Project September Aims To Drive Commerce With Instagram

Could everyone’s favorite image-based social network be transformed into the world’s largest crowdsourced retail catalog? One woman hopes the answer is yes.

This coming Thursday (April 21), Alexis Maybank, Gilt Groupe cofounder and its first CEO, will launch a new foray into digital retail: Project September. According to a recent article by Re/code, Project September is an app and website that will give users the ability to tag images from Instagram with product details that help to make products more discoverable and (as Maybank and her team hope) drive purchases from the platform. While many people discover fashion on apps like Instagram, there isn’t currently an easy way to buy the items you see in your feed. The goal, said Maybank, “is to match visual discovery with the ability to buy.”

As Re/code explains, the app leverages photos uploaded by users — either directly from Instagram accounts or the photo libraries housed on their smartphones. The Project September team then tags the items in the photo (clothing, accessories, etc.) with product details from a database it is currently compiling. To purchase, users tap the app’s green dot and are redirected to the mobile website to complete their transaction.

The concept of monetizing images on the Web is not a new one, and Project September has a thick field of competitors, including Spring, Polyvore and Wanelo, to name a few. What makes Project September stand out is its commission-sharing program, which will share two-thirds of profits from a sale with the person who uploaded and tagged the photo. That’s an incentive that might be too good for some Instagrammers to pass up.

Launch partners, like Nasty Gal, Saks and Bloomingdale’s, appear to give Project September a distinct advantage for sure … but there are forces working against the success of the app.

For one, shoppers will need to leave the app to complete their purchases, adding friction to the transactions — which, as Re/code points out, are already low on mobile phones. There’s also the matter of convincing Instagrammers to spend their time uploading and tagging their photos with product details. Maybank believes the app’s design and creative tools are pivotal in the app’s success, appealing to serious photographers who are eager to find ways to monetize their photos and their followers.

Seed investors, including Venrock, First Round Capital, Female Founders Fund and WME Ventures, hope she is right.


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