By David Pierson
Los Angeles Times
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Simi Wu is leading the way of a growing interactive shopping service which feels natural to Chinese consumers.
Livestreaming from a showroom in Los Angeles’ fashion district, Simi Wu enticed an audience half a world away in China with an offer: The bubbly host said she’d give a discount to anyone who could correctly name the brand of the vintage belt she was wearing.
Within seconds, one of her 1,600 viewers posted the answer. The green suede strap with the gold horsebit buckle was 1970s Gucci.
Wu rewarded the shopper by knocking 5 percent off the belt’s $198 price tag and set it aside to be shipped overseas. Viewers, undeterred by the time difference (it was about 8:30 a.m. in China), responded with a deluge of heart and gift emojis over Wu’s livestream.
“They’re crazy. They never sleep,” said Wu, 25, a Chinese native who studied fashion design at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute and now hosts livestreamed trunk shows as often as five times a week for ShopShops, a Beijing- and New York-based start-up.
Think of it as QVC for the social media generation. Rather than watch idly, ShopShops’ viewers can type in requests asking their hosts to try on jewelry or swivel the camera toward another section of a store. Appreciative fans have even sent Wu gifts such as boxes of chocolate.
While unusual by Western standards, the interactive shopping service feels natural to Chinese consumers, who are used to creative solutions to sate their shopping needs in a country obsessed with livestreaming.
China’s middle class has for years looked abroad to spend its growing piles of cash because consumer goods at home are often unsafe, overpriced or unappealing.
Their spending represents a small but growing counterpoint to the billions of dollars in heavy machinery, telecommunications equipment and electronics the U.S. imports from China that fuel the persistent trade imbalances that rile the Trump administration.