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2014 was an eventful year for social shopping with seventeen developments from Twitter, Facebook, Kakao Talk, Sina Weibo, WeChat and Line. And today, Wanelo announced the launch of in-app buying. Consumers can buy from 200 partner brands without leaving the Wanelo app. We did a Q&A with Wanelo CEO Deena Varshavskaya, who believes Wanelo is in a prime position to rule social shopping because it is a platform where users go to shop. “We don’t go to Twitter or Facebook to shop,” she says. Varshavskaya.

Varshavskaya is also careful to differentiate Wanelo from an inspiration site. Out of stock products are pulled from search and brand pages even though they can remain as saved items on user profiles. She believes mobile commerce is ripe for the developments as its impact on retail is exploding. “But most of [mobile’s impact] is research related because the buying experience on mobile is painful.”

Edited interview with Varshavskaya below:

Social Commerce has become notoriously difficult to pull off. We’ve seen efforts from Facebook and Twitter that haven’t really taken off. Why do you think Wanelo will be the first to make it happen?

Our main thesis behind the company is that shopping is not something you can just tack on to something. It needs to be a platform that is built for that. Users come to a platform with intent. We don’t go to Twitter or Facebook to shop, but users come to Wanelo specifically to shop.

The second reason is that shopping is challenging as an area with a lot of problems are unknown to laymen. If you compare posting a photo of a product to a product, there are more challenges in the latter. When posting a product, you need to know where is it available, if it is available in other sizes and colors, and how consumers can purchase it.

What are some of the challenges you faced while growing Wanelo? There were a lot of challenges, but data integration was our biggest. A user comes to Wanelo, how does he know it is available? Users don’t come to Wanelo to just to see inspirational images. They come to see products they can purchase.

-Do you plan on expanding globally? Absolutely. The problems we are solving are complicated, so we need to have a sense of focus. But we do want to expand. I think single-focused shopping platform has huge value. There is so much interest abroad in products made the US and Europe. Even in the US consumers don’t realize how easy it is to buy products from Europe. Visibility in stores is still low, and Wanelo is so geared towards new brand discovery.

Why was now the right time to launch buy button? In the beginning we were focused on product discovery. We have a lot of internal data from our consumer about what they like. We also needed to make sure people weren’t discovering out of stock products. We got a lot of feedback from consumers, and they wanted to buy on the site.

For the 90% of our shoppers on mobile, we were offering a unified discovery experience but a fragmented shopping experience. They would be directed on the brand site to buy, and a lot of brands aren’t ready. They don’t have a mobile optimized site, or even if they do entering your credit card number for each retailer is difficult.

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Urban Outfitters’ marketing director told Re/code that conversion rates are likely to increase when product discovery is brought closer to the purchase point. How does that compare on mobile than desktop?

It is more the case for mobile. What we’re seeing in mobile is that its impact on retail is exploding, but in a much more research-related way because the buying experience is painful on mobile. Researching is easy because you don’t have to enter any information, but purchases become really painful. A unified system [for mobile purchases] is necessary.

How is Wanelo different from mobile shopping mall Spring?

Spring is new so it doesn’t have the number of users that we have. Wanelo is social platform that allows social discovery while Spring is driven by brands. On Wanelo, you can find a profile of your friends and your family and see what they have collected to find gift ideas for them. Users save products to their profile and that is how we help with product discovery.

On Spring brands list about ten products. At Wanelo, we think more is better. We encourage brands to put most of their stock on the platform. Our goal is to be really good at presenting all the products and allowing social discovery.

To learn more about the social commerce efforts of Wanelo and other platforms, see our Intelligence Report: Social Platforms


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