The Cools Sets New Standard for Online Social Marketplaces
As fashion aficionados and technology experts, the women that run FMM are extremely picky about the social startups we write about, let alone rave about, on our website. To start to the new year off, we’ve found a new fashion startup that is leaving us giddy with excitement and delight. We’d like to introduce you to The Cools.
The Cools is one part Sense Of Fashion, one part Fab with a little sprinkling of Lyst and a dash of Tumblr all swirled together to to create an inspiring social marketplace for fashion, design and art, based on its members’ individual tastes and on the style of people they trust.
Now, we’ve seen social market places pop up with the hopes of rivaling Etsy and eBay and becoming the next hottest place for individuals to connect, socialize and sell. But no one has been able the master the formula and they quickly strip out the social components and simply become e-commerce models quickly in order to generate sales. Why does this happen?
Well, typically, these online marketplaces offer a choice of hundreds of thousands of products, and there is little filtering or screening for quality and users are quickly overwhelmed by the chaos that ensues. The users are also turned off by the lack of quality in the experience they’re having. And once the social components are stripped, which is in essence the brand voice and personality, it just becomes another small sales channel for incremental sales.
As we’ve told many social technologies, lack of features, poor user experience, lack of content cultivation and authentic conversation will be the death of their social marketplace. Just look at what happened when Sugar acquired ShopFlick in 2008 or when FashionStake.com acquired Moxsie.com. With both of these acquisitions, all of our hopes of this model working died. Shopflick is still on life support and the community voice that the original Moxsie team had has been killed and replaced with a lackluster, disconnected anonymous person behind the helm.
But now are hopes are rising again! With The Cools, you can follow friends and peers and get style tips and expert recommendations from a truly amazing, star-studded roster of ambassadors. Just a few of these darlings include Erin Fetherston, one of the top American emerging designers; Maripol, infamous artist, film producer, fashion designer and stylist; Virginie, Claire, Jenna and Prisca Courtin-Clarins, granddaughters of Jacques Courtin-Clarins, Clarins skin-care company founder; and many others of the same caliber.
How it works
Once I received my registration invitation, I was prompted to answer a series of questions designed to refine the designers and products that would be shown in my initial recommendations. I was also offered the opportunity to re-answer the questions if I found that the first time around they products recommended to me didn’t have as much relevancy as I had hoped. I did this, and the second time was the charm.
Once I’d completed my registration (via Twitter or Facebook connect), I was taken to page that recommended products I may be interested in buying, as well as people I might want to follow. From this, I followed several international artisans, “hearted” products I liked and added a few products that I might want to buy in the future to my wish list. I also purchased a bracelet from a designer in London that was recommended to me.
My next stop was my public and private wall. Ohhh, I felt like my Facebook Timeline had been curated in a manner that only Chime.In is currently offering me.
I selected an article from FMM to add and test out the wall feature. I also created a photo album of some of my favorite instragram photos for the year to populate the area.
After thirty minutes of content additions, feature testing, product discovery and hearting many items, I came to the conclusion that The Cools has a phenomenally good chance of becoming successful.
- Social Conversations: The platform allows users to interact easily. Comments, sharing and reblogging features are easy to find and use.
- Social Selling: The platform has made the selling and buying process painless and simple. For those selling products, adding detail information and shipping standards is a simple fill in. When someone purchases something on the site, they can find all the information they need and shipping charges are easy to calculate. Paypal checkout was a snap. The only feature that we’d like to see is adding multiple items from a seller before we check out in order to save on shipping fees.
- Social Reselling: Something old, something new, something that you borrowed and forgot to return, it can all be sold on The Cools. For those of us with great designer stuff in our closet and don’t want to settle for what we can get on eBay, once The Cools builds its community base of buyers, I think you can finally list those items in your closets that you never wear.
- Social Curation of Content: The addition of my links to my work, adding photo albums that can serve as lookbooks and the ease of use on my iPad entices me to create a portfolio of FMM best coverage, events and adventures and let it serve as an quick way to show off the site’s capabilities. For designers and bloggers, this would work as well. Kind of like Behance portfolio does for graphic designers and artists.
- Social Silence: I’m a huge fan of new social platforms that allow me to build new audiences for a product or brand. The Cools definitely falls into the that category. The benefits of platforms such as these are the niche communities they develop. While Facebook, Etsy and eBay are amazing, they are also world bazaars that you can get lost in. Communities like this cut through a lot of the noise that large, mass adopted platforms have. When you get into something like this early, and start building relationships with customers and other industry professionals, the benefits are significant.
- SEO Benefits: People can like your products, share them on their social networks, reblog them on their profiles and you can post links of your own. That’s called social product and content syndication. This generates traffic and links to your products or content. SEO is still factor when I look at platforms for viability.
- Great UI (Geek Speek): The platform is very intuitive and doesn’t contain an overload of unecessary features as well, showing that the developers and designer really studied their target users and the actions they’d take. Also, the fact that they reverse engineered the model to make sure that social came first and e-commerce was then baked in was genius. Usually, the e-commerce is built then social added in.
The Cools say their platform “offers the first shopping experience moving the focus from the product to the user.” We have to agree with them. We were every impressed with our initial experience as we registered and walked through the community.
Should this be on your technologies to watch and use in 2012 list? Absolutely! Shop, sell and be inspired. If you’re an FMM reader, you can get an automatic invite by clicking here.