Video retail site Joyus looks to have quietly folded.
Founded in 2011 on the premise that streaming video would be the next big thing in retail marketing and shopping, the site that received four funding rounds totaling $67.4 million appears to have gone out of business.
“Recent material developments in the financing process have led the company to determine that it is no longer feasible to continue operating the business as a stand-alone entity on a going concern basis,” Gavin McLaughlin, vice president of finance for Tique, which operated Joyus, wrote in a purported letter to vendors obtained by Retail Dive. “It is therefore with great sadness and regret that we inform you that effective Friday, July 14, 2017, the company will formally cease operations and will begin the process of winding up via an Assignment for the Benefit of Creditors.”
You can read the full letter here. The letter was obtained from a distributor who represents brands to retailers and received the letter after trying to collect payment on invoices for two beauty brands. Retail Dive was unable to confirm the source of the letter despite repeated requests for verification to Joyus and Tique. Customers have been leaving angry comments on Joyus' social media accounts over canceled orders and unreturned calls — and Joyus appears not to be responding to those messages, either.
The resounding silence on social media from Joyus speaks volumes. Disappointed customers have resorted to leaving comments on the retailer's Facebook page after failing to get answers about suddenly canceled or incorrect orders. One customer told Retail Dive that she received an emailed message from Joyus on July 17 stating her question would be answered in one business day, but nothing since. No new videos have been posted to the website in a month and daily emails ceased in early July, according to one shopper.
Neither Tique or Joyus responded to repeated requests from Retail Dive for comment. Similar requests to McLaughlin and Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, the founder of the site who left the company in February, also went unreturned.
Despite streaming video representing a more profound digital realm than image-based social media, much less email, Joyus never gained traction as a retail or marketing site. Social media remains both popular and powerful, and video is increasingly a part of that. Apparel and footwear sites, which find it difficult to compete with the touch, try and feel opportunities of brick and mortar retail often include video, for example. So do curated sites like The Grommet, which sells quirky games and gadgets that take some explaining and that might have an endearing story from the hipster dad that thought them up.
Joyus, according to its Twitter tagline, purported to be a place “where shopping is quicker, easier and more fun! Short videos showcase our experts’ picks for the best products, services and tips.” But the site had more in common with its television shopping forebears like HSN and QVC than with social media cousins such as YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. For Singh Cassidy, that was a selling point. But the site's videos were much less sophisticated than traditional TV advertising, less authentic than the grassroots feel of the video marketing on Instagram, and less fun than the high-key sell of those on Facebook.
Joyus never quite found its footing, existing somewhere between being a retail site and a marketing site. Its merchandising seemed to be an afterthought — the goods for sale were fairly expensive and obscure, and often jammed together in categories with little rhyme or reason. Quick videos on Facebook and elsewhere get in and out with their messages, but Joyus videos were long and production fell in an awkward place between polished and amateur — too plain for prime time on network television, too staid for home shopping television and not fun enough for social media.
Video-based retail e-commerce may still have a future, even beyond the ubiquitous pop-up videos people now routinely encounter. But as Joyus' demise seems all but certain, it may take the home shopping juggernaut formed by the merger of QVC and HSN or social media sites like Snapchat and Facebook to figure out what exactly the next wave of video retail commerce entails.