The idea of shopping while watching TV is not exactly new or untrodden ground. The Home Shopping Network (HSN) has been around for over 40 years, QVC for over 35 and in the last decade or so the concept of shopping the digital stream has popped up all over the place. One can find traditional home shopping style content via HSN or the recently released Amazon Live; or for those looking for a more outré version of home shopping via streaming there is always Down To Shop, an operation premised on answering a single question — what would QVC for Gen Z look like?
And while Down To Shop is certainly different in terms of what it sells (Tupac Prayer candles and camo print onesies for adult women have been crowd favorites) and its content is certainly edgier and sillier that one would typically expect to see out of Martha Stewart on her QVC show, the format is still largely similar in terms of a host (or two) demonstrating an assortment of products in at attempt to motivate consumers to buy them. While different players tweak the infomercial format to a greater or less extent, the underlying structure is basically similar.
Which is why ALECIA Founder and CEO Alecia Vimala was eager to try something very different when her shoppable streaming platform launched about a year ago. ALECIA does not aspire to be the next HSN, nor does it want to modernize the model like DTS did. It wants to be a whole new model for streamable shopping — built to function much more like Netflix or Hulu, but supported entirely by brands paying to place their content in and around the programming ALECIA offers instead of charging consumers a subscription fee.
Right now you might find yourself asking, wait a minute, isn’t that the original model for broadcast television that streaming services have spent the last decade or so making obsolete? But ALECIA isn’t reviving that model, because the shoppable content isn’t to be packaged into commercials interrupting the flow of the programming that everyone hates — the shoppable content is instead build directly into the programming.
And that programming will look an awful lot like what is on offer on the other streaming services out there — the content lineup includes licensed TV shows and movies along with originals developed and produced exclusively for the network. The network, however, does divide its content offerings somewhat differently than other sites — into “DAY” content relating to cooking, home décor, fashion, beauty, parenting, and fitness as well as what it refers to as “NIGHT” prime time content ranging from reality TV shows to action movies.
Underneath that streaming service that is familiar, however, is ALECIA’s interactive technology that makes it easy for consumers to easily pick out individual items on the screen they want to buy and easily purchase them without so much as having to hit the pause button. Instead customers can simple tap their screen or remote and convert on what they want, while still following along with the action.
Vimala said she believes that within three to five years the service will be a “market disruptor” and that consumers will come to expect watch-and-shop as the new normal.
“I want ALECIA to be a network of people with content built and created by them," Vimala said in a statement. “This will become the new standard of reality television."
It’s a lofty goal and certainly an interesting an idea if it works as seamlessly as advertised. But of course, it does face a channeling problem in that for its service to work it will need a lot of viewers to come to its platform. The fact that it is free might be a good start, but it doesn’t change the fact that the streaming market is already very crowded and getting more so. And not just crowded — but crowded with a lot of massive players like Netflix, Disney, CBS, Amazon, Apple and, coming soon, Warner Brothers and NBC Universal. They all have big budgets, huge audiences and well-established content libraries they’ve spent millions of dollars and/or multiple decades building out. That is a hard pool to enter as a startup and get consumer attention in.
Difficult but not impossible, according to ALECIA, and its long beta period before its official launch a year ago demonstrated to that there are tens of millions and even hundreds of millions of dollars to be profitably captured with this idea, if it is done right.