Star seller

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Hiyasmin Neri-Soyao
Chief Executive Officer Shoppertainment Live
A former actress now finds fulfillment in the new medium of “livestream shopping,” which she claims fits her creative skills and personality.

“ I believe that presenting products in an informative and entertaining way can help people understand better if they would really be worth buying and make their lives easier and happier.”

The Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically affected purchasing patterns. For safety reasons, customers now prefer shopping online, using different platforms to ensure their essentials and meals are delivered to their doorstep.

The challenge, however, is that without a physical sense of the items being ordered, people have to rely on reviews posted by other customers. Fortunately, “livestream shopping” has come to their rescue by featuring host-sellers presenting the product and its various benefits. An example is Shoppertainment Live, the company set up by former television actress Hiyasmin Neri-Soyao that goes a step further by combining shopping and entertainment to engage audiences and prompt them to shop more.

Creative field

Hiyasmin, the daughter of doctors Reynaldo and Fresvinda Neri, could have followed in her parents’ footsteps, but instead chose the creative path. “Growing up, I realized that I was very inclined to the arts,” she recalls. “I loved drawing, painting, crafting, singing, dancing and acting. I also loved watching television and even dreamt of being part of a kids’ show.”

Her parents supported these inclinations and encouraged her to join activities in school and church. She says: “My artistic side came from my dad because even if he was a doctor, he was also a singer, a painter and a good communicator. I was a quiet kid, but I was also observant and imaginative. I learned how to be an extrovert performing for our house guests during gatherings at home.”

Hiyasmin initially wanted to pursue broadcast communications at the University of the Philippines Diliman, but ended up taking clothing technology, enjoying the business and creative subjects. She says: “I particularly liked rebranding and marketing fashion products. I remember selling necklaces that I bought for only P20 in Divisoria market, which and I repackaged to make them look more expensive, and sold them for to friends and family for P150. I would even visit their homes to show off my new collections and encourage them to spread the word about what I was selling.”

Still in college, Hiyasmin landed a part in the sci-fantasy film Xenoa, co-starring Paolo Ballesteros and the late Isabel Granada. “That experience was so fun and memorable for me that it made me want to do more acting workshops and projects,” she says. This led to more film and television roles and modelling stints for ads. She was one of ABS-CBN’s Star Magic talents. A five-year hosting gig with the network’s live home shopping segment, ACJ O Shopping, prepared her for her present role as chief executive officer of Shoppertainment.

She also worked as a fashion associate for a magazine. She says: “I wanted to integrate my passion for media and communication and my acquired fashion skills, but I ended up preferring over fashion. As for showbiz, I never really thought of it as a long-term career.

Although I enjoyed being part of it, I believed there were some other things I knew I could do apart from performing.” She interned in a production house and to learn how to shoot, write and edit for both digital and television platforms and also worked as a segment producer for a few lifestyle TV shows. She eventually took up a master in business administration at the Ateneo Graduate School of Business.

Growth opportunity

The live commerce medium, which originally began in China, grew in the wake of the e-commerce boom. “In 2018, Steve Sy, chief executive officer of Great Deals E-Commerce Corp., came across live commerce shows during a trip in China and told us about the growing opportunity,” Hiyasmin reports. “Convinced that this was the future of home shopping, my husband Patt, who heads Icon Executive Asia, and I, Ace Gapuz, CEO of Blogapalooza PR and Influencer Marketing and Steve teamed up to start Shoppertainment in the Philippines.”

The initial challenge, according to Hiyasmin, was launching a service that was the first of its kind in the country. Since 2019, the company has grown from a team of three to 30 people in just 17 months of operations despite the onset of the pandemic. Most of the current employees consist of layoffs from the BTL (below the line) ad industry. They started with an average of one to two campaigns per month and increased to 200 percent by the end of 2020. Today, Shoppertainment Live has done at least 70 live campaigns within the first quarter of 2021 and has worked with more than 70 local and multinational brands.

Owing to her background in TV shopping, Hiyasmin closely coaches Shoppertainment Live’s roster of ‘influensales,’ people, mentoring them in the best sales and communications techniques and strategies. “It is all about having an influencer’s ability to engage, inform and entertain, and the salesman’s mindset to sell products and understand every product’s unique features and benefits,” she says.

Hiyasmin (seated front row, left) with her team of “influensales” people that has witnessed healthy expansion since 2019. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

For Hiyasmin, a good shop host knows how to do product and market research to identify obvious and underlying needs of the target market for the product that is being sold. She explains: “A shop host should also know how to relate to the target market through mastery of his or her tone of voice, hand gestures and choice of words, which will really connect to the audience. I became a shop host because I knew how to sell something in real life and knew how to use performance and voice techniques to help viewers feel, taste, smell and experience the products, even if they were just watching on TV or on their mobile phones.

“I believe presenting products in an informative and entertaining way can help people understand better if they would really be worth buying and make their lives easier and happier.”

Hiyasmin unwinds from her busy days cooking and cleaning her home, and occasionally catching up with celebrity friends when they are tapped as influencer hosts by certain brands. “I feel happy for them that they have achieved their dreams of becoming famous,” she says. Performing will always be a part of me, but I’ve realized that being a creative entrepreneur fits my personality and skills more because I thrive in multi-tasking, thinking about new ideas and making these come to life.”

For those who want to pursue a career in showbiz or for start-up enterprises, she has this advice: “Like in anything that we do, just give it your all and always think of growth and sustainability.”

ABOUT ME

Role model
My parents because of their hard work, kindness and drive to succeed

GOAL
To be a cool mom, a loving and dependable wife and an impactful creative entrepreneur

FIRST PAYING JOB
Television actress

MORNING RITUAL
Coffee with my husband while listening to music

SPECIAL SKILLS
Multi-tasking and playing the ukulele

TIME SPENT ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Being in the livestream industry, a lot is an understatement

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