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A new easy-to-use tool makes it possible for independent site owners to sell boutique goods off their sites and take a cut, without sending visitors somewhere else to make the purchase.
Affiliate networks, in which a website’s operator gets paid a cut by, say, Amazon.com for posting a link that sends shoppers to buy something at Amazon, are a steady source of income for many people.
But what if you, a blogger, tastemaker, author, celebrity or micro-celebrity, want to sell products directly off your site rather than sending visitors away to an online supermarket?
OpenSky founder John Caplan, who previously ran both Ford Models and About.com before founding New York-based OpenSky last May, thinks his company has the best solution: A shopping cart that pops up over a page, and handles the purchase without leaving the site.
OpenSky represents a group of small-scale vendors — currently about 1,000 of them, Caplan told me in a meeting — and a group of clients who sell these vendors’ goods.
Caplan claimed to have 1,000 clients signed up, including Marta Wohrle of Truth In Aging. Some, he told me, make a few thousand dollars per month. OpenSky’s management team includes a former general manager from department store giant Target.
OpenSky has produced a short video that shows how the system works. People who want to sell specific goods from OpenSky vendors embed some HTML in their sites, which could for example run on the popular WordPress software used by VentureBeat and The New York Times.
Then, when a visitor clicks on a recommended item to buy it, OpenSky’s service pops up a window over the page, rather than sending visitors to another site from which they may never come back. The vendors take care of shipping. OpenSky serves as a purchase transaction enabler.
Caplan says he came up with the configuration he did because he thinks it’s better for shoppers who get their recommendations from online tastemakers and reviewers. “They can buy goods directly from the person they trust most. They can stay engaged with their favorite content and make a purchase without ever leaving.” Blog readers will hopefully feel they are buying from a favorite site, rather than from a totally separate store run by someone else.
The company splits revenue with its bloggers by taking a cut of the profits on each sale. Right now, Caplan is focused on growing the number of vendors and clients signed up with the service. The company operates on $11 million in funding from Highland Capital Partners, Canaan Partners and Ron Conway.
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