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It may be simple for brands to create their own web storefronts today, but doing the same for mobile is a far more difficult task.
With that challenge in mind, David Tisch, an angel investor at Box Group and former TechStars NY managing director, set out to create Spring, a mobile marketplace that gives brands a simple way to let consumers shop with them.
After a year of development, Spring is launching today on the iPhone. And while there’s no shortage of shopping apps out there, it’s actually doing something truly different.
Spring is a pseudo-social network that allows you to follow fashion brands and easily buy products directly from them. It’s not serving as an intermediary like flash shopping sites — Spring holds no inventory, it just connects you with a brand’s existing ecommerce infrastructure. Any products you purchase are shipped directly from their brand (which also means you’ll have to deal with them for a return).
The company is launching today with 100 fashion brand partners, including Hugo Boss, Bonobos, and Warby Parker. It plans to roll out an additional 350 brands over the rest of the year and into 2015.
Tisch, the company’s chairman and a co-founder along with his brother Alan, who serves as CEO, describes Spring as “an active posting platform.” Brands have to craft unique posts for Spring and are encouraged to use lifestyle imagery for their products, not just boring old product photos. Notably, companies won’t be able to just plug in existing feeds of content to populate Spring.
“We don’t want to be in the minds of consumers who know what they want, or want the lowest prices,” Tisch said. “It’s more like, what does it mean to go shopping on your phone?”
In a brief demonstration of the platform, Tisch browsed through several feeds and bought an expensive handbag in just a few swipes. The app looks attractive, and it feels a bit different than a typical shopping app thanks to the focus on lifestyle imagery. If you’ve ever dreamed of buying products directly from Instagram, Spring could be just what you’re looking for.
Once you plug in your payment information, I have a feeling Spring could end up becoming a dangerous impulse shopping outlet for plenty of people. The app doesn’t even feature a shopping cart — you buy an item right from its posting, which means there’s little time to second-guess a purchase.
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On the surface, Spring seems to be an ideal solution for brands that need a way to support mobile shoppers. The company takes a “minimal” transaction fee from purchases, which Tisch says is far below the 10 percent fee affiliate sites usually take. Spring will also reward brands for good behavior: It will lower transaction fees if the brand offers free shipping or exclusive products on the platform.
For consumers, though, Spring may reveal the support weaknesses of many brands. Since the app relies entirely on brands’ existing ecommerce infrastructure, your experience receiving items and dealing with potential issues will vary significantly. Many online shoppers I know often choose to buy things directly from Amazon rather than from a brand’s site because they know they can trust Amazon’s customer support.
“You’re going to have different experiences with different brands; that’s true of any marketplace,” Tisch said, when I brought up the potential issue. But he also noted that every brand working with Spring has a direct contact for support, and that the company won’t be afraid to tell its partners when their content stinks. If a high-end brand can’t deliver a decent shopping experience, it could easily get booted from the app (unless it’s an investor, of course).
Spring is based in New York City and has raised $7.5 million from Box Group, Thrive Capital, Google Ventures, Lerer Ventures, and others. Intriguingly, it has also scored plenty of high-profile brand investors, including Coach, Uniqlo, and Michael Kors.