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Shopping platform is integrating online retail with social media

Published on 20 March 18
Shopping platform is integrating online retail with social media - Image 1
The concept of retail as we know it is changing at a rapid pace. From shopping malls to mom and pop stores, consumers have migrated from brick and mortar shops to easy and convenient online browsing on smartphones and tablets. In light of this change, another type of retail experience called social shopping is picking up popularity and becoming all the rage as many brands have entered the online retail space in the last few years.
Though retail as an industry has always been competitive, it is now more cutthroat than ever with giants like Amazon and Alibaba trying their best to not just increase their market share but also to eliminate competition. Making and fulfilling promises like lowest prices everyday comes with a huge cost and can make it difficult to earn a profit from sales. Most marketing spends go towards customer acquisition and customer retention.
A new player to enter the arena is Shopswell, a platform that combines social media, shopping and curated content that is community generated. It is based on the idea that when it comes to making decisions on what to buy, consumers are heavily influenced by what their friends think. Unlike Pinterest, Shopswell lets members tap its peers instantly with a question feed for real-time advice on any shopping or retail conundrum.
Shopswell is currently only available as a web application, with plans to launch an app version later. According to finance experts, since its launch in late 2015, Shopswell has already attracted 100K users and is growing at an astounding rate -- seeing a 40% growth in the last two months alone.
I got a chance to talk to GK Parish-Philp, co-founder of Shopswell who has an extensive background in full-stack web, iOS and Android mobile application development. He has more than ten years of lead product management experience under his belt, and has built a number of products in the publishing, marketing and e-commerce industries.
Q&A with GK Parish-Philp, Shopswell Co-founder

How did the idea come about?
Shopswell was born out of frustrations with the way a lot of the internet is evolving. Increasingly, the largest companies leverage dominant market position to herd consumers in a direction that makes the company more money at the expense of a great experience, rather than thinking about how best to help the consumer. We see this happening particularly when it comes to shopping online.For example, we are constantly inundated with inauthentic reviews, rigged search results, or untrustworthy affiliate sites, all while being bombarded by advertising. That is just not our idea of a good shopping experience. Amazon wants to promote the products they are selling. Google promotes the retailers who pay them the most money. Nextag and the other price comparison engines are the same, they are selling your eyeballs to the highest bidder. But where does that leave the consumer who does not already know exactly what product they need to buy?We could not think of a single company that was exclusively focused on helping people find the best product for their needs, from the best place to buy it from. Our team is comprised of community builders, and we are social by nature, so we immediately thought about what could happen, if we built a modern shopping platform. The platform would enable consumers to share authentic information, experiences, and passion for products, life and shopping. Thus, Shopswell was created.
What is Shopswell's USP?
So far, we are the only community focused exclusively on shopping that encourages users to simply share their honest opinions, and then rewards members when the community finds their contributions helpful.
What is your revenue model?
As it stands, we ave been fortunate to work with investors who want to see the community flourish and grow. We are constantly monitoring where the community is taking us and ways in which we can harness a revenue stream.To date, we are partnering with a number of the retailers we refer our audience to visit. This is more to satisfy our curiosity about whether our members were actually shoppers, or not. It turns out they are. By industry standards, we have seen unusually high purchase intent, and visit-to-purchase rates for Shopswell members whose questions get answered.That said, the priority is building a large, rapidly growing, and vibrant community of people that help each other shop smarter together. It is obvious that revenue will fall naturally out of that.
What are your plans for expansion?
In the near term, we plan to offer a mobile app version of our community platform. We have taken a somewhat contrary path in todays tech-world, by evolving our community and product experience on desktop first, then taking that to mobile. But if you pull back the curtain on online shopping there are real challenges yet to be solved on mobile. For example, it is not unusual for an online retailer to see 1-2% conversion to sale on desktop, but less than one tenth of that rate on mobile. That being said, more than half of our visitors are mobile, and they are asking for us to give them an app, so we are jazzed about the potential there.
What challenges do you see in growing Shopswell to a global level?
Expanding internationally is an incredible opportunity and our first targets will be the UK, Canada and Australia. What we are doing is a blend of social, cultural, and modern technology and migrating what we have learned will be very easy, though we anticipate cultural speed bumps and potholes along the road of implementation. Once we have successfully launched in English speaking countries, we plan to explore Western Europe, Mexico and South America.Of course the next biggest prize in online shopping after America is really China. We chose to work with venture firms that have deep roots, and backers in the Chinese online shopping market. We anticipate working cooperatively with local experts in both China and Japan when we finally get there.Our founding team has built a breadth of international businesses. For example, we took DivX public in 2006, and shipped hundreds of millions of software and hardware products all over the world.
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