15/02/2017 – Independent / Trends in Trade / M-commerce / Yeay / Melanie Mohr / Technology
M-commerce: Just say Yeay
As co-founder and CEO of trailblazing m-commerce app Yeay, Melanie Mohr has been consistently named as one of the top women to watch in the tech sector. She tells Euroasia Industry about her journey from film and video production to the digital space, and how an exceptionally entrepreneurial ‘Generation Z’ are changing the face of retail.
Consumers worldwide are increasingly turning to their mobile phones and tablets to buy everything from designer shoes to groceries – and BI Intelligence predicts the mobile commerce (m-commerce) sector will have taken over 45 per cent (or $284 billion) of the United States’ e-commerce market by 2020, up from just 11.6 per cent in 2014. Tech entrepreneur Melanie Mohr, the brains behind video marketplace app Yeay, is zealously spearheading this digital revolution. At barely a year old, the Berlin-based company’s eponymous retail platform has been variously heralded as ‘the Snapchat of shopping’, ‘QVC plus Tumblr plus Snapchat’ and the result of ‘if Ebay and Snapchat had a baby’.
Coming from a background in film and video content production, Ms Mohr only started to realise the potential of the digital sphere after what she jokingly describes as a “brainwashing” conversation with an American CTO friend. “He held up a smartphone and said, ‘Melanie, this is your platform number one – you really need to look into this!’” she tells us. “That was the moment that I really dived in to the digital space…I realised there are so many wonderful new ways of distributing content using apps and app creation.”
Fired with enthusiasm, Ms Mohr went on to create Apollo TV – a TV platform specialising in the production and distribution of bite-sized videos about the worlds of art and design. Apollo’s content coverage includes art fairs, music festivals and interviews with gallerists, and it eventually birthed a related app – Apollo Muse – designed to be a ‘super source’ of art world news. At the end of 2015, the ever-energetic Mohr had another lightbulb moment. “I woke up and had this idea of Yeay in my head,” she explains. “I had read an article about a great TV shopping host, describing how she got into it and how successful the format is – they sometimes sell 6,000 products an hour. So I thought, ‘Ok, TV shopping works for a certain demographic, but it doesn’t align with what Gen Z or even millennials consider to be a shopping platform’.”
Understanding the digital natives
As a mother of three, including two teenagers, Ms Mohr has developed a striking and fruitful insight into the preferences of Generation Z consumers (those born between the mid-1990s and the early 2000s). “My daughter is now 19 and my son is 16 – and over the years I’ve seen how they consume video content on their phones and how they use technology,” she explains. “So, for a long time I’ve had Snapchat and Musical.ly and all these other great platforms in my head.”
She watched the way her children’s generation embraced and interacted with apps such as Snapchat, Instagram and karaoke performance app Musical.ly with growing interest. “This younger generation love to perform on video, and want to be the next discovered talent...to convert themselves into saleable stars” she tells us. “Everyone has something to sell, if you look at the Gen Z demographic, it’s a very entrepreneurial new generation. They are the digital natives; they grew up with technology, social media and information always at their fingertips, so they’re very quick and well informed. They also want to be their own boss – as creatives of apparel or jewellery, for example. And I think our app enables everyone to sell stuff in the most interesting, entertaining and easy way – through video.”
With a highly contemporary, intuitive design, the app itself is lively, fast-paced and clearly conceived with the regular Snapchat user in mind. You can browse as a buyer without opening an account and, despite its obviously commercial backbone, Yeay doesn’t take any commission from consumer-to-consumer purchases. The platform has been intentionally designed to accommodate multiple other features that should ensure decent revenue streams, including ads and sponsored content. Its messaging feature allows for easy communication about shipping or payment, while every video is shareable on popular social media platforms and can be ‘liked’ in the same vein as an Instagram photograph or Facebook post. Snapchat-style drawing and emojis provide additional fun options for personalising footage. “Our platform isn’t only a shopping platform or a marketplace – it’s entertainment, social and shopping,” comments Ms Mohr.
Yeay’s most obvious advantage over more established e-marketplaces is a simple one – speed. “The product videos are between 10 to 45 seconds long, so it’s not that you need to record endless hours for one video,” explains the CEO. “And because the video tells the whole story, you don’t need to enter all the details as you would on other marketplaces. To get something for sale on our platform, besides the video, can take less than 20 seconds – it’s really so quick. On other marketplace platforms, it can take up to half an hour, uploading all those photos.”
Regarding corporate clients, the app charges 10 to 15 per cent commission, although brands choosing to retail via Yeay get a lot of bang for their buck. Ms Mohr’s background in film and video production has provided the company with a wealth of global contacts, able to support brands who might be unsure how best to exploit this relatively young commercial medium. “Roderer, for example – the luxury accessories brand from Dubai – recently sent all their products over to us in Berlin, where we have an in-house film studio to help brands create compelling product videos,” she describes.
Ms Mohr compares her company’s nascent marketing move to that of e-commerce homestay network Air BnB: “In the beginning, they discovered that people weren’t taking proper, professional-level photographs of their apartments,” she says. “So they contacted those people and said, ‘No problem, we can provide professional photographers to help, so we can make your place sell’.
“Alongside the Berlin studio, we have a great network of video makers around the globe. We’ve also held some open studio dates in certain cities – LA, New York, Rotterdam, and Berlin, of course – whereby we invited brands for our team to create video for them, and we’re planning to do more.”
Extraordinary brand breadth
Yeay’s ascent from nought to global has happened at an astonishingly fast pace. The company was incorporated in December 2015 and its design team had coded its product ready for launch of the beta version in July 2016. A well-considered marketing strategy certainly seems to have paid off so far too: the platform has already attracted over 500 global brands, from Sex and the City designer Patricia Field and European online eyewear retailer Mister Spex, to Australian underwear giant Mossman and online home decor store Urbanara. Mohr and her team have made a conscious decision to move away from a focus on cheap fashion – a shift she says is dictated by Yeay’s target market: “Today’s younger crowd aren’t always about buying stuff below 25 euros,” she claims. “If there’s a special product that speaks to them, they’re sometimes willing to spend a bit more. Just because our platform is made for the younger generation doesn’t mean it has to be in a low-end segment.”
A global outlook
Ms Mohr had utter faith in Yeay’s global appeal from its very inception. That conviction inspired her and her co-founder to launch the product worldwide from the very start – a bold move that seems to be paying off. “It was clear to me that it was a global product,” she explains. “It didn’t make sense to launch in one market, we needed to be international from the outset. I therefore needed an international team with an international mindset. Thankfully, I have to say that Berlin is a great place to be currently, and seeking out international talent is easy here. It’s one of the European start-up hubs and besides that it has a great party scene, and therefore attracts a lot of young, talented people.”
Yeay’s team undoubtedly align with the company’s exceptionally international ethos. “We incorporated the company here, but there’s 27 of us and I’m one of the only Germans,” she laughs. “Our co-founder, Ben Hochberg, is from LA – he’s the Chief Technology Officer and the architect behind Yeay. We have staff from the UK, from Brazil, from Thailand, Greece, Turkey, Italy, Spain and Sweden. We’re drawn from 14 countries and we’re 50-50 male and female, which I’m also very proud of.” The team has experience as well as youth on its side. Its Chief Product Officer, Ben Mosse, is the former head of mobile at Associated Press, while Oliver Grigoleit, former Head of Finance & HR at what is today Zalando Operations GmbH, is also on the team.
Gaining traction fast
Crucial to competing at m-commerce’s upper echelons, the platform has already attracted all-important attention from key influencers and bloggers. Ms Mohr puts this interest down to the platform’s immediacy and instant potential for profitability – a key draw for the entrepreneurial Gen Z: “The good thing about Yeay is that while on other platforms you need to build a community to make money, on Yeay you can make money from the first video you upload,” she says.
A substantial amount of downloads have come from the US and Europe, and Yeay’s CEO is especially excited about the app’s rapidly growing popularity in Asia. “It’s gaining a lot of traction,” she comments. “Apple has discovered us and sees the potential in what we’re doing, having featured us in global app stores – especially prominently in the Indian app store, and now we have a wonderful Indian crowd getting into the app and using our platform. Also in the Middle East – it’s great to see how people around the globe are using Yeay to make money but also to show what they’re passionate about in a very new, creative way.”
When asked what factors she attributes to her company’s impressive rise, Ms Mohr is unhesitant, offering a philosophy that businesses of all descriptions who want to connect with a younger demographic can take to heart. “In the end, you can’t have any growth if you don’t have a good product,” she concludes. “The most important thing for us has therefore been to develop a product that fits into the lifestyle and the momentum of a generation.”