Seoul-based e-commerce company Levit, operator of shopping app Alwayz, wants to make shopping more fun and accessible. The two-year-old startup recently raised $46 million in Series B funding led by DST Global Partners, with new investor BOND and existing investors KB Investment, Mirae Asset Capital, Korea Investment Partners, GS Ventures and Klim Ventures. Including the latest round, Levit has raised a total of $67 million since its inception.
Alwayz offers a wide range of products, from everyday food to household appliances, from clothing to cosmetics. But it differs from typical e-commerce platforms in that it incorporates social features such as short videos and gamification into online shopping to attract customers.
For example, users can earn rewards by playing dong-don-e pig rearing games, or get vegetables in real life after successfully growing crops in a game called AI-Farm in their app. In addition, Alwayz recently introduced the Shorts feature, which allows users to watch short videos and receive discounts on their purchases in return.
It also attracts customers with low product prices. Users receive discounts if they buy items together with other users or their friends on Alwayz. Alwayz’s C2M (consumer-to-manufacturer) model eliminates the layer of distributors including logistics, inventory, and other middlemen, allowing the app to offer high quality products at lower prices. According to the company, the majority of sellers on Alwayz are manufacturers or manufacturers.
“Our average selling price of products is approximately 20% cheaper than the lowest prices on other e-commerce platforms,” said Jayun Kang, CEO and co-founder of Levit. “This is made possible by the fact that lesser-known brands that have traditionally spent around 30-50% of the selling price on marketing on search-based e-commerce platforms can now sell their products more effectively on Alwayz through discovery-based purchases ( discovery-based shopping).
Games and social features help users log into the Alwayz app daily and explore different products, even if they don’t intend to make a purchase right away, Levit said.
“Because users enjoy using our platform, we use their high engagement to offer them a range of products through our recommendation algorithms. In this way, customers can even find and buy products from obscure brands,” said Kang. Levitt describes this user experience as a “shopping experience with discovery”.
When asked how the company delivers high quality, low-cost products, the company’s CEO replied that its recommendation algorithms rank all products on Alwayz using factors such as conversion and repeat purchase rates. “We do not allow a product to be widely distributed until it proves its quality, and this approach allows us to maintain the quality of goods,” he said.
In September 2021, the startup said that Alwayz reached 1 million users within three months and reached 7 million users in total, 2.5 million monthly active users (MAUs) and 1.3 million daily active users (DAUs) in a year and a half. Alwayz aims to have more than 12 million registered users, 5 million MAUs and 3 million DAUs by the end of 2023, Kang said, adding that there are about 20,000 merchants registered on the app.
The three founders of Levit – Kang, Sangwu Park and Hyunjik Lee – set themselves two ambitious goals: to make Levit the leading e-commerce company in South Korea and to capture a significant share of the global open shopping market.
Alwayz has to compete with local peers like Coupang, Naver and Kurly, but its business model is more similar to American e-commerce Pinduoduo and China’s AliExpress in terms of social features and products at lower prices.
The company, which has a team of 20 people, plans to bring its platform to the US market this year.
“Explosive innovation in horizontal commerce is rare,” said Dagwon Chae, general partner at BOND. “Crowding out large incumbents requires a much better, faster and cheaper experience, which is difficult to achieve in a mature and efficient market. Alwayz took the lead with their relentless focus on user experience, engagement, and value proposition.”
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