E-commerce has evolved to corner different markets—high-end fashion (Gilt), home décor (One Kings Lane), kids and maternity (Zulily), shoes (Shoedazzle), and so on—but few startups have attempted to tinker with how we shop online. Finding ways to leverage social media are particularly tricky, but that’s just what TopFloor is attempting to do.
Incubated by the L.A.-based Science Inc., TopFloor launched Monday with $6 million in a round of funding led by Polaris Ventures, with help from Google Ventures, Crosslink Ventures, and Rustic Canyon Partners.
Oddly enough, at first glance, it looks like another flash sale site. The site features appointment-based sales, to which users can RSVP, but a closer look will reveal a dearth of discount prices. That’s because the site is actually a platform through which brands, retailers, and celebrities can sell directly to their fans via their social news feeds without forcing those fans to leave the site.
What Amazon and many other e-commerce sites have noticed is that the fewer steps there are between the moment a customer spots something that she likes and the moment she buys that item, the higher their sales rates. If you can reduce that process down to a single click, a la one-click purchasing, your rate of shopping cart abandonment drops out significantly, because your customers aren’t being forced to reconsider their purchase with each step.
So how do you do this with social media? Plenty of companies can post links to Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube that take customers to their sites, but those are extra steps. TopFloor uses YouTube annotations to promote direct-from-video buying, and then brands and retailers can post their videos on Twitter, Facebook, or any other site where video can be shared. This allows their followers to watch the video and purchase right from the video, without having to leave their news feed.
“We believe we've created an effective way to drive sales by leveraging the native attributes of social networks as a core part of the shopping experience. This isn't a one-size fits all approach, but takes each network's strengths and utilizes them as part of the transaction,” said TopFloor CEO Rebekah Horne. “For example, we leverage YouTube annotations, something that everyone is familiar with, but embed links that add products right to your shopping cart. On Twitter, a shared sale page includes the video embedded right in the Tweet. You can watch, shop and click to buy right from the stream. These are features that other companies don't have.”