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Live commerce

Live commerce app Grip aims to take over the world via shopping

By Apr 14, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

Grip CEO Hanna Kim
Grip CEO Hanna Kim


There's an app where users can shop as if they're video chatting with their friends. How does this work? A seller will introduce products via livestream while viewers can tune in and ask various questions.

If interested, users can purchase the product with just a few simple clicks during the livestream. Sometimes, sellers and viewers will carry on conversations that have nothing to do with the product being sold.

This app? Grip, the first live commerce app to launch in South Korea.

Live commerce is already a familiar concept to the public. It’s a business area that has grabbed the attention of major online platforms, such as Naver Corp. and Kakao Corp., which are also expanding into the live commerce segment.

But before live commerce became a trend, Grip was a trailblazer in South Korea's live commerce industry.

“I thought that selling products would be more effective if shopping was done in the same manner as having a video call with a friend," said Hanna Kim, chief executive of Grip.

Launched in early 2019, the app began with just 49 sellers on its platform. The service continued on a sharp rising curve thanks to its unique and entertaining content.

For example, Grip recruited a popular celebrity to host a random box sale, in which 100 random boxes were sold with two boxes containing expensive AirPods while the remaining 98 boxes had bricks autographed by the celebrity.

This type of fresh and fun content began to attract users to the live commerce app. Currently, there are around 10,559 sellers registered on Grip and a cumulative transaction amount of 24 billion won ($21.5 million) as of December 2020.

“A platform operator should be able to develop killer content material and help boost traffic instead of resorting to just providing the infrastructure,” said Kim, adding that even now Grip continues to manage a content development team that creates livestream footage on the platform.

Live commerce app Grip aims to take over the world via shopping

Grip's innovative efforts paid off as investors began betting on the app's growth. In July 2019, Grip prepared for a Series A funding round, which attracted around 40 investors. The app went on to raise 3.5 billion won from three investors.

Last year, investors jumped at the chance to invest in Grip’s Series B round, but the app secured an additional 8 billion won from the original three investors.

Yet, Grip faced a crisis when Naver, the operator of the country's largest search engine, and Kakao, the operator of the largest messaging platform Kakao Talk, forayed into the live commerce market last year. 

Up against these platform giants, Grip weathered the storm by offering a unique and unrivaled platform. 

“Over the last two years, we created a culture where users and Grippers (Grip sellers) hang out and have fun on the Grip platform. Our management team is well-versed in cultivating this culture and advancing it," said Kim, adding that Grip's exclusive community culture can't be easily copied.

In order to preserve Grip’s culture and identity, the company has registered patents for its platform features that promote interaction between Grippers and users, such as auctions, rolling dice and quiz games.

Meanwhile, Grip is also eyeing overseas expansion as it aspires to create a borderless live platform that promotes interactive communication between sellers and consumers regardless of location or nationality.

Such an agenda could be achieved via adopting technology, such as using artificial intelligence for natural language processing, translation and interpretation.

Grip is currently developing an English platform where Korean sellers can sell products to US-based consumers. Once sales start up, Grip plans to set up an office in the US.

“I believe live commerce will come to account for a significant portion of K-content,” said Kim.

Write to Min-ki Koo at kook@hankyung.com

Danbee Lee edited this article.

Read the full story on Grip and its current snapshot including funding status at KED Global's Future Unicorns

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