This new SA video shopping app uses influencers to sell fashion in real time

Business Insider SA

  • The DROPD app is the first of its kind in South Africa where shoppers can purchase fashion items recommended to them by social media influencers in real time.
  • DROPD is already collaborating with fast fashion retailer Cotton On and Mr Price Sport.
  • More shopping categories such as home and décor as well gadgets are on the cards.
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A new app allows shoppers to buy clothing on the recommendation of social media influencers, in real time, as they watch live fashion shows.

DROPD, founded by Sifiso Vundla, merges online shopping and live video shows hosted by social media influencers, where viewers can make instant purchases as they watch.

The influencers act as the sales experts and take viewers through a range of available fashion choices, while also answering questions from users. The influencers also put together a virtual closet of the outfits where you can view the products without watching the videos.

It’s much like the TV informercials of the early 2000s from the likes of Homemark and Verimark who largely got their start through broadcast TV. TV Mall, launched by DStv in 2018, became Africa’s first live TV shopping channel.

“We are basically QVC for Africa,” says Vundla. QVC is the US-based, free-to-air TV shopping channel which specialises in televised home shopping.

DROPD launched in October and is currently affiliated with a number of brands including Mr Price Sport, Zaful and fast fashion retailer Cotton On, and targets young female shoppers between the ages of 17 to 26. Other retailers featured include Zara, H&M, Missguided and Asos. The app currently has over 100 influencers on their database.

Most of the influencers DROPD reached through email and an agency that referred influencers to them. Some came onboard at a brand event earlier in the year.

“We look at how many followers they have. Usually, we look at a minimum of about 3,000, but we’re not really strict on the rule around followers because we always look at engagement," says Vundla.

The influencers’ experience of reviewing products is also considered and they must have a published portfolio of work online, he said

Vundla says the decision to use influencers instead of salespeople is because of their social media following, and that they are relatable. The influencers will be trained for sales skills upon sign up.

The products on show are chosen strategically and range from R100 to R1,000 and in exceptional cases it will have products priced over R1,000.

“What we’re finding with live shopping is, it’s in real time, and you don’t want to think hard about spending. It’s stuff that you can just buy without thinking too much,” he said.

Vundla adds that DROPD is currently working on integrating in-app checkout to ensure a seamless shopping experience

The app currently sends viewers to the retailers’ websites where they complete the purchase and the merchant handles the delivery.

For its first live show scheduled for later this month, viewers will be able to purchase directly on the DROPD app and will then have their products delivered to them by DROPD.

“With the first live, that’s the first time we’re going to be taking on the responsibility because we find that if there isn’t in-app checkout, it still adds a bit of friction to the whole process,” he says.

“What we’re going to be doing is, with on-demand stuff and as somebody orders, the product right there and then goes into a package and it gets shipped in 24 to 48 hours.”

The platform will be adding more categories to include home and décor as well gadgets.

In the increasingly competitive retail sector, which has been in decline as shoppers lose interest in brick and mortar stores in favour of online shopping, retailers have been gradually embracing experiential marketing to drive sales.

For the brands that partner with DROPD, this is another way to reach more customers.

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