Korean startup Grip is helping buyers and sellers connect through live streaming
How one founder is transforming ecommerce with a livestream app
If the key to business success is understanding the user, just call Hanna Kim the Gen Z whisperer. After building a corporate career in marketing, sales, and telecommunications industry in South Korea, Hanna saw an opportunity to combine the interactive and influencer-driven capabilities of social media with the growing demand for direct-to-consumer e-commerce platforms. So in February 2019, Hanna teamed up with seven former colleagues to launch Grip, South Korea’s first live commerce marketplace. The platform facilitates real-time communication between sellers and buyers “to create a platform where ‘everyone can sell,’ including conglomerates, foreigners, small business owners, and individuals,” says Hanna. “It’s not Youtube nor ‘Home Shopping TV,’ and it’s certainly not social media. We wanted sellers to be able to promote, advertise and sell their products all in one place using our platform.”
Grip’s combination of live broadcasting and e-commerce creates a unique shopping experience in which the creators of a product or influencers live stream directly to an audience, encouraging direct sales in a fresh, engaging, and entertaining way. Viewers gain trust in products and hosts by tuning in to specific broadcasts and asking questions in real time, and viewers’ live chat comments serve as peer reviews. It doesn’t get more direct-to-consumer than that! “We prioritize effective communication with our users,” says Hanna. “It is crucial to build trust by talking about the products and answering questions from our users in an authentic manner.” As a result, sellers foster a real relationship with buyers, resulting in a return rate of only 1%.
During its first year, Hanna and the Grip team struggled to raise awareness of their mission and platform. However, COVID-19 created an urgent need for a contactless shopping experience. Suddenly, sellers scrambling for a digital platform wanted to onboard ASAP—and Grip scaled rapidly to accommodate the surging demand.
“The program made me dream even bigger.”
While struggling with growing pains, Hanna learned about the Google for Startups’ Immersion: Women Founders program at Campus Seoul through a seed investor. She joined the eight-week mentorship program to practice greater leadership skills, connect with other women founders across the Asia Pacific region, and successfully guide her startup through this accelerated growth phase. “I learned a lot from the program,” says Hanna. “It was especially wonderful to learn what most other CEOs are facing. Knowing I am not alone in struggling with issues I face in the company. I learned a lot from our mentors and other women entrepreneurs.”
During the Immersion: Women Founders program, Hanna learned how to make the most of Grip’s marketing budget using Google Universal App Campaigns (UAC). After the team implemented Google UAC, the active user base of Grip grew threefold. With the guidance of Google mentors, Hanna also established a more efficient recruitment process, creating questionnaires for applicants to make sure that the team grew in line with Grip’s core company values. “It’s been really helpful to get insights about business and HR,” Hanna says. “The program made me dream even bigger.”
Today, Grip is the number one live commerce app in South Korea, and has attracted an investment of KRW 12 billion (roughly $11 million USD). As of December 2020, Grip’s transaction amount for 2020 exceeded KRW 24 billion (roughly $21.5 million USD) with their monthly transaction amount increasing by 26 times from the year before; and currently over 10,00 sellers globally are active on the platform, offering 68,000+ products and averaging about 700 live broadcasts per day. Grip is available on the Google Play Store and has been downloaded more than 1.6 million times since their launch. Now that competitors have entered the market, Hanna is grateful that she firmed up her leadership skills and OKRs with Google support during the Immersion: Women Founders program. “I feel a greater sense of purpose the more I challenge myself,” says Hanna. “I can’t put into words how hard my startup journey has been so far, but I am grateful to be able to help small business owners with our service, work with passion, and make a positive difference in this world. I encourage aspiring entrepreneurs to overcome their fear and just get started.”