If Americans shopped the same way we use social platforms, it would make brands very happy. We spend 16 minutes out of every hour online visiting sites like Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram, and many of us show up specifically for shopping inspiration. It’s like the online equivalent of hanging out at the mall—except that you cannot buy anything—and it’s no wonder that many startups have cropped up with hopes of creating a similar experience specifically for shopping.
There’s The Fancy, which allows users to "fancy" as well as buy the products that populate its feeds. There’s WaneLo and Keep, which encourage users to share products and have clear e-commerce aspirations. And as of today, there’s Spring, a startup that attempts to recreate the experience of shopping in Soho within an app (it’s named after Spring Street). "Sometimes you know what you want," says David Tisch, who cofounded the app with his brother, Alan, and ex-Googler Octavian Costache. "Sometimes you know categorically what you want, sometimes you know what store. But other times you’re just going to hang out. "
Spring, which has until now done business under the name Jello Labs, is backed by an impressive list of investors that span the fashion, tech, and venture capital worlds (Tisch himself is a managing partner of the early-stage development fund Box Group and the former director of New York City's Techstars accelerator).
The app isn't social, though it centers around an Instagram-like photo feed of products. Brands select what to feature for sale in the app each day—perhaps a sale item or a limited edition item—and they post photos that artistically feature it. Users can follow about 100 brands, including Alice + Olivia, Rebecca Minkoff, and Del Toro at launch. Tisch says that Spring is charging brands a rate lower than the typical 8% to 12% affiliate sales fee on purchases made within the app.
"We killed the shopping cart," Tish says. Instead, users swipe below an item to buy it. After filling out credit card and shipping information just one time within the app, all that stands between them and an impulse purchase is the touch of a button. Which, of course, is an appealing proposition for brands.
The shopping cart has been replaced with a "like" button on each item. After users "like" something, the brand can send them push notifications to let them know, for instance, that it has gone on sale or there are only a limited number left. Again, the stuff of which marketers’ dreams are made.
The app integrates with brands’ existing e-commerce infrastructures, so after checkout, the experience—receipt, shipping, customer service—is similar to having bought something from the brand’s website. It’s just a different entry point (and one that does not require you to download a separate app for every brand you like).
But it's not the only potential entry point. Another option may soon be social platforms where users are already spending a lot of time, like Facebook and Twitter. And e-commerce is something on both those companies’ minds. After briefly experimenting with its own virtual currency, Credits, Facebook began testing a "buy button" last month. Shortly after, Twitter announced it had acquired CardSpring, a payments company, to help it launch a similar feature.
Tisch, however, argues that the most successful shopping app will be dedicated solely to shopping. "If I log onto a social platform, I’m there to be social," he says. "And I think every social platform that got built was user to user and then brands were a secondary piece. So brands have tried to figure out where they fit into these networks. As a customer, I’m never logging onto any of these networks saying, I want to go shopping."
[Shopping Crowd: Sculpies via Shutterstock]