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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Wanelo: Social Commerce Site Is Big With Young Shoppers

The upsides to shopping online are plentiful â€" skipping long checkout lines and avoiding stuffy dressing rooms, to name two. But the downside is that unless you know exactly what you’re shopping for, it can be challenging to find great new things to put in your cart.

Fashion Tumblrs, Pinterest and Lookbook.nu, a street photography site, are certainly adept at displaying dreamy and sumptuous pictures of items you might want to buy. But more often than not, there is no information about how to purchase an item â€" or even where it is from.

Enter Wanelo a start-up based in San Francisco that has the same aesthetic as those sites, and one important difference: clicking on an image takes you directly to the place where it’s available for sale â€" not another blog, image site or Pinterest post. Wanelo (the name is a combination of want, need and love) lets people share items, like articles ofclothing, home furnishings, beauty accessories and makeup products, for their friends and followers to see. And they can browse others’ items, comment on them and share them with friends. Brands and companies like Anthropologie, REI and even the Apple repair shop Tekserve can create their own collections of items for online window shoppers.

Deena Varshavskaya, the founder and chief executive of Wanelo, began sketching out the idea for the site a few years ago. “I wanted to know what my friends shopped for and what things they liked,” Ms. Varshavskaya said. “But none of the current social media sites were good for shopping.” She hired a developer to help her build the site near the end of 2010, while she was running a user experience and design agency in Los Angeles during the day. It went through several iterations and by the end of 2011, she felt the site had enough traction to begin working on it full time. The company raised $2 million from First Round Capital and Floodgate, amon! g others, in mid-2012.

Wanelo joins a host of other sites like The Fancy, which was rumored to be an acquisition target for Apple, Svpply and Polyvore that want to serve up socially curated shopping experiences, to help people sift through the millions of products available for sale and present a few in a streamlined, chic way. But while Pinterest, Polyvore, Etsy and Tumblr still dwarf the site in terms of traffic, Wanelo garners 1.3 million visitors a month, outpacing The Fancy and Svpply, who both have less than half that, according to data from comScore. Wanelo seems to have the attention of a younger demographic â€" particularly women â€" and has a strong foothold in mobile.

The company’s app is No. 1 in the lifestyle category in the Apple App Store, and sits higher than Amazon, Etsy and eBay on the store’s free apps chart. It recently topped 1.5 million downloads, Ms. Varsavskaya said.

Ms. Varshavskaya declined to share information on how many people have signed up for Wanelo’s Web site and mobile application, but she did say that 6 million products are saved by members each day. Tens of thousands of products have been listed on the site, she said.

“We’re building a metalayer on top of commerce,” she said. “The industry is fragmented and we’re bringing them into an interconnected network. You can find any store on Wanelo.”

Wanelo doesn’t complete transactions on its site, but it has a built-in revenue model. It directs users to the e-commerce site where they can buy an item, and then gets an affiliate commission, or a portion of each sale.

“Our core content is product,” Ms. Varshavskaya said. “Wanelo has a buy button on everything.”