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Why Xcel Brands CEO Believes This Live Shopping Site ‘Has it All’

Verb Technology Co. celebrated the launch of Market, its new 24/7 social shopping platform, late last month with what CEO Rory Cutaia described as “three days of peace, love and livestream shopping.”

Shopfest featured hours of continuous programmed content from a selection of platform partners, including the fashion label Halston, luxury resale site myGemma and long-running television show “America Ninja Warrior.” Each day consisted of six emceed presentations broadcasted from studios on the East and West Coasts, as well as an assortment of interspersed commercials from other Market-hosted brands. Like the broader platform, products spanned an assortment of categories, including fashion, food and beverage, beauty and accessories.

“The target audience is anyone who has done anything online, from shopping Amazon to shopping on any of the social media channels to shopping even your favorite stores and brands,” Cutaia told Sourcing Journal ahead of the event. “There is something for everyone and our intention is to create awareness.”

Shopfest garnered more than 100,000 views across Market and Facebook, Verb said, with a “majority” of viewers watching “at least” 70 percent of the livestreams they clicked into. In the weeks after the event, it logged another 1 million views via Facebook and more than 3,000 directly on Market.

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Though July’s Shopfest functioned as a kick-off celebration for the broader Market platform, Verb intends to host several similar events annually, including this year.

On most days, however, Market will simply serve as the platform where its hundreds of vendors—Cutaia said the company hopes to have “well north of 1,000 to 2,000” stores by the end of the year—can host their live shopping events. Within the stream, viewers can click on small icons that will pop up the featured product’s page, while shrinking down and continuing the video. Once a shopper adds an item to cart, they can close out of the product page and the video will return to its full size.

“That allows you to stay in the action, to continue to watch what’s happening, to hear what’s happening, even interact while you’re trying to make your decision as to what color you want,” Cutaia said. “You never leave the experience. You never leave the livestream. And that’s essential to gaining the kind of traction and engagement that you need to really succeed in this space.”

Once an event concludes, Market archives the video for future users to watch and shop from. Visitors can also use Market like a standard e-commerce site, with the option to either browse a brand’s selection via its individual store, or to search for products sitewide. All items will funnel into the same cart, with each shop charging separately for shipping.

Halston’s parent company Xcel Brands is no stranger to live shopping. According to CEO Bob D’Loren, the company expects to cross $4 billion in sales and air more than 10,000 hours of live television this year. “We are one of the largest players globally in interactive TV,” D’Loren said. Though Verb does not require its partners to livestream exclusively on Market, Xcel has chosen not to partner with any other platform. Market currently hosts stores dedicated to its Halston, Judith Ripka and Longaberger brands.

“I’ve looked at a lot of livestream technologies and Verb is the only complete ecosystem,” D’Loren said. “There’s companies that have just the video piece, there are companies that maybe have payment processing, and if you really want to put the whole ecosystem together, you have to bolt a lot of different technologies together to make it work. Verb has it all.”

D’Loren praised Market’s “attribution engine” in particular. As Cutaia explained it, the platform allows individuals to create unique invitations that will compensate them when someone else clicks the link, watches the event and buys an item.

“It’s a way for people that have built these big contact lists over the years and relationships to monetize them,” Cutaia said. “We think that that’s a big growth area. And so now I’ve just grown my marketing reach exponentially without spending a dime because all of you guys that are looking to generate an income, well you’re going go out and tell everybody that you know, because you’re going to get paid for doing so when they purchase.”

Attribution engines, D’Loren believes, have the ability to drive what will be “the ultimate win” in livestreaming: harnessing the power of micro- and nano-influencers who can drive engagement and earn money the way affiliates do today. “I personally believe that’s where it’s all headed,” D’Loren said.

Verb is also working on allowing influencers to choose products from across brands and manufacturers and to sell them on Market. Using the platform, Cutaia noted, influencers will then be able to simulcast their stream to their own social media channels.

“That’s something that you’re not going to see happening in QVC and HSN land,” he added. “It’s not what they do. It’s not what they need to do. I think they’re going to continue to focus on what they do really, really well. And what we’ll do here, I think, is the future.”

Verb, of course, is not the only company attempting to bring live selling to the internet. Retail giants like Amazon and Walmart have gotten into livestreaming, as well as newcomers, like the fashion resale platform Galaxy. Cutaia, however, sees awareness as “the only thing” holding back livestream shopping in the U.S. and embraces competitors entering the space.

“I think that’s the greatest thing that could possibly happen because that allows us to leverage their balance sheet and their marketing spend to help create awareness for everybody else on the planet, that this exists,” he said.

Though China has been held up as the poster child for livestreaming’s potential, Cutaia believes the U.S. could see even greater adoption over time. “As big as it is in China, it could probably be even bigger already but for the intervention of the government,” he said. The CEO also pointed to the United States’ decades-long familiarity with traditional live shopping companies like QVC and HSN.

D’Loren is similarly bullish on livestreaming, predicting that it will become “a very significant portion” of e-commerce in the U.S.

“Twelve years ago when we started Xcel, most CEOs that I spoke with from major retailers thought that e-commerce meant nothing for apparel,” he said. “Well, tell that to the guys at Shein.”