Jerry Luk, Co-Founder & President at Firework chats about a few top B2B and online commerce trends:
Welcome to this MarTech Series chat, Jerry, tell us about yourself and what inspired Firework? How has the platform evolved over the years?
My career started in 2005, when I was brought on as one of LinkedIn’s earliest recruits and the creator of LinkedIn Mobile. My experience there, and later at Edmodo, helped me realize early on in my career that the most transformative technologies are those that help bring people together. That idea is what ultimately inspired Vincent Yang and I to co-found Firework in 2017 – to help organizations forge more authentic, human connections with their audiences through the language of video.
In the beginning, the platform was focused solely on short-form, swipeable web stories. If you remember, this was right when ByteDance entered the American market and became TikTok. So, as you might imagine, it didn’t take long for the media to start referring to Firework as the “B2B version of TikTok”; which is by no means an unwelcome association for a freshly-founded startup. But, the platform has expanded significantly over the past few years (both in terms of its technical capabilities and customer base) and has now outgrown the limits of that characterization. Today, short-form is just one of many dialects Firework is fluent in within the wider language of video. The platform now includes live streaming, shoppable, and interactive video formats – along with monetization and analytics tools – all of which have opened the door to a much broader set of customers.
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How are you witnessing changes in livestream commerce capabilities redefine online purchase trends today? A few predictions that you’d like to discuss for this space, for the near-future?
The most consistent, readily apparent effects we’ve seen across our customer deployments are increases in conversion and engagement. We consistently see consumers converting more, spending more time on-site, and watching more videos for longer durations. This is something that we can expect to continue, especially for early adopters, who’ll enjoy the benefits of offering consumers a differentiated experience before livestream commerce simply becomes the norm. In the long-term, however, I think livestream commerce’s most profound and lasting impact will be in extending the customer journey, and blurring the lines between content consumption and commerce.
Today, the ecommerce experience is still very practical and transactional, exemplified by sites like Amazon and Walmart.com. Under this paradigm, the customer might do some preliminary product research on Google, visiting consumer review websites and the like. But once they arrive at the ecommerce property, they tend to navigate straight to the product they’re looking for via search, and from there, directly to checkout.
To be clear, I don’t think that’s going away any time soon. For certain types of shoppers and certain types of purchases, Amazon will remain the gold standard for some time. But, its days of defining all of ecommerce are numbered. We’re already seeing the trend take shape in the D2C space, with platforms like Shopify now outpacing Amazon for quarterly traffic growth.
In the coming years, I predict we’ll see the online customer journey come to resemble something much more akin to that of the traditional brick and mortar shopper — or maybe even the Main Street window shoppers of old. In both cases, purchasing decisions are decidedly more impulsive, and more easily influenced by the intangibles of atmosphere and branding. Is it really all that strange to imagine a Metaversal shopping mall becoming a place for people to hang out and impulse buy?
We’d love to hear more about Firework’s recent partnership with Omnicom media…
Firework is very excited about their new partnership with OMG. With this partnership, all OMG agency customers will be given full access to Firework’s technologies – including shoppable short-form video and live commerce capabilities – and will be able to seamlessly implement them on their websites and other media such as publishers and social media. OMG is the first agency holding company to form a strategic partnership with Firework and gain this level of access to our platform. As a result, we’ve been able to bring Firework to millions of new customers practically overnight.
What are some of the top trends that come to mind for 2022 when it comes to the matter of digital commerce and what brands need to keep foremost in mind when building experiences for users/customers?
As Generation Z’s oldest cohort settles into the workforce and the majority of millennials enter their prime earning years, next-gen consumers are finally closing in on Baby Boomers as the demographic with the most purchasing power. Brands should do their best to ensure they’re well-versed in this new generation’s unique values and worldview. If your business hasn’t already begun making converted efforts towards Gen-Z fluency, you ought to get started now.
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As martech / online commerce platforms evolve and new online commerce trends dominate the market: how do you feel technologies that support these initiatives will evolve in future?
Today’s ecommerce experience is what I like to call “buying online” – a purely practical and transactional process exemplified by sites like Amazon. With livestream and short video technology, we can transform “buying online” into “shopping online” – a more immersive, dynamic process, in which the experience itself has value, not only the product.
Another interesting trend to watch for is the blurring of the line between online and offline customer experiences. We’re already seeing livestream commerce is an effective tool for generating in-store sales — converting online traffic into foot traffic. We’re seeing the inverse to be true as well, where people are using online tools to augment their in-store shopping experience. For example, an in-store shopper might use their smartphone to scan a QR code to watch a short product demo video online. They may even finalize the purchase online and have it shipped to their home (if, for instance, the product is large and the shopper is on foot or using public transportation). I think we’ll see more and more of this moving forward, until distinguishing between digital and physical customer experiences/journeys becomes effectively meaningless.
Some last thoughts, takeaways, before we wrap up!
Just as the Firework platform has expanded over recent years, so has our vision. While we were once quite taken by the idea of being the “B2B version of TikTok”, Firework has since expanded beyond any one type of video or type of application. The reason brands are flocking to solutions like Firework is because they are desperate to reclaim some semblance of control over their brand, identity, and customer data. The question of data ownership, in particular, is becoming more important than ever. As the third-party cookie sings its swan song and Apple rolls out its new app-tracking transparency (ATT) policy, walled-gardens like Facebook and TikTok want to go one step further by implementing e-commerce solutions inside their apps – further separating brands from their users and data. At Firework, our goal is to help free brands from being held hostage by these walled gardens – allowing them to execute cutting-edge e-commerce and customer engagement capabilities anywhere and everywhere on the open web.
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