Are you a tea drinker? On the hunt for a bacon-related gift? Or maybe just a fan of paisley? Roxanne Varza has shopping suggestions for you and for the 1,078 others who follow her on Shopcade.
How does Shopcade work? The social commerce site aggregates 70 million products from 260 merchants. Users pick and choose from these products, group them into themed storefronts, share information with Facebook friends and followers, and get rewards. For example, if you end up buying the Liberty umbrella listed on Roxanne’s paisley-themed Shopcade, both you and Roxanne will earn $1.65 towards future purchases. Shopcade will also get a cut for redirecting you to Liberty London‘s e-commerce site.
I recently caught up with Roxanne, the London-based communications director for Shopcade, to find out more about the visually oriented way the company merchandises products.
Picture-Perfect Social Shopping
Content Ping: What makes Shopcade more appealing than other social sites such as Pinterest or just “liking” and “recommending” products on Facebook?
Roxanne Varza: So what’s unique about Shopcade is that we’re bridging the space between a content discovery platform, like Pinterest, and social gaming. I think previously the site may have seemed very similar to Pinterest in many ways–one journalist at Business Insider even referred to Shopcade as “Pinterest for commerce.” But recently, we’ve been integrating new game features into the application, meaning behavior is very different from what you see on Pinterest or even Facebook fan pages.
Content Ping: Can you explain a little bit more about how you combine gaming with shopping?
“This is social shopping, but with a fun and game-like twist.
Roxanne Varza: Sure. Essentially, now when a user logs in to the application, they are shown a dashboard of different missions to complete in order to earn points.
We’ve been working with brands to develop these missions and come up with fun tasks and rewards. For the most part, tasks require socially engaging with a specific brand or can involve sharing the brand’s products with friends.
We recently launched more extensive rewards or “Perks,” which include vouchers, special offers, and product giveaways. Users can complete missions, earn points, and then use them to redeem Perks. So this is social shopping, but with a fun and game-like twist.
Content Ping: While I see how Shopcade would be great for getting recommendations from friends and trendsetters, I had a hard time searching for products on my own.
Roxanne Varza: In terms of search functionality, the site is still pretty basic because Shopcade is really more about social discovery. Like many traditional e-commerce sites, if you search “purple” you’ll first see everything from books with “purple” in the title to gardening tools that are purple. Of course you can narrow down your search by price, category, and brand as you can on other e-commerce sites. But when you search, you are probably looking for something specific and may be less interested in browsing and discovering.
On Shopcade, all the products that are displayed on the first page come from friends and brands you follow. So these products are different and completely customized for every user.
“We’re not trying to replace the merchant. We’re simply offering a fun and new way to discover great products.
In theory, if you’re following people whose taste you trust and categories you like, you should be only getting products relevant for you. More traditional search may not lead you to discover products in the same way.
On Shopcade, we already have super-users who find all kinds of crazy stuff on the site. Some have spent their time sifting through products, building a Shopcade for Hello Kitty products and another for moose-themed products. So if you search for “moose” you can discover the moose-themed Shopcade, which is a curated page and therefore potentially more relevant than just a list of products tied to the word “moose.” On Shopcade, when a user wants to share something, they’ll dig through the results and get it out there.
But it’s important to say that at this stage, we’re not trying to replace the merchant. We’re simply offering a fun and new way to discover great products.
Content Ping: Does Shopcade plan to add functionality that would show similar or related products?
Roxanne Varza: Currently, when you click to view a product, we show up to two similar products by the same brand or merchant. We definitely plan to enhance this type of functionality though not in the immediate future.
Content Ping: Let’s talk about content merchandising. How do you view the relationship between visual content and written product descriptions?
“We definitely rely a lot on the visual because Shopcade is a visual and social discovery tool. But naturally we are leveraging elements from the product description as well.
Roxanne Varza: We definitely rely a lot on the visual because Shopcade is a visual and social discovery tool. But naturally we are leveraging elements from the product description as well. For example, brand, color, and price are always going to be very important, even in the early discovery stages.
When somebody is interested in purchasing a product via Shopcade, we redirect them to the merchant’s website. Right now, we have over 70 million different products on the site from 260 merchants. On Shopcade, we provide the essentials–like brand, product name, color, and price. Naturally, making a purchase requires a certain amount of trust and users should be able to get all the info they need on the product before they purchase. Therefore, users can find additional info like size, availability, and colors on the merchant website before purchasing.
Content Ping: But are we entering an era where product information is unnecessary?
Roxanne Varza: There are probably very few brands or products where this may be the case. For example, in the gadget space, if you were buying an Apple iPhone and already knew everything about it, you would just need a brand, make, and price. Or if you are talking about something that’s a lower price point where color and size may not matter as much (like Adidas socks), you wouldn’t need to know as much about the fit. But otherwise, for the majority of the products on Shopcade, the product description does make a huge difference for online shoppers.
Our founder [Nathalie Gaveau] has an extensive e-commerce background. She is one of the co-founders of PriceMinister, the French competitor to eBay, which was later acquired by Rakuten. When she set out to launch Shopcade, she set out to build the product catalog quickly and efficiently, which is why we are more focused on partnering with merchants at this stage.
At the end of the day, the purchase is made through the merchants. We’re helping people decide what to buy and where to buy it, but we don’t need to have everything in stock and mail it out.
“A lot of brands are still exploring social media and trying to understand how they can convert social engagement into transactions … We’re hoping that people will see Shopcade as the place to go to find and share great products with friends.
Content Ping: I’d read that Shopcade has plans to give brands a bigger chance to become involved with merchandising their own products. How will that work?
Roxanne Varza: We do plan to launch some features that will be giving brands more control within the application, but I can’t give too much more information until they go live later this fall.
I can say that I think a lot of brands are still exploring social media and trying to understand how they can convert social engagement into transactions. As a result, the merchants that we work with are really interested in understanding more about our user base and about how our users are interacting with their products.
There have been a lot of people saying that Facebook isn’t a good place for social commerce because it’s “not a mall” but rather a place where people go to converse with their friends. We’re hoping that people will see Shopcade as the place to go to find and share great products with friends.
Roxanne is currently the Communications Director at Shopcade.com. Prior to Shopcade, she was the Editor of TechCrunch France. She is also the co-founder of Girls in Tech in London and Paris and the co-organizer of the FailCon Paris conference. Originally from Silicon Valley, she is trilingual, an epilepsy advocate, and holds degrees from UCLA, Sciences Po Paris, and the London School of Economics.
Roxanne’s blog TechBaguette follows innovation in France and Europe.