The "Explore" feature on Foursquare, which helps you find a nearby bar or restaurant based on places your friends have been checked-in, works pretty well. But it doesn’t really help you discover new spots as much as return to the ones your friends have already been to—in other words, it doesn't mimic the way you window shop in real life. What entices you to walk into a store is almost always the eye candy provided by a beautiful storefront with artfully displayed wares. How do you convey that magic in a location-based app? The product-discovery service Svpply is trying to do just that with its new Store Explorer feature.
Instead of simply providing a tiny red pin with an address, Store Explorer ports you over to a store’s Svpply page where you can swipe through some of their wares and see how many people have "Wanted" their items. Think of it as pre-window-shopping. The feature, which is available on both the Svpply website and iOS app, is launching in 21 cities including New York, Paris, and Sydney, which alone has 22,000 listings.
"Most location-oriented apps offer you a list of who’s been to a store, or give you a picture of the storefront to help you find it, but none of that helps you make a decision about whether or not it’s a place you actually want to visit," Svpply cofounder Greg Leppert tells Fast Company.
Svpply's community, at just 160,000 users, it quite a bit smaller than the all-purpose Pinterest (20 million) or luxury niche The Fancy (1 million). But since the site launched in 2009, its users have "Wanted" items more than 7.5 million times. More importantly, it marks a significant directional departure from like-minded services. "Most of the social retail sites out there have forgotten that we don't do all of our shopping online," Leppert says. "They leave their communities stranded when it comes to actually shopping with their friends on the weekends."
The one problem with Store Explorer right now is that not all the items you see on a brand’s Svpply page are guaranteed to be in stock at a particular location—an item might be out of stock, say, or from a previous season. But Leppert says it’s a first step toward mending the broken customer-retailer relationship.
"That dialogue in the past has often been almost abused," he says. "Once retailers get ahold of a fan, they’ll send as many communications as that fan will bear."
Svpply’s plan is to become a new one-stop shopping platform where users can browse through a variety of product catalogs and find something great, regardless of the specific website it came from. What Svpply wants to do for retail is akin to what MySpace did for music in the early 2000s. "Bands used to build up mailing lists and do physical postering to advertise shows," he says. "Then MySpace came along and created a unified platform where fans could follow bands to get updates on tour schedules and new songs, and bands had a great platform to post content, send messages to those fans, and really rally people. Retail is ready for the same thing to happen."