Gone are the days when shopping was an activity based solely on necessity and utility. The concept of “the sale” has been evolving for decades, and today’s consumers are searching for more out of a retail, both in who they purchase from and how they do so.
They are no longer willing to tolerate any lack of authenticity when it comes to making purchases, and are in search of receiving validation, joy, comfort, and even stress relief from their shopping. Today, what pushes a sale over the line is just as much about how the product is presented as it is about the product itself. What has proven to both attract and retain customers has been the ability for a brand to create a unique and irreplicable experience, and while the brick-and-mortar setting has the ability to achieve this, and while it is increasingly clear that the next step for shoppable entertainment – or “shopatainment” – resides in the ecommerce world there are those who are looking even further ahead, seeking to innovate the way in which we both consume media and made purchases.
Two such people are Gurps Rai and Christopher Kelly, the respective chief executive officer and chief financial officer of droppTV. The world’s first shoppable streaming platform, it uses proprietary artificial intelligence, machine learning, and computer vision algorithms to recognize products in video content and tag them in real-time. Rai and Kelly have recognized that while monetizing video content is a concept that has the potential to be highly lucrative, its current form of ads that either line the side of a player or pop-up during the content itself often leads consumers feeling “sold to.” In order to keep viewers engaged in the content and create a seamless shopatainment experience, they developed the technology that allows consumers to purchase items within a piece of content with a single click, which doesn’t pause or direct them away from the video in any way. According to Kelly the power to purchase while simultaneously being entertained is game-changing, which is why he signed on to help make Rai’s vision for droppTV a reality.
Gurps Rai has a history of being on the cutting edge of the world’s trends. He started his career in financial services, handling foreign exchange transactions for large businesses based in the commodities market and then became one of the early adopters of cryptocurrencies. An entrepreneur at his core, Rai is always searching for his next big idea, and droppTV actually came as a result of his desire to own a jacket in Megastar Drake’s music video. After watching the video he searched in vain for hours online trying to discover the jacket’s origins so he could purchase it, and after finally giving up in exasperation he wondered why nobody had created a platform in which he could simply purchase the jacket from the video itself. He soon realized that it was an idea that had been attempted many times before, but nobody had done so through the lens of shopatainment: creating a seamless experience where consuming content and shopping could coexist without one detracting from the other.
Where Rai’s strengths lie in his visionary thinking, Kelly’s are in his ability to bring such ideas to life. Originally from the United Kingdom, he has over a decade of experience in international investment banking, working with some of the largest companies in the world and specializing in structured derivatives. He has also served as an advisor on several commodities projects and worked to help businesses raise capital for large-scale oil and gas construction projects. Joining droppTV, Kelly oversees the corporate financial strategy for the company and has been instrumental in facilitating innovation while ensuring they are set up for financial success. He has deliberately sought to maintain as small an overhead as possible, leveraging technology as opposed to offices and staff. While that has meant that at some points everybody on the team has had to wear many hats, this tactic allowed droppTV to commit a higher percentage of their free capital directly to their platform. In addition to giving them a competitive edge over their competitors, Kelly’s strategy also improved their bottom line, making them more attractive to potential investors and successfully seeing $8.5 million raised in its series A round.
While the concept of shopatainment may seem novel to those in the western part of the world, in China it has already bloomed into a full-blown industry. There, sellers are leveraging video over photos to sell products, creating programming that is professional-grade in its quality with scripts, high-end lighting, rented wardrobes and sets, production managers, sound editors, and professional makeup artists. Buyers browse these seller videos as they would flip through television stations, creating a $137 billion a year industry. Compare this with the $137 million that was the entire digital ad spend in the United States in 2020 and you will quickly get a clear picture of the scale at which this movement has the potential to take. It plays perfectly into the modern consumer’s search for both authenticity and relatability when it comes to deciding how to spend their money, in particular those belonging to Generation Z which have a current spending power of $143 billion by themselves and are playing a huge role in shaping how we will shop in the future. Under the same principle that would see you choose to attend a live concert over streaming an artist’s music, shopatainment creates a way for consumers to feel more connected both with the content they are consuming and products they are purchasing.
Thanks to the combined talents of Rai and Kelly, although droppTV launched less than a year ago it has exploded onto the scene as a trailblazer in shopatainment. The first phase of its consumer rollout has been dedicated to music videos. According to Rai, it is music videos’ unique place as an intersection of culture, art, music, and fashion that made them the perfect choice for the first large-scale application of their technology, as well as the first industry for them to disrupt. With the technology readily available today it no longer takes a massive budget to create a video of professional quality, and yet many up-and-coming artists still overpay directors for videos of mediocre quality while also failing to adequately monetize the content they create. Through droppTV, artists and creators have the ability to tell stories through their content and connect with their fans in a new way while also receiving direct attribution for their influence.
Although still a very young company, droppTV has already built a loyal base of sellers, consumers and content creators. Their soft launch featured a roster of famous artists and influencers including Ashanti, A$AP Mob’s A$AP TyY and the roaster of Next Records, but also lesser-known and up-and-coming artists such as Chow Lee and Manny Litt. For all artists, the company made deals with various boutiques and resellers who gave the artists sought after clothes to wear in their videos such as Kanye West’s Yeezy line or limited edition Nike shoes, and it became post-revenue from day one of their soft launch, generating over $40,000 from the first video release. Having built a solid foundation in the music video space, Rai and Kelly now have their sights set on droppTV launching its first long-form content pieces, allowing them to become a truly free video-on-demand platform. They will also be launching a wholesale business-to-business to business-to-consumer platform, through which business-to-business customers will be able to conduct wholesale business from the very same portal they create their direct-to-consumer marketing campaigns via droppTV’s smart video player. These smart “close-the-loop” solutions developed by Rai and Kelly are what will keep their customers from across the spectrum committed to the novel platform.
Video content is quickly becoming one of the most popular ways to communicate, and studies have also shown that is one of the most effective ways to get your message across. While traditional video content is very much still a growing industry in and of itself, for Rai and Kelly by utilizing the artificial intelligence technology of the information age they create a world in which marketing is not an attempt to lead or manipulate the consumer to a sale, but rather being ready at all times to capture the consumer’s impulse. Think about how many times that like Rai you have watched a music video, movie, or show and wanted something that appeared on the screen. Now imagine what would have happened if with a simple impulsive tap, that very item could be yours. This is the genius of Rai and Kelly’s droppTV, and what has been the drive behind its explosive growth.
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