Global shopping marketplace ShopShops Inc. has secured a $6.1 million seed investment round.
The round is comprised of a $3.1 million round led by Forerunner Ventures and a $3 million extension round led by Union Square Ventures. The round led by Forerunner includes participation from Founder Collective, SV Angel, Third Kind Venture Capital and XRC Labs. The extension round includes participation from GGV Capital.
ShopShops is a live-stream, interactive shopping platform that connects retailers, influencers and consumers through a live interaction in the physical space that allows the shopper to feel as if he or she is in the U.S. store. For now, the platform brings a curated shopping experience to the Chinese market. The company plans to broaden the global experience to other markets. The U.S. retail markets include New York, Los Angeles and Miami. Expansion to Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Toronto and Seoul is planned for later this spring. Store partners range from luxury designers to start-ups, which include Rag & Bone, Jill Stuart, Spanx, Opening Ceremony, The Webster, Everlane and C.O. Bigelow.
Liyia Wu, founder and chief executive officer, said, “I started ShopShops to eliminate all geographical borders for fashion lovers, and to incorporate elements of discovery and fun into the online shopping experience.” As for expansion plans, Wu said, “With today’s technology, there’s no reason why everyone can’t go shopping in local boutiques and mass market retail stores around the world, without having to step one foot outside their own home.”
According to Wu, the company will begin testing “reverse experience” at the end of the year, hosting events with an English-speaking host from Chinese cities for U.S. viewers. “In the fall, we’ll be live-streaming fashion week events from London, Paris and Milan,” she said. The company plans to be live 24 hours a day, across all time zones, by 2019, she said.
Wu studied fashion merchandising at Parsons and is a graduate of Sauder’s Business School of the University of British Columbia with a double major in finance and accounting. She opened a boutique in Beijing that carried only U.S. designer brands. In 2009, she started her own contemporary fashion label that was sold across China. She launched the app ShopShops in 2015, which had its beginnings as an online directory of U.S. retailers for Chinese travelers on a shopping trip.
The platform’s shopping segment has its team hosts at a store hours before it opens. The team headlines a shopping broadcast that consumers connect to using their mobile phones, not unlike the format used by the home shopping shows on cable channels except that ShopShops is from a brick-and-mortar location instead of a studio. The hosts are between ages 25 to 35, fluent in English and Chinese and are considered social influencers who know how to convert the interactions into sales. They also describe product, try them on and give feedback on the merchandise. Because the events are live-streamed, shoppers can ask questions in real time.
Eurie Kim, general partner at Forerunner Ventures, said, “I’m excited to invest in a new experiential shopping marketplace that bridges brands and consumers around the world.” She noted that cross-border e-commerce sales in China reached $100 billion in 2017. “Liyia Wu has the deep local experience both in China and the U.S., as well as the entrepreneurial DNA to help retailers seize this huge market opportunity in a way that is hyper-relevant to today’s consumer.”
Rebecca Kaden, partner at Union Square Ventures, said, “We believe that consumers around the world are hungry for experience, community and connection — and love how ShopShops is allowing consumers access to both products and conversation in a new and global way.”