Former actress innovates shopping and entertainment


She was not a breakout star, but Hiyasmin Neri-Soyao is now making an impact on the entertainment and e-commerce sectors by leading a pioneer company that put back to work dozens of professionals displaced by the closure of a major TV network and those affected by the pandemic.

Former actress innovates shopping and entertainment
Shoppertainment Live Inc. co-founder and managing director Hiyasmin Neri-Soyao

Yas used her experience in entertainment, shop hosting, digital marketing and video production to put up Shoppertainment Live Inc.—the country’s first full-production livestreaming agency in 2019 which eventually changed the e-commerce scene in 2020 when the pandemic led to mobility restrictions and forced people to shop online.  She also serves as the company’s managing director, overseeing a team of 30 professionals.

As part of Star Magic Batch 15 (2007), Yas did not achieve the stardom of her contemporaries Megan Young and Bella Padilla, but the route she took as professional shop host for ACJ O Shopping and as content producer for lifestyle TV shows prepared her to become a trailblazer in the Philippine livestream shopping.

“I had a lot of failures as part of media. I failed as an actor. I was not a breakout star, but I found ways to still pursue what I really wanted—be it on-camera, be it off-cam, be it on creating a business.  If your purpose is really to make an impact, help people and change the industry, then it is not really what you do, but what you see entirely, and what can you do to make those things happen.  I think it is more of the purpose, rather than the task that is more important,” Yas says via a Zoom interview.

The newly-married, 30-year-old executive is now on a mission to make livestream shopping an ever bigger industry in the Philippines and other parts of Asia. “It is safe, it is fast. Our reach is very big.  In a one-hour livestream, we have an average of 5,000 to 8,000 views,” she says, referring to livestream shows of Shoppertainment which handles more than 70 local and multinational brands.

Yas teamed up with Steve Sy, founder and chief executive of Great Deals E-Commerce Corp., and other business leaders to launch Shoppertainment in 2019.  “Our purpose is to make media and commerce flawlessly integrate together.  I saw that because I was exposed to O-Shopping for five years,” she says.

She describes Shoppertainment as a tech-enabled livestream shopping network for  e-commerce and social media that helps brands generate results real time. “We create entertaining live shopping streams for brands that will help people to shop smart so they just add-to-cart. We deliver the full marketing experience from awareness, engagement to sales for every livestream session with our ‘influensale’ mindset,” she says.

“Shoppertainment Live is basically creating a Homeshopping 2.0 experience for brands and their consumers,” says Yas.

Yas and her team started with the Lazada Live and Shopee Live in 2019, using a makeshift studio.  “Come 2020, with the pandemic outbreak, it was actually a way for us to accelerate and make it a more efficient process. It was such an exciting experience, but at the same time hard and challenging not only for us in productions but also for our talents.  So we really had to work with them well,” she says.

Yas, a daughter of two doctors, says the pandemic led to the accelerated growth of Shoppertainment which held 1,000 livestream shows in 2020.

“The pandemic actually accelerated the livestream consumption behavior and accelerated the growth of our industry. Currently, we are expanding capacity, studio space and manpower. Definitely in the Philippines, it accelerated the behavior for livestream consumptions.  Right now, we are still waiting for the official data with our platforms Lazada and Shopee,” says Yas.

“We are looking to make it a big network in Asia.  We want to do it in different countries as well and make it bigger.  By the end of the year, we are targeting 9,000 livestream sessions.  We have achieved 1,000 livestreams last year,” says Yas, who studied at University of the Philippines, Enderun Colleges and Ateneo de Manila University.

Yas says they are lining up 51 livestreams for the Lazada Birthday Sale happening on March 26 and 27.  To support the increasing number of livestreams for client brands, Shoppertainment is hiring more people, she says.

“We have been putting a lot of efforts in building the team especially because we have been growing,” she says.  “Definitely, we focus our efforts on HR, support team and operations to really meet the increasing demand.”

“Right now, we are 30 and growing.  We are targeting a hundred by the end of the year.  We started with just three, including me, an admin staff and a producer.  I was the writer and host and handled nearly everything,” she says.

Shoppertainment put up its own livestream studios and started hiring more people in 2020. “Despite the lockdown and working remotely, we managed to create online productions which kept our momentum going. The need for live streams during the quarantine increased, and we knew that we were already equipped with the right production skills needed by the brands who were pivoting to digital,” says Yas.

“We are proud to claim that we lead in helping the below-the-line advertising and activations sector bounce back from the pandemic. We empower brands and companies to shift from their traditional ‘promodizing’ method usually done inside malls to doing it via live streaming. We see this as an ongoing trend, even if things get back to normal,” she says.

Former broadcast head of ABSCBN’s Oshopping, Lawrence Lee joined the Shoppertainment team to lead productions and broadcast operations while Therese Vitug, formerly from Viva entertainment, joined to focus on enhancing processes and client management. 

Seasoned project manager Ritchel Aurin and technical director Donald Ramos, who are both from the events and activations industry, brought their live production fundamentals to the team.  New breed JB Operario leads the research and development for livestream productions.  Art director Joseph Penada specializes on product design, while broadcast television editors Marc Ponce and Elvis Macalino make core operations stronger. 

“By combining our talents and rich experience in TV Homeshopping, TV production, publishing, events and below-the-line advertising, clients can expect that they are dealing with the industry experts,” says Yas.

“We knew we were doing something right when we were reaching an average of 20 streams per month and had to immediately grow the team from 6 employees, to 30 in just 1 year and 5 months.  We also increased our studio capacity to meet the demands,” she says.

“Right now, we’ve reached 70 live campaigns in first quarter and are servicing more than 70 local and multinational brands. We’ve also worked with top celebrities and influencers in the Philippines and have been part of award-winning e-commerce and marketing campaigns for multinational brands in a span of one year,” she says.

 “What is really interesting here is that it is an integration of people from three industries—those who were retrenched from broadcast TV, from O-Shopping, events and activations professionals and even from the publishing industry who were involved in packaging graphics,” she says.

“We were able to make it work throughout this pandemic,” says Yas.

“It is just amazing, and we wanted to make it happen here in the Philippines.  It all made sense looking back,” she says. 

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