Ntwrk, the app that sells exclusive merchandise in livestreams with celebrity hosts, is planning to stage more digital shopping "festivals" as mobile and social commerce continue to swell in popularity. Consumer brands have an opportunity to participate in these live events by selling one-of-a-kind products valued by their biggest fans.
The app works like a Quality Value Convenience (QVC) channel or Home Shopping Network (HSN) aimed at younger consumers who are familiar with flash sales and product drops for hard-to-find merchandise like limited-edition Nike sneakers, Supreme streetwear or pop culture collectibles. To help generate buzz for its app, Ntwrk last year developed the idea of shopping festivals based on product categories that had a dedicated following.
"We started to recognize and identify these passion points and areas of fandom that were really important to our audience," said Moksha Fitzgibbons, president of Ntwrk. "The festivals run for two days, and have 60 to 100 different livestreams featuring creators and brand influencers."
Sneaker Con's virtual debut
Ntwrk's next shopping festival will be held this weekend (June 26-27) with the first virtual edition of Sneaker Con, an exhibition that brings sneakerheads together in different cities worldwide to buy, sell and trade their authenticated shoe collections. Comedian Hasan Minhaj and Nick Diamond, founder of skate lifestyle brand Diamond Supply, will host the multimedia experience.
Fitzgibbons said Ntwrk approached the organizers of Sneaker Con with the idea that the exhibition could reach millions of consumers around the globe by offering a livestreamed shopping experience that featured celebrity appearances.
"It'll be a good mix of really engaging, entertaining content coupled with tons of sneakers and sneaker-related product drops during the festival," Fitzgibbons said. "We'll have about 60 different creators and artists expressing themselves creatively, and then offering viewers a way to purchase exclusive merchandise in the moment."
Among the exclusive merchandise will be limited-edition Adidas basketball shoes inspired by Los Angeles Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. As a tribute to the player's retired jersey number, Adidas produced just 33 pairs of the shoes and will sell them for $1,000 each. All proceeds will go to the Skyhook Foundation, Abdul-Jabbar's charity group for underserved communities.
Before Sneaker Con, Ntwrk hosted four shopping festivals that each generated more than 10 million views and converted more than 250,000 viewers into active buyers.
Mtn Dew's $300 Gizmo doll
Consumer brands also can extend their campaigns into cultural moments that generate merchandise sales on Ntwrk. PepsiCo's Mtn Dew soda brand this year extended its campaign for its zero-sugar formula with a product inspired by a recent commercial.
"For a brand as big as Mtn Dew, the goal wasn't awareness. It was the cultural connection with its audience — and I really believe that's good for big brands."
Tapping into the current nostalgia craze, Mtn Dew ran a spot featuring actor Zach Galligan and the furry creature Gizmo from the 1980s hit film "Gremlins," in which Galligan starred.
Mtn Dew and creative agency of record TBWA/Chiat/Day New York extended the idea after the commercial aired by creating a deluxe Gizmo doll and selling it on Ntwrk for $300. The collectible featured Mtn Dew branding behind its ear, along with the slogan "As good as the original, maybe even better."
"Within a few hours after we retailed them, the dolls were selling on eBay for as high as $1,800," Fitzgibbons said. "For a brand as big as Mtn Dew, the goal wasn't awareness. It was the cultural connection with its audience — and I really believe that's good for big brands."
Expanding beyond mobile
Ntwrk is currently planning a major ad campaign to raise its visibility among a broader audience, and this week announced the hiring of Jason Brown as CMO to oversee those efforts. Brown previously was vice president of marketing at Foot Locker, the retail chain that was an early investor in Ntwrk, and also worked at PepsiCo and NBC Sports.
Since its 2018 launch, Ntwrk has sought to make livestream shopping as popular in the U.S. as it has become in China, especially during pandemic lockdowns.
"Livestreaming commerce is a new behavior in North America, and we're using ephemeral moments to drive a lot of interest," Fitzgibbons said. "We want to be the preeminent livestreaming, curated commerce experience where milllennials and Gen Z can be entertained and shop for desirable products."
As livestream shopping grows in popularity in the U.S., total sales are predicted to climb from $6 billion this year to $25 billion by 2023, according to Coresight Research. Consumers seeking a more immersive digital shopping experience will drive that sales growth.
Ntwrk now is focused on reaching consumers through their mobile devices, but Fitzgibbons foresees the possibility of expanding distribution with apps for connected TV as content and commerce become more integrated on smart TVs.
"The livestreams tend to be anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes long, so there is a tremendous amount of entertainment value there," he said.