Mihai Drăgan is the COO of Oveit, a Romanian company, based in Austin, Texas. They started as a provider for cashless payment solutions at offline events, but the global pandemic asked for more innovative products and new solutions to stay connected. They recently launched Live Stream Shopping in Romania, a concept that is already very popular and impactful for the North American and Asian e-commerce markets. We had the pleasure to interview him and find out more about the Live Stream Shopping opportunities, the e-commerce market, and future prospects for the company.
How would you describe the global E-commerce Market? How would you relate this to Romania?
At the moment the global e-commerce market is booming, mostly due to the impact the pandemic has had on retail at large. However, we know that many large retail chains were struggling to adapt to changes brought by companies such as Amazon prior to the pandemic.
The global market is growing fast but we expect this growth to slow down within the next two years, partly due to a decrease in expendable income, partly due to the decrease in experiential commerce. Most of the product experiences were happening in stores and this is simply not happening now.
Romania is one of the countries that is growing the fastest in terms of e-commerce adoption, especially in the EU. We see this as a positive trend, although we see little exports happening via electronic channels.
Why did you choose Romania as the first country to launch this product?
Our development hub is located in Romania, but we also have a good understanding of the market and its opportunities. Moreover, it is a great entry to the CEE region in terms of e-commerce.
How did you get the idea for the Live Stream Shopping digital solution?
Our company does cashless payments for events and venues. Simply put – we handle payments at large events and we previously saw what great combination commerce and experiences make. Whenever people are having fun, whenever they have a positive experience – they are more likely to purchase and associate that purchase with a positive feeling.
At the end of 2019 we were exploring moving some of the experiences we noted happening in-person to the digital world so we started building an omnichannel payment and purchasing solution. As the Covid-19 pandemic stroke, we added a live streaming layer and combined the two.
What are the main benefits of this technology?
We feel this could help consumers experience the products they purchase better. In return – retailers can provide better products and better shopping experiences. This leads to more sales, less returns and increased conversion rates.
The main benefit we see is that shopping online can become much more engaging than we are accustomed to. If we think about it, e-commerce stores used to mean photos, text, prices and a shopping cart at a very basic level. Meanwhile, the best digital experiences are provided by Social Media giants, with live shows, videos, and even augmented reality. We feel some of this tech magic is about to reach the e-commerce world and we feel it is our mission to make it easy to adopt.
What advice do you have for retailers who want to implement this solution?
Just go live. We’ve seen many cases where too much planning can delay launches and this, in turn, leads to lost sales and opportunities. Customers love to interact with real people, even if they are not what you would call “charismatic”. It is magic to have someone you can talk to about a product, see the product live, and then buy it. It is a wonderful experience.
My second advice is to test the technology in two ways: one would be weekly, larger, promoted shopping sessions where the social shopping aspect can kick in. The other way the live shopping technology could be used in a public assisted way. Let’s say we have a customer that is interested in a product. Their questions could be the live script of an ad-hoc shopping session.
What is the minimum cost to implement Live Stream Shopping for a retailer?
Our lowest plan starts at $99 and covers 30 000 streamed minutes, which is quite a lot. Other costs you could think of is the HD camera (although smartphones work just as well) and a bit of lightning, just to showcase the products better. The hardware for this one-time setup can be found in almost any electronics store.
How will Live Stream Shopping be integrated into Romanian retail?
From our existing use cases and the ones we are planning for the near-term we see some surprising niches, which have not adopted e-commerce traditionally but see live video shopping as a great addition now that their physical presence has been affected.
Other than that we see a lot of retailers moving into a blend of commerce and entertainment, basically trying to make shopping fun, a thing that seems like a great move. We expect 2021 and 2022 to be years where live stream shopping will be adopted at a very fast pace, by many retailers.
What influence do you think the pandemic had on consumer behavior?
We noticed that many physical stores closed, due to a decrease in traffic. At the same time, consumers avoid crowded areas, with an exception being established brands, especially in the supermarket’s space.
In terms of digital retail, we’ve seen an increase in e-commerce spending. As mentioned earlier, we expect this to slow down as a need for more experiential means of shopping will appear.
What goals do you propose for Live Stream Shopping in the next period?
We plan to market the technology and educate the market on its benefits. Our goal is to reach a sensible market share as the awareness for live shopping increases.
We aim to make the technology as easy to integrate and use as possible so retailers of all sizes can use it daily in their sales activities.
How did the establishment of Oveit’s headquarters in Austin, Texas, influence the company’s development?
We’ve got a better understanding of the size and opportunities of the North American market. We have received great advice and mentoring from experienced business leaders so that helped a lot with our growth.
What future prospects do you have for Oveit?
We aim to become the go-to provider of live stream shopping technology for retailers and brands that want to connect with their customers directly.