Screen shots courtesy of Spring
A host of startups are determined to bring the serendipity of mall shopping to your phone. One, called Spring, thinks an app designed with a similar layout to Instagram will be a winning plan.
Spring, which is launching today in Apple’s App Store, gives mobile shoppers a way to discover and browse products from dozens — and eventually hundreds — of fashion, accessory and beauty brands in one app. The belief is that while purchasing goods via mobile phones will become more popular, shoppers won’t want to download apps for every retailer or fashion brand they like.
The app lets users follow certain brands’ accounts to develop a personalized stream of browsing where only one product image is shown on the screen as a person scrolls. The design is meant to give the app a similar feel to social networks, but with one very big difference: Every product shown is for sale.
“I don’t think you’re opening up a social network with intent to shop,” David Tisch, the former head of Techstars NYC and Spring’s co-founder and chairman, said in an interview. “This is not a social product. This is not a social network. This is a place to go shopping.”
That distinction, Tisch believes, will help differentiate Spring both from social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, which are moving toward integrating e-commerce features into their services, as well as so-called social-commerce apps, which have started out with users uploading and sharing photos of products they like and then slowly adding buying capabilities into the app over time.
Seventy fashion and beauty brands, designers and boutique chains will participate in the launch, from young companies such as Warby Parker and new shoe brand Jack Erwin to bigger names like Rebecca Minkoff and French Connection. Another three dozen or so, including Levi’s and Hugo Boss, are expected to join the app soon. Price points of included products vary greatly as the app runs the gamut from established luxury brands to up-and-comers.
As a result, it’ll be interesting to see whether Spring can attract luxury brands over the long haul, since they’ll have to grow comfortable with the idea of their goods potentially sitting right above or below much less expensive clothing or accessories.
“Brands understand customers shop high and low,” he said. “We want to deliver to customers how they shop in real life.”
Every brand that’s selling through the app controls which products are displayed and at what price and actually uploads the images itself. Spring passes along orders via integrations with each brand’s order management system, Tisch said, and the brand handles the delivery of purchases. Shoppers enter a payment card and shipping information one time, and then can simply swipe to buy on every future purchase. Spring won’t carry any inventory.
Those direct relationships mean Spring can’t get away with the normal tech-first, service-never approach that is sometimes common in the startup world. “We can’t have the startup tech mentality to this hands-off approach,” he said. “Building a professional organization form the start is the only way to get real brands to launch with us.”
“Just about everyone else is doing aggregation or scraping,” Tisch added. “We’re doing real [business development].”
That, obviously, means a less lean staffing model than some competitors. In the short run, Spring will make money by taking a small cut of each transaction that Tisch would only say is less than eight percent. If a brand offers free shipping to customers, Spring charges them half of what it otherwise would.
Over time, the company hopes to launch different paid products to help brands make their products stand out.
The company recently announced a $7.5 million investment from Thrive Capital, Tisch’s investment firm Box Group and the investment arm of luxury goods conglomerate LVMH.