The Future of M-Shopping with Melanie Mohr
With seamless technology at their fingertips, GenZ are the first digital natives and natural storytellers. When Melanie Mohr realized this more than two years ago, she created YEAY, an app that combines eBay and Snapchat. It’s since been coined the “future of mobile shopping.” We sat down with Melanie to get her perspective on the culture of GenZ to more fully understand what they want, enjoy, and excel at.
How did you come up with the idea of YEAY?
It started one night when I read an article about TV shopping. It was amazing to see how successful it still was in a certain age group. The next morning, I came downstairs and saw my kids sharing Snapchat videos and Instagram stories, and watching videos on YouTube. It’s so second-nature to them. I thought, oh, they wouldn’t watch TV shopping ads anymore. They get out in the world where everything is instant and short. How could we deliver shopping in the Snapchat-y, video-storytelling way? I wanted to see what would happen if you merge the world of video shopping and Snapchat. I thought, how does it need to look for a teenage audience? The videos needed to be short-form mobile versus long-form TV.
Your background was in long-form TV. How did you make the jump to mobile video?
I was coming out of 20 years of video-content creation for TV. I produced more than 100 TV shows, including everything from music videos to documentaries to kids’ entertainment to prime-time. I moved into the world of mobile video a few years back, when I’d met a technologist. He pointed at a mobile phone in my hand and said, "this is the video distribution platform of the future." That was the moment I started a web and mobile TV channel, called Creative Lifestyle, with bite-sized videos. Out of this, I gained the experience I needed to launch YEAY.
“YEAY is the first global marketplace targeted at generation Z. We are really a GenZ platform.” – Melanie Mohr.
How long did it take to develop the first version?
I put the call out to angel investors. They immediately signed the first check. From idea to incorporating the company was just three weeks, in December 2015. Then we started building the platform and it took us about four to five months until we had a good alpha version of the app.
How young is the target group?
Fourteen to eighteen, at its core. Of course, we have some younger, some older, but after 25, it's nearly nothing. The disruptive factor is that YEAY is the first global marketplace targeted at generation Z. I would say that’s the very unique proposition we have: we’re not a millennial platform like other commerce platforms. We are really a GenZ platform.
Is that because of the video aspect and ease of shopping?
YEAY combines branding, broadcasting, and buying. Of course, virtual video is also a fact for us, which is very attractive and natural to a GenZ crowd. If you look into mobile commerce, and why it's growing 200% faster than ecommerce, it's definitely the GenZ crowd. They’re twice as likely to shop on a mobile phone than Millennials.
Would you say that’s because the seller is also the content creator and storyteller?
Definitely. This is GenZ's style. YEAY is fueling this generation’s creativity and entrepreneurial spirit. It's a place they can shop, socialize, and show their creative side all in one place. It’s a very unique opportunity. Also, it gives brands a platform to tell their stories in personal, fun, and creative ways, to really look into this GenZ content-creator crowd and adapt to how they’re doing this, learning from them. It’s the better marketplace. GenZers have no memory of a pre-social, pre-mobile world. think brands can learn a lot from them.
Do you think you’re also creating influencers, a pool of young sellers and storytellers who become successful by adding their personal touch?
Yes. I would even say we’re creating a new breed of influencers, because there’s a difference between someone who’s a good storyteller and someone who can really turn storytelling into a transaction. This is the next step in being an influencer. Our platform is helping teens show they can convert into sales.
Do you have like a filter that allows you to pick the best videos and the ones that are the most successful?
Our platform is at its core a commerce platform, but with the layer of entertainment and social. We see every video as a branding or marketing tool. For example, you can share a video on all social networks. You can like a video. You can comment on a video. You have a full notification set to see who liked or shared your videos, who’s engaged with your content and is following your channel. Every video has a huge marketing factor. Brands can look into every video and see how it’s performing in social sectors, but also how it’s converting in the end to sales. There are so many ways to measure the success of a video. What's the maximum duration for a video? For now, it’s up to a minute, or 45 seconds. More interestingly, the average video is currently around fifteen seconds.
What’s working right now and what’s the next step for the app?
Let's say there’s a boy with one guitar to sell and he's playing it. Girls are coming to our platform and saying, "he's so sweet and cute!" They’re liking his video and sharing and commenting, but in the end he’s got just one guitar to sell. But you can see the sector. Video creates virality. Brands sometimes struggle to create videos to sell their products. Right now, we’re very focused on connecting brands with teens, to build more collaborative relationships. We realized that we have all these friends with products to sell and all these teens with amazing marketing skills.
So how do you lower the barrier for brands?
We just introduced a new feature for collaborative video marketing, called YEAY challenges. It’s a way to incentivize plans to produce collaborative user-generated content and drive maximum awareness and sales. So now teenagers can be the brand-advocate for products. They create a video and upload it into challenges for this brand. Then they can create sales. So we’re opening up affiliate marketing and influencer marketing to everyone.
You're transforming B2C into C2C…
Will YEAY always be about online shopping, or can it incorporate entertainment?
This is the question for the next phase. Is it going to be another commerce platform or a phenomenon? Of course, we believe it’s a phenomenon, and that bringing together storytelling and brands in a collaborative way will lead to a greater success for everyone. And we believe that passion is the key to success for storytelling.
Right, but do you think GenZ is the first tree of the forest to come?
Exactly! Thankfully, I have kids myself, and everyone from GenZ to Gen Alpha in my house. If I'm looking now at my Gen Alpha kid, he’s already working with technology and he’s six-years-old. The next wave is already coming. For now, and for let's say for the next couple of years, they’ll have even more transformative power than Millennials. Brands out there and advertisers are still very focused on Millennials, but the transformative power of Gen Z is definitely much higher, because they’re so entrepreneurial. More than 70% have entrepreneurial spirit, and want to be entrepreneurs.
“More than 70% [of GenZers] have entrepreneurial spirit, and want to be entrepreneurs.” – Melanie Mohr.
Because they are very, very familiar with technology.
Yes, because they are familiar with technology and are self taught. Information is at their fingertips. So they have access to knowledge. If they want to learn something, they look at a how-to video to get all the information they need. They are unselfconscious. They are self taught and they measure success by money more than Millennials do. They want to make money early on. That's what we’ve learned on our platform, doing UI with teenagers every week, seeing how they’re using our platform.
So they’re seeing this as a more fun way to earn money?
Yes, definitely. It's natural for them, because they’re already content creators, doing videos every day on all their social channels. They already know how to do a good video, how to edit and use music, filters, and stickers. The core three values of a good video on our platform are that it should be fun, creative, and honest. GenZ knows how to recommend a product in an honest way, but they need to add a little bit of fun and entertainment and of course, creativity.
Words by The Editors and Melanie Mohr. Photos and animation courtesy of YEAY.