As is becoming more and more of the case these days, a new site or service launches, and it’s all anyone is talking about. And here I am, following in the footsteps. Sigh.
Over the last couple of years I’ve met senior executives from virtually every major electronics (and mainstream) retailer, and have learned a tremendous amount about consumers and how they shop (both online and offline). For example, did you know that in traditional, married households the so-called “head of household” (read: man) makes less than 5% of all major purchasing decisions alone, whereas almost 90% of the decisions are made solo by the wife? And I’m not being sexist here, I know there are tons of people and lifestyles that don’t fit this pattern. But in the majority of US households, most spending in the home is done by the woman, without consulting the husband.
Want another neat data point? Men buy things based on features, descriptions, etc. Women buy things visually. You know how most online retailers work today? Lots of descriptions, text, features and benefits, complemented with a few pictures. So what does this all add up to? Most online shopping sites today are missing out on the majority of buyers. What’s missing? The visuals. Welcome to like.com.
Like.com (from Riya) is a visual shopping system. There are a few hands-on reviews and commentary you can read (pick your favorite: ZDNet, GigaOm, TechCrunch, BusinessWeek, Robert Scoble, Thomas Hawk). I’m going to skip the usual rigamarole of anaylizing how good their algorithms work, go check out one of the others’ for that. Whether it’s perfect or not today, I generally have enough faith in engineers and entrepreneurs that they’ll continue to improve it to the point where it works as promised. And if they don’t, well, someone else will come along instead. Instead, I’m a bit more interested in the launch itself.
Right now, they have focused on fashion (a move Don Dodge likes). If you go back and read above and recall that the biggest category of shoppers in the US is women, I think this is a phenomenal move. I’ve seen other newfangled attempts to launch online stores, with wikis and whatis and kiwis and whatnot, but at the end of the day, in my opinion there is no opportunity for doing this in the tech market. If you want to buy a digital camera or a Slingbox or a plasma, buy.com + amazon.com + cnet is sufficient for 90% of the market.
But if a woman wants to buy shoes or purses online, the current offerings are in every way unsatisfactory. Yeah, there’s some pictures and all, but it’s not enough. It approaches the sale from a male perspective. Like.com is the right approach to this huge, untapped market. So now the question is, can they market the service correctly?
Robert Scoble and Mike Arrington give them praise for their methods of swamping the blogosphere (more details from the CEO himself). I agree with them, they did hit the bloggers and hit them perfectly. But my question is – did they hit the right blogosphere? They sure got the Web 2.0 and technology bloggers abuzz. And I’ll bet they got a ton of guys to hit the site today. But I have a hunch their sales numbers are going to be dismal compared to their traffic.
Like.com needs to do some very aggressive viral and traditional marketing, and they need to do it to the right audience. The traffic from today’s spike may well diminish to nothing very very quickly, unless all us technophiles are out there telling their wives and girlfriends about the site. I’m sure they’ll own the term “visual shopping” in Google for a while, but who cares? It’s not as if there are flocks of women googling that term right now (otherwise you’d already see different results from that term than you do today).
So congratulations on the launch, team Like. You have built a potentially huge success. Executing on it is a big challenge, and hopefully you’ll set your sights on the right market, because the one you are after did not hear about your site launch today.
UPDATE: Robert Scoble pointed out that in his interview with Munjal Shah, Like.com/Riya’s CEO, Munjah mentions an extensive press tour with fashion and consumer magazines. Scoble also did a video demo of Like.com which you can check out as well. But unlike Maryam, my wife does buy stuff online (and sells stuff too), however she didn’t have a great Like.com experience today – but I’m sure I can get her back to try again…
We covered that in the interview he did with me for http://www.scobleshow.com.
He just did a press tour in New York where he talked with tons of consumer-oriented magazines like People Magazine (where the editors fell out of their chairs in excitement, Munjal says). He also talked with tons of fashion and other non-geeky bloggers.
By the way, my wife reads my blog and she’s in the target market. I’m sure they’ll get more than a few customers that way.
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Here is what I learned during this launch.
a) We started to talk to the fashion magazines and morning shows/Oprah and found two problems: 1) The TV shoes were laggards – they wanted to see some traction already – hence the chicken and egg problem of building awareness with them; 2) The Magazines were interested but they rarely write about technology and the earliest issue we could get in was March (since it is print).
b) So we found that their is a new supply chain of news… it goes something like this. Robert and Michal post – then the business bloggers like Rob Hof of Business Week and WSJ write – then an editor at a TV station reads it in the NYTs or WSJ and calls us for an interview and finally a morning show calls us to get in front of our target demographic – women in the 10am to 3pm time slot.
This actually happened to us this week. As a result of starting on Robert and Michael we were on everywhere in the mainstream fashion and lifestyle press. You can’t go direct as a startup.