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Transform Shopping With Video Stories

Feature Article | December 26, 2016 by Stephanie Overby

YEAY CEO Melanie Mohr aims to transform shopping.

Entrepreneur Melanie Mohr thinks mobile video is the best way to reach the youngest generation of independent consumers. But the veteran video producer sees digital video as more than advertising. Her Berlin-based startup YEAY turns mobile video into a new way to shop—and a platform for retailers, including established brands and startups, to communicate directly with consumers.

“We want to transform the future of shopping,” Mohr says.

When YEAY launched in June 2016, Product Hunt’s Ryan Hoover described the app as “QVC + Tumblr + Snapchat.” YEAY already has more than 200 retail partners on board as well as investors, including German venture capital firm Grazia Equity, former EMI CEO Elio Leoni-Sceti, and Warburg Pincus partner René Obermann.

Move to the Horizon Video content marketplaces are the next phase in the evolution of online commerce; they’re a more immersive way to shop digitally. “It’s entertainment. It’s social. And it’s commerce,” Mohr says. “It’s a whole new experience.”

Move to the Horizon

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YEAY’s video content marketplace shows products in motion

Video content marketplaces are the next phase in the evolution of online commerce; they’re a more immersive way to shop digitally. “It’s entertainment. It’s social. And it’s commerce,” Mohr says. “It’s a whole new experience.”

TV shopping networks have been enormously successful, but they cater to an older audience, notes Mohr. She sees how much time her own teenagers log on their phones. “They love to consume video,” she says, “and this gives them a Snapchat-ty way to shop and discover great new independent brands and designers.”

Grazia Equity partner Jochen Klüppel, whose firm has invested in both video and e-commerce businesses, says that YEAY blends the best of both worlds and is one of the first of a new class of “video commerce” companies.

Users can follow brands, designers, independent sellers, and stores. And if they have something to sell, they can create their own sales channel. The full-screen vertical videos can show shoppers what a garment looks like in motion (60% of YEAY’s channels feature fashion or beauty products) or how a gadget works. Current products include a selection of platform shoes being resold by German drag queen Jurassica Parka and a dog lead for joggers from European e-tailer Relax Days.

Provide the Platform

YEAY is business to consumer and consumer to consumer. Such companies as Australian swimwear retailer Mosmann, Berlin-based eyewear seller Mister Spex, and German housewares brand URBANARA are uploading product videos to the app and using YEAY as an online sales channel. Emerging fashion designers, inventors, and successful post-Kickstarter project founders are also key customer segments. “There’s also the guy who wants to sell his guitar, shoots a video, and waits for the money to roll in,” Mohr says. YEAYbies (as YEAY calls its users) can like a video, share videos through other channels, or purchase the product with the app.

“It’s entertainment.
It’s social. And it’s commerce.
It’s a whole new experience.”

It was Mohr’s understanding of those customer segments, and their interest in an alternate digital shopping approach, that inspired her to develop the platform. Her previous venture, Apollo TV, is a digital video network with content for and by artists, designers, and inventors.

“We’re working with some very innovative brands and individuals. They like the content we’ve created so far, and that’s given us an advantage to reach out into this geography of cool,” says Mohr. “Brands are looking for something that can make them stand out. A short video not only shows the product better, it enables you to tell a story—if you know how to do it well.”

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Helping brands tell video stories

But not everyone is fluent in this particular brand of storytelling, observes Mohr, who was an executive producer for video and television production companies for two decades. “Our Millennial users create videos every day,” says Mohr. “Videography is natural for them. And the social media folks working with some of our young brands are very capable.” Other customers—primarily more established brands—need assistance. YEAY provides professional videographers and access to the company’s studio in Berlin (with additional locations to come).

“A product sales video is not a commercial. It’s a new genre. This is the key point brands have to understand,” Mohr says. “We help them understand how to sell a product in a way that’s both interesting and authentic.”

Act Like a Big Company

Most recent digital marketplace startups began by serving a limited geographic region. Social shopping app Depop started in Italy before launching in the UK. “It’s easier,” says Mohr. “And it can give you a quicker proof of concept.”

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A YEAY app screenshot

YEAY went global from the start, however, “because video has high viral potential.” The company wanted to ensure that it could capitalize on any content that might get passed around the globe. That meant YEAY had to figure out early on how to handle regional differences in taxes, for example.

“The biggest challenge has been finding a good, seamless payment option to serve all these markets,” says Mohr. “Lots of companies are working on solutions and getting close, and we’ve been in talks with all of them.” The company used PayPal at launch but was scheduled to begin working with a new partner that gives buyers more payment options in October. Sellers are responsible for logistics and shipping.

Cast a Wide Talent Net

YEAY backs up its global business model with a diverse team. Its 35 employees—25 of whom are full time—hail from 13 different countries. Half are women.

Diversity in age and background has been valuable given YEAY’s global aspirations. “My staff are from Thailand, Brazil, Israel, and Australia, to name a few. One of the benefits of being in Berlin is that we have access to very knowledgeable international talent,” says Mohr.

The team includes a CTO and several other employees based in Los Angeles, with plans to hire more in Germany and the United States.

“The time difference has turned out to be an advantage,” says Mohr. “We talk about a new feature we’d like to see in the app and by the time we get in the next day, they’ve executed it in LA.”

Show Me (More Than) the Money

YEAY has been much easier to fund than Apollo TV, she says. But now that the seed rounds are complete, Mohr is looking for partners rather than a payday.

“Every startup needs funding, but it’s about more than just the money,” Mohr says. “We want someone who sees the innovation potential of the product and who understands that it’s more than just a transactional e-commerce platform. I want partners that will challenge us to continue to be on the forefront of shopping trends.”

This story originally appeared on Digitalist Magazine.

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