Many live shopping apps have claimed to be the next QVC for Gen Z, but only one actually has the backing of the media and shopping conglomerate responsible for pioneering video commerce. Live shopping app Sune is the latest player to enter the live streaming arena as the category continues to gain traction in the Western hemisphere. In 2021, livestream shopping sales hit $363.26 billion in China and $36.09 billion in the US.
Backed by Qurate Retail Group, the parent company of QVC and HSN, Sune has a distinct competitive advantage when it comes to introducing video-driven commerce to a new generation. Qurate captivated a loyal customer base in the over-50 segment through home shopping networks QVC and HSN, which together generated $7.4 billion in total revenue in 2022. Now, the company is launching Sune to attract a Gen Z audience by creating an engaging platform to help young consumers browse and shop for new and exciting products from young and undiscovered brands.
“We're very focused on the Gen Z consumer, who has a deep commitment to believe in brands that are more than just about selling a product and that has a reason or purpose for being,” Brian Beitler, Founder of Sune and General Manager of Live Shop Ventures LLC, told BeautyMatter. “The voices that we have on the platform reflect the consumer that we're targeting. They're helping to bring their own unique way of telling stories to the platform, and that's what we think will help us be compelling and resonate with the target audience.”
While QVC’s live shopping model is iconic to an older generation, many Gen Zers didn’t grow up watching the shopping network. However, the format is at least somewhat familiar to Gen Z, who grew up watching YouTube tutorials and have always purchased products online. Sune may be reimagining live shopping for a new generation, but it’s taking plenty of pointers from the established video commerce giants, most notably by incorporating the use of hosts to demonstrate products in live shows as well as video reviews and tutorials.
Today, Sune has a roster of 25 in-house hosts / content creators (or “sunesetters,” as the brand calls them), all of whom were carefully selected and trained to showcase and sell products. Beitler believes that live show hosts are going to be an important part of the future of buying and shopping and a pivotal part of Sune’s strategy to dominate this new segment.
“We're very focused on finding creators that can help brands tell their story and can help consumers understand the power of the products and the power of the brands that they're buying from,” says Beitler. “We're looking for talent that we think is compelling, interesting, connects with the audience, and knows how to tell a story, and then we're investing to help develop that skill further with regard to telling stories around products, brands, founders, and why this product has come to be in the first place.”
Still in beta mode, Sune currently boasts over 90 mission-driven brands on the platform ranging from beauty to fashion, accessories, lifestyle, wellness, pets, and more, with plans to add several hundred before the end of the year. The price points vary widely across the platform, from $5 to over $100. According to Beitler, any brand that has a story to tell and a purpose behind its brand is a perfect fit for the Sune platform. Sune uses a revenue-sharing business model, although Beitler declined to share exactly how those sales are split between the brand and Sune.
“We think we offer a better value proposition than what you will find in wholesale or find on potentially other marketplaces,” he told BeautyMatter. “But we feel really confident that if [a brand] becomes a part of the platform, this is going to be one of [their] best options for selling, not just because it allows you to tell your stories, but from a pricing perspective as well.”
In addition to developing the brand’s in-house talent, Sune’s differentiator is that it also helps new founders develop their on-camera skills, which are a must-have if you want to run a successful e-commerce brand today.
“Part of what makes us unique is the way that we help brands tell their stories,” says Beitler. “We work with them to help them be confident and comfortable in front of the camera, because [founders] may be really good at crafting or creating a beauty brand, but not very comfortable being in front of a camera telling their story.”
Sune’s emphasis on production value also sets it apart from other live shopping platforms. The videos are produced at Sune’s studio in New York, which allows the brand to maintain a level of quality and consistency that they feel consumers have come to expect in their interactions with brands and influencers.
“You wouldn't go into a store that was poorly merchandised, with apparel unfolded or beauty products that were [unorganized]. You expect a certain standard of content,” says Beitler. “And I think figuring out exactly what that standard of content is part of what we think will be the secret to the success of Sune.”
Anybody can create content, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to sales. Taking a page from QVC and HSN’s playbook, Sune’s platform primarily focuses on entertainment and education while also allowing consumers to engage with brands who share their values and are committed to doing more than just selling them a product.
“There's a standard for how a story should be told, how the product should be lit, how it should be filmed. And our goal is to bring our expertise and understanding of that to this marketplace and to find the right creators—the right sunesetters—to do that,” says Beitler.
According to Beitler, Sune is hoping to usher in a new era of e-commerce shopping that he’s calling “the digitization of window shopping,” which he says is missing from today’s landscape.
“If you think about the internet experience today, there's not really a great place to go where you window shop. Part of the joy is [walking] past windows and seeing things that are interesting to you and [getting] drawn in. Where do you do that on the internet? There's not a place where you can just sit back for a few moments, go window shopping, and discover.”
One could argue that social media feeds are one big window-shopping experience, with consumers scrolling past multiple profiles (or storefronts) every second. But what’s lacking in social media, Beitler says, is a dedicated place to discover new brands.
E-commerce retailers aren’t always designed with discovery in mind. Websites are divided into subcategories full of flat, static images. Tech giants have tried to capitalize on live shopping, but none so far have succeeded in getting Americans on board with live shopping in the way that Asians have engaged with live shopping. Facebook shut down its live shopping feature in October 2023, with Instagram following in its footsteps shortly after in March 2023. YouTube and Amazon are making big bets on live shopping, but it’s too soon to tell if these brands will have what it takes to take it mainstream. TikTok has big ambitions with its in-app live shopping feature, which may give this old-school selling model the boost it needs to finally stick the landing in the Western hemisphere.
“While v-commerce [video commerce] hasn't necessarily exploded in the US like in Asia, we truly believe that v-commerce is the future of e-commerce,” says Beitler. “We're trying to bring that joy of discovery and entertainment to shopping and back to the digital landscape because we don't think it exists.”
At this point in the live shopping race, there is no clear winner. Even if Sune isn’t the biggest player in the game, like TikTok or YouTube, it’ll certainly benefit from the livestream e-commerce boom that Beitler believes is surely around the corner.
“There's no question that a group of consumers that's grown up with video in their hand that consumes more video content than any other generation before them is going to turn to that as the medium for shopping in the future,” he says. “While the traction may not have exploded at the level that we've seen in Asia yet, we believe strongly it's coming.”
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