ve been asked 100+ times a day, every single day since we launched our iOS App) which means that anyone with a phone will be able to access our hundreds of luxury deal drops every single day. We can’t wait!