May 18, 2012, 11:38 AM

Sharpmen uses YouTube videos to bring its e-commerce flash sale site to life

Think “GQ meets QVC online,” says CEO Yazid Aksas.

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Aiming to be “GQ meets QVC online,” flash sale retailer Sharpmen wants to make the men visiting its e-commerce site feel as though they are paging though a glossy fashion magazine. It’s turning to YouTube videos to get the job done.

The members-only site, which launched this week, offers a range of items including apparel, tech gadgets, sports gear and art. So far the e-retailer has signed 120 partner brands and is featuring about 10 of them a week, says CEO Yazid Aksas.

Sharpmen says it is heavily focusing on content, with the goal to keep men coming back regularly for entertainment and information. Its narrative-based videos from YouTube are designed to work like ever-changing magazine features, Aksas says. Sharpmen produces all videos itself and plans to start live-streaming some of them from its New York office for special deals, he says. Members receive weekly e-mails with the latest “issue.”

In the future, Sharpmen plans to display personalized home pages for each consumer based on the preferences profile he fills out when signing up. For example, an outdoorsy type will see camping gear, perhaps, or a wine lover will see wine, Aksas says.

Sharpmen videos are either one-minute-or-less product features, showing, for example, how a gadget works or apparel fits, or two-minute-or-less productions that include interviews with a brand’s founders. “We’re interested in finding brands that are less known but have cool products,” Aksas says. “That’s something else we find with guys, they’re less brand sensitive than women. They’ll buy things if they look good and work well, regardless of the name on the tag," he explains.

Oliberte, which manufactures specialty shoes entirely in Africa with the goal to help build jobs and infrastructure in the region, worked with Sharpmen to produce a video for the site. “They were as much interested in the product as building the video to tell the story about it,” says Oliberte brand director Steve Trayner of the partnership. “As much as a product is good, it’s the story that garners the loyalty of the audience—true supporters knowing that their shoes are doing a lot more.”

The Sharpmen for Oliberte video features Trayner in the shoe showroom explaining the origins of the brand and the evolution of the products, including the reasons behind particular design features on some shoes, which he picks up and points out while speaking. Upbeat synthesizer music plays in the background throughout.

Trayner predicts the site will quickly be on par with other magazine-style men’s e-commerce sites like that of apparel, shoe and accessories retailer MrPorter.com. What sets Sharpmen apart, in his view, is the breadth of product offerings, which he expects will draw new customers to the Oliberte brand who may not have found it otherwise.

Aksas decided to launch Sharpmen after operating the direct-to-consumer menswear store Akselparis.com for more than a year.

Aksas says he saw potential in using YouTube to connect with male consumers. “Guys spend more time online, guys love YouTube, and there’s no kind of shopping channel for guys,” he says.

Other brands that sell on Sharpmen like the education the videos provide.

“Men need to be educated, they need to feel comfortable about whatever it is that they’re buying … they need to be hand-held a little bit,” says Pamela S. Viglielmo, executive vice president of Mënaji Worldwide LLC., a seller of men’s skincare products which sells on Sharpmen.“Whenever you can have this live face, this live interaction, it helps.”

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