The action of swiping through MikMak is familiar; it’s what we do on so many apps that it’s become muscle memory. But you’re not swiping at Tinder speeds here—the idea with MikMak is to make online shopping an engaging experience, one in which you “watch, laugh, shop.”
Every night at 9pm ET, you can tune into MikMak to catch the newest videos, so you’re interacting with the app more like a TV show than a mindless scroll through ModCloth or eBay. It’s essentially an infomercial with the gauzy focus of QVC stripped away, one aimed squarely at millennials.
Adult Swim recently attempted to reinvigorate the infomercial with its terrifying new late-night slate, but MikMak’s approach is different: The 30-second clips feature comedians from NYC’s UCB and the Peoples Improv Theater presenting the elevator pitch, so there’s a relatable person trying the product out for you, telling you a story, making you laugh—and making it more likely you’ll buy something.
A year ago, MikMak’s founder, Rachel Tipograph, was working at Gap, and she started thinking about how brands engage with consumers on the Internet. “Whether you’re a luxury brand or a mom-and-pop store, you’re going to fall into the same trap,” she said. “Which is to send promotional emails and run advertising that chases you around the Internet until you click it, because that’s what works. But to us everyday people, that’s actually one of the most annoying things on the Internet, so if you’re in retail, basically your job is to annoy people day in and day out. And I didn’t really like doing that.”
She did a video for Gap and says she “saw the light”—video had the potential to be just as effective in getting you to spend online as the email badger. She happened upon the infomercial industry and started thinking about who home-shopping giants like QVC and Home Shopping Network target: 45- to 55-year-old women. Tipograph had an idea for “short, shoppable infomercials made for the iPhone generation.”
“We’re building an entertainment company first,” she added. “So hopefully when you’re playing with MikMak, what you experience is, ‘Wow, I just was on this app for 10 minutes and watched 25 minimercials back to back. Where does the time go?’ And all of the sudden you had an experience that’s much more similar to how you use Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant video, versus traditional online shopping.”
The app, which is available for iOS, has been in beta since February and rolls out today. Curious parties can shop based on categories like jewelry and gadgets, and watch short clips featuring comedians like #hotmessmoves’ Lyle Friedman and Ashley Skidmore pitching products. So many comedy webseries episodes clock in at four to six minutes, and MikMak is essentially distilling that format to engage short attention spans and our swiping finger. There’s even a music video encouraging consumers to “do the MikMak,” and we’ve got an exclusive look:
Online shopping can be a solitary experience, but in MikMak’s “minimercials”—which are shot in Tipograph’s apartment for the time being—the host is speaking directly to the camera, and by extension, you. There’s a psychology behind this, Tipograph says: “People who watch infomercials often believe that the host is their good friend. And they get the same emotional benefit as friendship from buying an item from this person.”
Indeed, the clips feature relatable humor and attractive people, and more people are shopping on their phones, which makes the one-to-one connection even more important. The products on MikMak aren’t meant to be big life purchases or something you’d need to try on, but things you could buy in a split-second on your phone.
“If you look at how Apple is putting out their hardware, the size of the screen is getting larger,” Tipograph said. “Usually technology gets smaller and smaller, but because of this shift in consumer behavior, the screen size is getting larger because this is where video consumption is happening.”
MikMak is targeting the 18-34 demo, and Tipograph says it has a “50/50 gender split. If you talk to men on MikMak, they love the cute, funny girls, and because our products don’t have sizes, they’re essentially genderless.”
“We’re really interested in building relationships with people who live in the middle of the country,” she added. “So many startups are often designed for the coasts, so they only think people are in New York, L.A., and San Francisco, and we’re building a company for America. And that’s also a huge part of the entertainment value. …When you talk to people who use MikMak, they describe it as SNL for shopping, Broad City for shopping, YouTube for shopping, Vine for shopping. It’s for anyone who grew up in the Snapchat generation. We understand the attention economy today; you only have a few seconds to grab someone’s attention.”
Illustration by Max Fleishman