Sometimes the idea of watching home shopping channels seems to be the kind of ordeal a creative judge would impose instead of straight jail time, but there’s no doubt the genre is a hit with some consumers and merchandisers, high-end and way below that. They’ve money makers for people who know how to make money in the TV business, like Barry Diller and Comcast.
It worked for them. So YourBrandlive.com might be on to something. The Portland,Oregon-based company, which has been bootstrapping quietly since the middle of 2010, is making a splashier debut today, calling itself the first live video social commerce platform. It thinks it can let online viewers form a direct relationship with retailers, and become a “virtual store front.”
Clients who hook up with Brandlive get customers who have the opportunity to ask questions or comment about the product and then buy it online. Their messages show up as a running scroll on the screen. The merchandiser’s hosts/salespeople field the questions, and in that way Brandlive boasts, companies get a chance to truly interact with their customers, and presumably, get the sale. “After a while in chat they even begin answering each other’s questions,” marvels Brandlive CEO Fritz Brumder.
The company has raised $200,000 to go forward in the flash sales segment. Mainly out in the Pacific Northwest, the company has already done hundreds of these live sales events, for clients ranging from Ball canning jars to Marmot, the maker of outdoor wear. There’s a secondary business in which Your Brandlive helps link vendors with manufacturers that, say, want to explain how a new product works.
On sites like One Kings Lane and Etsy where companies and brands big and small sell specialty goods, there would seem to be a business for Brandlive, especially for a retailer with a following on Facebook or Twitter, which makes the shopping event easy to publicize. Brumder also imagines how a manufacturer that sells through Walmart could link the big retailer to the live event Brandlive creates.
But willfully watching a home shopping pitch? Really? Maybe yes, maybe no. The average Brandlive online session lasts an hour. That seems to be a brutally long time at the computer, but Brumder says typically, viewers/customers are there for only 10 minutes or so. And that’s about nine minutes more than they’d spend watching an online video commercial.
(Brumder says Shoplive’s best shopping hours are at 11 am and 4 pm, which means a fair amount of viewing must be going in the workplace.)
Those viewers buy, apparently. Brumder says a 3% online conversion rate is good, but that Brandlive gets three times that and that 20% is “not uncommon for us.” Though Brandlive at first made deals with retailers to be paid a percentage of sales, it prefers a straighter contract rate. It's pretty inexpensive.
Brandlive clients sign up and are assigned a dashboard to build out their pitch. The client advertises the event on its own Website and social media links and arranges with an online check-out service to complete the transactions. Then, they find their telegenic salesperson or two and get crackin.’ That in a very small nutshell, is the drill.
Can Brandlive leap to the bigger time? We’ll be able to see soon. It’s planning an all-day retailing event for later this month with an online retailer, and another one in March with a big name cookware producer announcing (and selling) a new stovetop utensil.
Brandlive has been finessing the business and raising capital ever since July 2010. “We think we reached crticial mass in terms of the number of customers we have had,” Brumder says. “We have either created or are very close to creating a live video retail store that can sit on a company’s Website, that can stay ‘open’ for all or most of the day, with a salesperson who can quickly become the most productive employee they have, closing lots of sales very quickly. Investors took notice of that. Customers took notice of that.”