The ROI of social media is something of a black box for many e-commerce companies, but New York-based startup Olapic is beginning to change that. The company, which allows brands to collect user-generated photos from services like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to display on their websites, is now offering an analytics suite to help retailers and brands understand what content works and how it’s affecting conversions.
Olapic was founded by Pau Sabria, Luis Sanz and Jose de Cabo; they met while attending Columbia University, and this past summer the company closed on $1 million in seed funding from Bonobos and Warby Parker backer Great Oaks Venture Capital, plus Brad Harrison Ventures, Columbia University’s Lang Fund, and other angels. It’s now cash-flow positive.
At the time of the initial funding, the team said the plan was to expand the software-as-a-service platform beyond the publishers and brands it had previously worked with (which included Condé Nast, Pepsi, NY Daily News, The Baltimore Sun, and various sports teams) to reach those in the e-commerce sector.
Today, Olapic has worked with about 100 companies, a good many of which represent the young, trendier e-commerce companies where something like an on-site Instagram gallery has a better chance to work. To date, Olapic has worked with more than 40 top e-commerce brands, including Lululemon, Baublebar, Nasty Gal, Coach, New Balance, Teva, Guess, Reef, Steve Madden, Threadless and many more.
Retailers are using the service to engage their community via contests and other campaigns, asking fans to hashtag themselves modeling the clothes, shoes or other accessories, for example, or just sharing photos of their favorite products. For one campaign Luluemon ran this past fall (#TheSweatLife), 26,000 consumers responded by posting photos on Instagram with the appropriate hashtag.
Olapic offers the e-commerce companies backend technology to manage the submissions, in order to vet the images before they appear on the site or quickly sort through a selection in order to determine a contest winner, for example. Now, it’s helping the retailers make better sense of the data surrounding those images, too.
With the new analytics suite, retailers can track which photos are getting clicked, what those click-through rates are, what products are trending, what consumers are interested in, conversions, and more.
During its beta, clients saw an increase between 5 and 7 percent in their conversion rates when they displayed user-generated photos on their site, and click-throughs on the most engaging photos was between 15 and 20 percent. The majority (82 percent) of the latter came from Instagram.
Also, the company has found that, on average, the shoppers who interact with a real person’s photo on the site convert at 2 to 3 times higher than the average shopper. This increase can be attributed to the fact that people can finally see what the clothes look like on normal people, instead of the models typically used to showcase the fashions on shopping sites, explains de Cabo, but it’s also related to the fact that those who are browsing the images are probably doing more product research, which indicates an increased intention to purchase.
But there’s something more to it, too. Olapic has also arrived at a time when there’s a shift underway in e-commerce and shopping trends. Brands and retailers want to more directly engage with their audience, and in turn, the audience expects the company to be engaged and responsive.
In addition, younger users – which especially speaks to the 18-30 demographic that favors shopping at many of Olapic’s clients’ sites – have grown up with smartphones and social media, and are now transitioning to communicating through photos, instead of static posts containing just text.
You can see this trend playing out on the larger stage, as well. It’s why Facebook acquired rapidly growing photo-sharing app Instagram, and became fearful enough of private photo-messaging startup Snapchat to ship a clone called Poke. It’s why Pinterest caught many by surprise with its quick ascension, and why Twitter has been moving toward complementing its 140-character text-based posts with richer media like photos and video, even acquiring the video-sharing service Vine along the way. Most recently, it’s why image-heavy (well, GIF-heavy) site Tumblr was snatched up by Yahoo, a company seeking its return to “cool.”
For the youngest demographic in particular, they don’t want the brand marketing to them, they want it to provide a platform that enables participation. Case in point: although Olapic offers a button that allows users to request their photo be taken down, the company says that of the more than 100,000+ photos that have been publicly shared by brands, only one user ever requested a photo be pulled.
Fans are generally excited when a photo is posted, explains de Cabo. “Our partners are telling us they’re receiving a lot of comments and emails that [consumers are] super pysched to be a part of the brand,” he says.
More details about Olapic’s platform are available here.
In terms of social media outlets, Pinterest is a relative newcomer, and one that is growing fast. Reaching ten million users faster than any other social network, it revolves around the metaphor of a pin board; users “pin” photos they find and organize them into topical collections. Users can also follow one another a re-pin, like, and comment on other pins.
Eric Gilbert, a professor at the School of Interactive Computer at Georgia Tech, has done a first-of-its-kind study concerning Pinterest. Using statistical data, the study sought to examine the driving forces behind the activity on Pinterest. His study finds that female users have more re-pins, regardless of geographical locations, men typically have more followers than women, and that four verbs set Pinterest apart from Twitter: “use,” “look,” “want,” and “need.”
According to Gilbert, these verbs uniquely describe Pinterest, and say a lot about the intent of people and the motivation for their actions. These verbs illustrate the consumption that lies at the heart of the site, and many press articles focusing on the potential for commercial applications for Pinterest back this.
One of the factors for looking into Pinterest, according to Loren Terveen, a co-author of the study, is the difference of Pinterest compared with other social media. Pinterest focuses on pictures, products, and boasts a large proportion of women users. Examining the statistics of the pins allow Gilbert and his team to provide a basis for understanding the motivation for people on the site.
How will this impact your business? A recent market survey showed that a higher proportion of Pinterest users click through to e-commerce sites. Not only that, but when they do they are more likely to spend significantly more money than users who come through Facebook or Twitter. “There are several social networking sites that marketers and advertisers can take advantage of these days,” said Gilbert. “After conducting this research, if I had to choose where to put my money and marketing, Pinterest would probably be my first choice.”
The post New Study Finds Pinterest Can Get You Clicks To e-Commerce Site appeared first on Small Business Technology.
Imonomy, an Israeli startup which makes software that analyses webpages and automatically inserts relevant, copyright-free images to accompany the content, has closed a $400,000 seed round from a group of angel investors. Investors include Inon Axel, former CEO of Kasamba (acquired by LivePerson for $40m), Liron Rose, cofounder of AfterDownload (acquired by ironSource for $28m), and Itai Levitan and Tal Shaked, partners at AfterDownload.
Imonomy said it will be using the new seed funding for product development and initial marketing and sales activities.
The startup was founded in the middle of last year by Oren Dror and Amit Halawa who previously held senior R&D and engineering positions at Yedda, an online Q&A service that was acquired by TechCrunch’s parent company AOL, back in 2007.
Imonomy targets its software at smaller-sized web publishers who have a pool of online content but don’t necessarily have the means to spice it up with illustrations — either lacking the production staff to spend the time hunting down royalty free images or the licensing money to pay to display copyrighted images. Imonomy says its semantic software is being used by more than 500 medium-sized websites (with up to 10 million monthly impressions) at present, including AOL Answers and Articles Base.
Imonomy’s software scans web content to figure out relevant images to serve up from its database of copyright-free images, and also determines the optimal place to position them on the page to improve user engagement. Inserted images support hover over links to other articles and also displaying ads, giving publishers (and Imonomy) a way to monetise the added eyecandy. It’s effectively a more aesthetic version of inline text link ads.
“The idea behind Imonomy is that publishers of content-heavy web sites need to tools to help their sites be visibly attractive,” the startup tells TechCrunch. “High quality copyright-free images are hard to come by and the time and effort required to locate such pictures is a hassle. Imonomy created its content enrichment and monetization system to automate this process in order to help publishers save time, improve user engagement and create monetization opportunities.”
Here’s how it describes its system on its website:
Our database contains millions of images that cover every possible topic. Our system scans your webpage, finds the best fitting image and automatically insert them into the published page. Thus making content more interesting and informative. Our technology brings our customers greater user engagement and lower bounce rates, which has been in proven to result in significantly increased revenues. imonomy also creates intelligent links between pages, which encourages visitors to easily navigate to additional relevant content. The visual semantic engine can be implemented easily on any website, and we also provide a free API that expands the functionality and the systems abilities.
In terms of competition, Imonomy concedes there are “numerous content enrichment tools” out there — name-checking the likes of OutBrain, Zemanta and GumGum — but argues that its approach is unique because it’s bundling “content enrichment and monetization opportunities in a single automated process to publishers for free”.
It’s not charging for use of its technology, instead it has a freemium model, tied to the ads that are inserted along with the images — sharing this revenue with its publisher customers so also taking a cut itself. Its revenue-sharing percentage depends on the size of the publisher and the volume of traffic on its website. But for larger sites with more impressions it takes a lower percentage than for smaller, less well visited sites. The startup added that it expects to be profitable by the end of the year.
An example of an added image plus ad powered by Imonomy’s engine is shown below:
GiftCards.com, a Pittsburgh-based company that has been around for more than a decade and has sold 5 million gift cards, agreed to buy San Francisco startup Giftly to grow out a mobile platform.
The terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but Giftly had raised about $2.8 million from investors including Baseline Ventures, SoftTech VC, Floodgate, Thrive Capital, and Techstars’ David Tisch.
Giftly’s acquisition follows a number of other ones. Karma was picked up very early by Facebook although it may not produce meaningful revenue for some time for the social network, according to its earnings results earlier this year. Another gifting startup, Giftiki, which pooled together people’s money to get gifts, was acquired by Launchrock.
Giftly built a platform that avoided the hassle of individually dealing with merchants and point-of-sale systems. They came out with a native mobile app last fall that made it easier to send presents to friends and family.
The company’s platform didn’t put any limitations on what kinds of presents you could send because the company had a web of relationships with banks and credit card processors. When a recipient would go to redeem their gift, they would pay out of their own pocket, but Giftly would reimburse them that amount through their credit card.
GiftCards.com said Giftly will be rolled into their operations, but will maintain offices in San Francisco.
“We will continue to build out Giftly,” said Giftly’s CEO Timothy Bentley. “Our backend infrastructure will be used for their next generation products. We’ll continue to expand
the ways our technology and services are available to developers, through our API, and merchants, through our merchant services.”
The company is also looking to raise a first venture round, even though it’s been around for more than 10 years. That round will go toward completing the acquisition of Giftly. GiftCards.com has been around since 1999; they sell personalized, pre-designed and discount gift cards.
Amazon has reportedly submitted plans for a new futuristic headquarters in Seattle that combines a skyscraper and a tri-sphere, bio-dome-like structure. According to the plans, the structure will be able to hold various forms of plant life and become a place where employees can “work and socialize in a more natural, park-like setting.”
Because, God forbid, employees walk to the park that’s three blocks away.
Here’s an excerpt from the plans (also, hat tip to GeekWire for the find):
While the form of the building will be visually reminiscent of a greenhouse or conservatory, plant material will be selected for its ability to co-exist in a microclimate that also suits people. To encourage growth and maintain the health of the plants, the building’s interior will include high bay spaces on five floors totaling approximately 65,000 SF and capable of accommodating mature trees. The exterior enclosure will be highly transparent and be composed primarily of multiple layers of glass supported by a metal framework. In addition to a variety of workplace environments, the facility will incorporate dining, meeting and lounge spaces, as well as a variety of botanical zonesmodeled on montane ecologies found around the globe. The building will be anchored at either end by publically accessible retail spaces entered from 6th and 7th Avenues.
Generally, it all sounds very cool and very futuristic and very trendy (read: Apple did the whole “plans for a spaceship” thing ages ago). However, it’s interesting to see how the biggest companies in tech are tackling the issue of working in an office or with a more loose structure.
Remember, everyone made a pretty big deal out of Marissa Mayer’s recent policy change that requires all Yahoo employees to work in an office. And just recently she announced that Yahoo would be taking up space in the Times building in New York’s Times Square, which is capable of housing up to 700 employees.
As it stands now, all of the big four tech companies — Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon — favor keeping employees in the office.
Google has one of the best campuses you could dream of, both in Mountain View and in New York, feeding employees free lunch from world-renowned chefs. Apple is working to build out one of Steve Jobs’ final projects, a new spaceship office. Facebook has the same diversions: chess boards, and video games, and basketball courts, and free lunch.
So of course, the fourth horseman in the race, Amazon is devising its own tricks to keep employees at the office as long as possible. It’s a win-win: Employees do more and better work due to a pleasing and comfortable work environment, and employers get more, and better work, out of their employees.
Also, there’s a perfectly good park just three blocks from the new campus.
Here’s the full set of plans:
Amazon’s new HQ design by John Cook
[Biodome rendering via NBBJ]