How does Apple find out about the future? Ask a teenager, of course. Snapchat-style teen shopping app Yeay only came out of beta development three months ago, but Apple execs have already been to its Berlin office to understand more about its audience of 13 to 20-year-olds.
Yeay is a "social shopping" app, which lets users make and upload videos to sell products, largely fashion and lifestyle goods, and has been described as "QVC + Tumblr + Snapchat" by tech blog Product Hunt.
"Our app is a utility app, it helps everyone create good product videos. At the same time, it's a platform where these product videos can immediately transform into transaction videos and people can immediately purchase on our platform," Yeay founder Melanie Mohr told CNBC.
"You could say it's a marketplace, but at the same place an entertainment platform combined with many social factors, and I think this is what, especially when you are looking into this generation, this is what they want, they want to be social, they want to share products," Mohr added.
The core group of buyers and sellers on the app is aged 13 to 18, and they are an entrepreneurial bunch. "They want to create products, and they want to make money," said Mohr. Yeay doesn't take commission from individuals who sell via the app, but plans to charge larger brands an undisclosed percentage, from 2018.
Apple's future consumers
Apple got interested in the app because of the insights it can give into the next generation of shoppers, Mohr said. "We had delegations from Apple in our office… There are many ways our product is quite interesting to them, but I think that they are also looking into trends and they saw this is the kind of trend-capturing platform, and this Gen Z focus is something they are highly focused [on]."
Yeay also has versions for Apple's iMessage app, and is working on an Apple TV version. Users can set up a wish list within the Yeay app and share it with friends who can see it via the app store within iMessage.
Big agencies and brands are also interested because of the insights Yeay can give them, as well as how to create videos and other content teens want to like and share. "They want to have access to our user-generated content and to this tool within the app to create [it]… such as product video challenges and campaigns."
The most searched-for brand on Yeay is Yeezy, Kanye West's fashion line, followed by Supreme, the hip New York street wear label, but people also sell goods they've made or sourced themselves. Its inventory is valued at $2 million, the app has 100,000 registered users from 160 countries and is available in 18 languages.
The U.S., U.K. and the rest of Europe are its hotspots, and it is working with Veon (formerly VimpelCom), the Russian telco that has more than 200 million customers, on an integration for its WeChat-like messaging application that will have a "zero data policy," (so users won't incur data charges) Mohr said.
It's easy to compare Yeay to Ebay as a marketplace and Snapchat as a social network, especially as it added filters and stickers last month, but Mohr prefers to liken it to Musical.ly, the app where teens lip-synch along to their favorite hits, gaining millions of followers along the way, because "people love to have this feeling that they could be the next music star, or behave like their favorite star." With Yeay, they can become a star of selling.
The teens selling on the app differ from their older Millennial counterparts because they are natural and unselfconscious, says Mohr. "They know how to create good content and they know how to message it right to their crowd on other social platforms."