The e-commerce sector is adopting various consumer-driven trends. The emergence of mobile devices as a new shopping frontier is redefining the industry. Furthermore, the coming of age of Big Data makes it possible to gain deeper insights into consumers’ tastes and preferences more than ever before. Targeting the gadget-friendly millennials, the industry is adopting every measure to create a unique shopping experience for them.
Social media has inspired a new kind of shopping -- which is based on peer-to-peer sharing of content. This consumer-driven trend is referred to as discovery.
Around the middle of 2014, Hemanth Kumar Venugopal tested a fashion product discovery platform in India, which received a positive response from around the country. In April 2015, Hemanth, along with Merlyn Zhang, Jongkeun Lee and Jinha Lee – former a Chinese national; the latter two being Koreans – launched Wishary.com, a Bengaluru-based social product discovery platform. On this platform, users can post their desired products or services and receive relevant recommendations from others in the community. The product was initially launched in Shanghai under the name of Xingyuyuan.com -- a Chinese product discovery portal which is still operating.
“Though the e-commerce industry has now grown in leaps and bounds, there used to be a huge gap that was needed to be addressed. The industry was completely discount driven, and only the ‘size of marketing budgets’ determined what brands were being consumed by the customer. With this product, we have tried to shift the trend. It enables buyers to choose what is right for them rather than treating fashion like a commodity that is to be blindly consumed,” says Hemanth, Co-founder, Wishary.
Other similar platforms are focusing on the one-dimensional aspects of the e-commerce enabler market - social shopping, text search, or product discovery. Wishary, however, aims to provide a holistic fashion experience.
While talking about the product, Hemanth gives an example. If a buyer is on the lookout for footwear and comes across a pair of stilettos, she simply has to take (click) a picture of the pair and post it. The platform will provide her product recommendations from the company’s e-commerce partner sites. She can use predictive search or other filters, to refine the results.
An intelligent algorithm keeps track of a buyer’s likes and dislikes, to make the experience more personalized. The increased engagement induces brand loyalty, and greatly impacts user retention. The buyer can confidently purchase the right product, create an expression, and share it with friends, all within the app.
As of now the company is funded by Wishary, Korea. The chunk of the investment has gone into building the patent-pending image search engine. It has also used the investment for building the team. The founders are in talks with a few venture capitalists, and they are looking for the right proposal and partner to propel future growth.
The revenue model is based on commissions from sales. However, there are multiple other monetization opportunities which the company is looking into. Since April 2015, in the space of just three months, they have registered about 3500 users; and the traffic has grown to over 50,000 visits a month.
Roposo, Voonik and Wooplr are similar websites that are making the discovery platform a competitive marketplace within the e-commerce sector. Voonik is a kind of online personal stylist that handpicks the best clothes for you, based on your body type and style preferences. Roposo now presents fashion choices from across 150 web-stores with categories ranging from apparel to footwear, and accessories to lingerie. All of these products are curated and recommended for each user, as per their individual taste. Wooplr is another funded startup in the same space - but their focus is more on helping shoppers discover fashion products in stores in the offline market.
In June this year, Voonik raised $5 million in Series-A funding from Sequoia Capital and Seedfund. In March 2015, Roposo.com also raised $5 million in Series-A funds led by the technology venture investor, Tiger Global.
Roposo, Voonik and Wooplr have received huge financial support from investors – this validates the fact that the discovery platform is a potential winner in the e-commerce segment.
“We think this is just the beginning of the e-commerce enabler space in India. There is a lot potential in the market and a lot can be done. In terms of the product, we are aiming to increase the efficiency of the image search system, and to offer a great experience to our customers. On the marketing front, we want to broaden our e-commerce partner network to include the smaller boutique brands as well. This will allow us to offer variety to the customer and help us further personalize the experience,” says Hemanth.