A wave of new social e-commerce networks that are dedicated to multi-brand shopping, but emulate the visual seduction, comment-sharing and profile-raising attributes of networks such as Pinterest and Instagram, are booming in popularity.
Currently dominated by the fashion and beauty sectors but applicable to many more, we spotlight the key protagonists offering brands a new route to market.
Villoid – Monetising the Expression of Personal Style: Swedish-originated, now US-based platform Villoid blends the photo-sharing mentality of Instagram with the scrapbook feel of Pinterest and the addition of a ‘buy’ button. Users create style-showcasing moodboards with composites of imagery from their own photo libraries and products from affiliate brands such as Net-A-Porter.
Users can choose whom they follow, but brand new community members are automatically connected to 50 pre-chosen people and brands to welcome them to the site, while a general feed provides updates on sales and new items. Since launching in September 2015, the app has been downloaded roughly 350,000 times globally, with around 10,0000 new boards being created every day.
Blusho – the Shoppable Selfie Boutique: US-based Blusho is a beauty e-marketplace that allows anyone from amateurs to professional make-up artists to become paid influencers by sharing images of their make-up or participating in themed competitions. Top contributors – those deemed by Blusho as having particularly high-quality work – are invited into an elite section of the site where they can monetise their content. A bespoke tagging system indicates the products used in an image, and allows users to shop directly. Blusho takes a commission on all sales, as does the make-up artist. The concept taps into research showing that user-generated content is 35% more memorable than branded content (Forrester, 2016).
Project September – Shopping User-Generated Content: Launched in May 2016, Project September (PS) is a free shopping app that plugs into user-generated content. The platform displays an image feed pooled from users’ Instagram accounts, or new images taken in-app, dubbed ‘spreads’. Images only need to include fashion to be viable. Similar to Instagram, users follow other users.
Tapping on an item while uploading an image summons a search bar that allows users to seek out the product via an index stored in-app, or a Google Search function, should the item not appear. A green dot signifies the item is now shoppable – tapping once surfaces product information, while another click transfers users to the checkout, still in-app. Orders are fulfilled by the retailers, who pay a commission for the service (about 5-15%). To date, around 2,000 brands are using PS, including Bloomingdales, Coach, Diesel, Nasty Gal and Fendi.
Goxip – Asian Focus: Originally launched in 2014, Hong Kong-based fashion app Goxip has been rebooted for 2016. It uses image recognition software to match images uploaded by users – such as an original photo or a magazine shot – with products from its inventory of retailers. Depending on the crop of the image, the match will return single or multiple product recommendations. It currently holds a catalogue of around two million products and 15,000 brands.
Besides the image-matching feature, users can discover fashion via an Instagram-style feed, a search function and by following other users. Additionally, they can synchronise their Goxip account with other social media channels like Instagram. This enables users to include images and links for up to five similar items from Goxip partner-brands within their posts, giving their followers an array of options for getting a similar look.
The app’s focus lies primarily in Asian markets. Almost one quarter (24%) of Indian and Chinese shoppers state that mobile is their main tool for making purchases, compared to just 6% and 8% in the UK and US respectively (PWC, 2015). See also Concierge Commerce and Harness the Hunt: Retail’s New Search Strategies.