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Wanelo Reinvents Shopping

It seems like social networks should go with e-commerce as naturally as peanut butter is combined with jelly to make the world’s most elementally perfect sandwich. Unfortunately, as it turns, out the graveyard of e-commerce is filled with many such pairings gone south.

Writing about the unlimited excitement that once greeted social commerce schemes,  MPD CEO Karen Websternoted, recently,  “With such a captive audience, selling stuff to [social network visitors] would be the retail equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel.”

Except, she went on to note, it didn’t  quite work out so smoothly.

“Just ask Payvment, a company that was the first to jump into the social commerce space with both feet. They launched in 2009 and raised about $8 million (seems like a pittance now doesn’t it?) to establish a Facebook storefront that aggregated a bunch of merchants and merchandise. The idea was that the consumers who were spending hours on Facebook every day would pop over to the Payvment mall to shop…Payvment was the big dog and in marketing materials called themselves the #1 social commerce site on Facebook…Two years later it closed up shop, selling its customer assets to Intuit for an undisclosed amount (which is PR speak for not much).”

Such is the problem of social commerce, it’s intuitive, but it just doesn’t work.

Or at least it hasn’t, but Deena Varshavskaya, CEO Wanelo (a portmanteau of Want Need Love) believes she’s found the “special sauce,” to make it work. In a recent interview, she even agreed with Webster’s assessment of the social commerce conundrum – lots of potential consumers on social networks, none of whom are even remotely interested in shopping.

“What’s really important is that we go to these [social] platforms with specific intent. So there’s been a lot of talk in the media about Twitter commerce and Facebook commerce but none of those efforts have ever reallyimpacted commerce in any meaningful way,” Varshavskaya told Webster. “The reason for this is we just don’t go to these platforms to shop and I think that’s really, really important.”

Say hello to Wanelo.

Focused exclusively on shopping, Wanelo is a highly social, commerce experience tucked inside a shopping network online. Think of Wanelo as a big online mall where users can follow each other, as well as various brands.  Its demographics are half college age and nearly entirely female, though it is seeing an improved rate of usage among males.

And as of yesterday, Wanelo is now making it easier to purchase the things that its visitors “Want, Need or Love” right inside of the social shopping network. “Buy With Wanelo” now allows consumers buy in a single click the items they see showcased.

“We’ve been really successful at solving discovery for taste-and style based products – fashion products  home products – and we’ve done a great job of exposing people to brands they’ve never heard of as well as organizing shopping from brands consumers know very well,” Varshavskaya explained. “Because we are so heavily used on mobile – about 90 percent of our users come from mobile – the experience of purchasing aproduct after they’ve actually found a product they like is actually quite painful.  We heard a lot of feedback from our users that they not only wanted to discover products but that they wanted the process of purchasing to be a lot more frictionless.  Buy With Wanelo was the way to close that gap.”

Varshavskaya  points out that before launching Buy With Wanelo, users were directed back to the specificretailer’s site to complete the transaction.

And complete they did. Even with a complained about pain point, Wanelo in its short tenure has shown a remarkable facility to turn browsers into buyers. Urban Outfitters, one of the brands incorporating Buy With Wanelo, reports that the socialy shopping site converts users at nearly 4 times the rate of any other social media platform. It’s worth noting that the partnership with Wanelo is the first time that Urban Outfitters has ever enabled a third party site such as this to sell its merchandise.

Varshavskaya  attributes that to Wanelo’s focus on discovery and shopping. “Because Wanelo is so focused on shopping, it’s a social platform that is 100 percent about products and stores, our users come to Wanelo todiscover and shop.  So even with this highly imperfect buying process, the conversions that brands saw from the traffic we would send them was incredibly  high.”

So why build a social shopping platform at all, Webster asked.

Varshavskayas motivation was similar to that of many of the innovators PYMNTS spoke to – she experienced a pain point personally and set out to correct it. For Varshavskaya, “I was really frustrated with my own shopping experiences.”

Fashionistas can relate.

Varshavskaya  says that after one too many trips to the mall looking for that special pair of shoes that ended in disheartening failure, a thought occurred to her. “What about all the perfect pairs of shoes I am not seeing because they aren’t in my mall?, Varshavskaya said she asked herself. This led her to wonder about her own personal style icons and where they were buying their clothes and shoes. Was it possible they had access to a better mall?

And from that desire to build a better mall, came Wanelo.

And yet, Webster wondered, doesn’t this solution present a dual-edged sword for the fashion forward–after all, no one wants to see their wardrobe copied by everyone they know.

Varshavskaya understood the concern, but noted that how people follow each other on Wanelo is also veryunique.

“We all follow people for different reasons and the social graph we can build in Wanelo is very unique and different than the social graph you might build on Twitter or Facebook,” she remarked.

Varshavskaya went on to note that people follow both strangers and friends on Wanelo, often for different reasons.

“People follow strangers, people they don’t know, who just happen to resonate with them in terms of taste,” she said. “ I do think that people avoid buying the same products as their friends and that it happens pretty organically because not all your friends are relevant to you from a taste perspective,” Varshavskaya explained.

But, she notes, we also follow friends, paticualrly at this time of year, to see what they like, for other reasons: so that when it comes time to buy them a gift, the right item is actually purchased. And at this time of the year, that could certainly come in handy.

“Wanelo is essentially one big wish list, so it’s really a tool that our customers tells us really helps them with holiday shopping,” Varshavskaya noted.

So what’s next?

Well, since this is the holiday rush, surviving it and positioning Wanelo to be social mall of the internet is priority one.  After that Wanelo is looking to incorporate Apple Pay as a payments method. Why? Wanelo may be young and female but they are a very iPhone centric customer base.

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New PYMNTS Report: Preventing Financial Crimes Playbook – July 2020 

Call it the great tug-of-war. Fraudsters are teaming up to form elaborate rings that work in sync to launch account takeovers. Chris Tremont, EVP at Radius Bank, tells PYMNTS that financial institutions (FIs) can beat such highly organized fraudsters at their own game. In the July 2020 Preventing Financial Crimes Playbook, Tremont lays out how.

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