No doubt you've gone through the darkly addictive experience of watching infomercials at some point in your life. So bad they're good; so enthusiastically communicated you're almost sold. But if you ask Rachel Tipograph, the former Global Digital Director of Gap, they're also widely known to be a marketing tool for hooking great-aunts – not millennials.
So Tipograph took matters into her own hands. After leaving Gap in April of 2014, she spent some months traveling around the world before buckling down on developing a youth-friendly, app-based version of QVC in early September. Called MikMak, the app has been in public beta since February and will launch formally in June.
MikMak presents things like beauty products, gadgets, accessories and home goods with brief, informational videos, and users can buy through the app or keep swiping down to find new products. (Notably, the startup is steering clear of clothes and other size-dependent goods.) At the moment, the videos range in their tone from sweetly earnest, as with one showing a jewelry designer sharing her inspiration and styling tips, to legitimately funny. Some of the hosts seem like professional models; other videos have all the awkwardness of an unrehearsed YouTube tutorial.
The diversity of video styles is very much intentional. In fact, a viewer could receive a number of different videos for a given product, so while one person might see a more serious explainer, another might get a comedic one. That's because MikMak team is running tests while it's in beta to figure out what sort of videos drive the best user retention, engagement and sell-through rates. The sweet spot, Tipograph says, lies somewhere at the intersection of utility and fun. People need to understand what the product does, but they want that with a dose of entertainment.
And as the widespread fascination with homemade YouTube tutorials would indicate, they don't necessarily want videos that are too glossy. While the clips need a certain level of professionalism — you need good, clear shots of the product, for instance — a certain lo-fi quality works really well on social media. While Tipograph studied this relationship in her role at Gap, I'll offer up my personal experience anecdotally: There's something really charming and engrossing about watching people stumble over their words or repeat themselves on camera.
"Nobody wants to see a $500,000 production value video shoved into Instagram," says Tipograph.
Is it about approachability? Schadenfruede? For whatever deep psychological reason, I scrolled through swaths of MikMak videos when I first tested out the app, and not just in the name of journalistic research.
That's good news for Tipograph and her handful of team members, who film the videos in her Williamsburg apartment. They can shoot about 25 in one day, for what Tipograph says is "less than the price of a nice New York dinner" each. All of the products on the app, meanwhile, go for less than $100, which helps lower the barrier to entry. It's a price point MikMak team members are familiar with: Eric Ornstein, MikMak's vice president of merchandising, was formerly a global buyer for Fab.com.
Investors, for their part, seem convinced of MikMak's potential. The company raised $1.5 million in funding from Vayner RSE, UTA Ventures, Google Glass head Ivy Ross and Charles Seagars of Dreamworks.