Marketing Daily caught up with Wanelo's social commerce evangelist, Rachel Youens, for an explanation of why social has been such a letdown for retailers, and how a simplified approach appeals to mobile shoppers.
Q. First, tell us how you describe Wanelo.
A. We bill ourselves as a digital mall. There’s a lot that’s been loss in e-commerce, and including the social, fun aspect. People like to shop with friends, to walk into a Brookstone and look at the weird massage chairs, or breeze through the Gap to see what’s in style. We’re trying to bring that same experience to the Internet. Right now, we’ve got something like 300,000 stores, and more than 12 million products. Using hashtags, maybe #Bohemian, for example, and saving items “@” friends is what makes shopping with Wanelo so much fun.
Q. More than 100 retailers, including Nordstrom, Sephora, and Urban Outfitters, now include a Wanelo “Save” button on their pages, which is impressive. How do you explain that success?
A. When social media first came out, retailers flocked to it. It really seemed like a great channel for them. Now it is not proving as lucrative as they’d like. Maybe it’s a great platform for branding, or touching base with customers. But as far as a channel for converting? It’s not. The Wanelo button seems to make it easier for stores to avoid lost carts, which is a big problem with mobile. And we drive real sales. Urban Outfitters, for example, put the button on its site and app, saw a 40% increase in sales and 20% increase in Wanelo-related revenues. It has more followers on Wanelo than any other social network. Retailers are very conservative about the real estate on their pages. So it’s a very big deal to be added.
Q. So how is shopping at Wanelo different than, let’s say, Amazon?
A. At Amazon, you’ll get a bazillion results, and brands pay to get noticed. But with Wanelo, you’ll only get products recommended by other shoppers, and only from within the brands and store and retailers you like. Amazon is a shopping place. Wanelo is a social place, unlike other sites.
Q. How so?
A. You’ll see a lot of people @replying, and creating hashtags. Its Instagram or Tumblr-like behavior, but pure shopping. And just like a Twitter, you can have your shopping results filtered though friends. So I can follow my friends as a tastemaker—where is she shopping? What is she looking at? And if I save a product, all my friends will see it.
Q. Nordstrom has just added an in-store Wanelo presence. Could you explain?
A. Retailers talk a lot about webrooming, the idea that shoppers do research online before coming into stores. So we’ve been working closely with Nordstrom, and they’ve got very detailed analytics about how many saves and purchases come from their items on Wanelo. Nordstrom wanted to bring that experience into the store, so they are rolling out wall displays in more than 100 stores. These are items they already carry, but are rated most popular by Wanelo’s users. In just five months, Nordstrom has already collected 1 million followers. Millennials are really interested in what’s being liked, what’s popular, what’s trending, so this appeals to them.
Q. Who do you compete with, most directly?
A. Possibly Polyvore. But that’s more high-end and aspirational, and Wanelo is more like what they’d actually buy. Polyvore is geared more toward fashionistas who are looking at Alexander McQueen. Our users are more apt to be looking at items from Top Shop and H&M, or buying Oreo cookies.
Q. It seems very Pinterest-esque. How does it differ?
A. I love Pinterest. It’s a great content platform, and an inspiration platform. But it’s not a shopping platform. More and more, social networks are single purpose, with LinkedIn for jobs, for example, and Facebook for friends. So when stores awkwardly try to bend these social platforms to e-commerce, it doesn’t seem like natural behavior, and that’s why they aren’t converting that well for retailers. Wanelo is just for shopping. The average Pinterest pin gets 10 repins. For us, the average Save is about 140. And an average product gets 19 buy clicks, which means people clicking on the item, then going to the retailer’s site. But for hot brands, it’s much more: Lululemon has an average of more than 700 buy clicks; Sephora over 500, and Forever 21, it’s over 400.