Interview: How Social Shopping Platform Countr Is Empowering Fashion-Forward Consumers With Authenticity
Countr is a social media mobile app where consumers can showcase their style, purchase product directly from their feed and make real money for engagement, leveling the influencer playing field
Social media “influencers” have the job that everyone wants: getting paid to live your life. Brands give paychecks and free product to popular influencers in exchange for the advertisement. However, as a result, consumers are inundated with promotional content, and can't always tell what's authentic versus paid advertising.
Enter Countr, a personal shopping social media platform where users can share shoppable looks, collections of products and offer personal advice to their “style tribe.” The streamlined service ensures authenticity by making it profitable; the Countr community pays creators for their exclusive content as well as for participating on advice boards. PSFK spoke with founder and CEO, Manon Roux, about how Countr is leveraging trends in personalization, efficiency and empowerment to provide both consumers and retailers with a mutually beneficial styling platform.
PSFK: Could you tell us about some of the broader trends you see impacting retail today and that you're leveraging in your work?
Manon: We're a social shopping app where consumers can shop any store with friends, showcase their product lines and earn money all in one place. Our tagline is “Shopping with your style tribe.” The bigger thing is that we're trying to solve the problem of unifying the 95% of retailers that are not on Amazon, giving consumers an easy place to shop and discover from thousands of brands and check out from them easily in one place.
That is the core aspect of Countr, and then the top layer is the social shopping aspect. We already naturally ask our friends and trusted people offline for inspiration, and we wanted to bring that to a digital experience.
The first trend we’re leveraging is empowering consumers and giving them a voice in defining the brand experience. We're clearly seeing a trend where niche brands like Glossier or Beautonomy are trying to empower customers in defining the product and how they engage with brands.
Really, there is no unified forum for consumers to express themselves across these different verticals. The examples I gave you are specific to beauty, but we're talking about home, wellness, fashion as well. We wanted to provide a platform to unite those consumers across categories.
Another trend is personalization. We see retailers trying to create a personalized experience for every consumer that's coming online. But the majority of brands actually don't know who their customers are, whether it's an online experience or an offline experience.
A final trend is influencers and rewarding everyday creators. We've obviously seen the influencer industry just grow exponentially, but there are so many young people who are already digitally savvy and who are going to keep entering this field. They obviously have a much stronger say in terms of what people are buying.
We're tapping into fashion or beauty experts to help us know, “What's the next skin‑care product I need to buy?” or “How do I apply my makeup or wear high heels with jeans?” That's extremely valuable, but there's a real problem in terms of how they monetize the content that they're creating. Right now they're relying mostly on sponsored content.
I think that consumers are starting to not believe that as much because it seems not as real or authentic. We asked, how do we provide ways for influencers to monetize and maintain authenticity? The other thing is we're seeing much younger influencers who don't have a big enough following or don't qualify for brand partnerships. They're looking for new avenues to monetize further and grow their brand.
Countr really wants to celebrate those everyday creators, whether they're big or small, and provide them with tools to monetize.
What motivated you to found Countr? Were there gaps or unmet needs you perceived?
The idea for Countr came out of my own frustration with online shopping. Typically we all spend hours browsing, opening multiple tabs, trying to compare deals across different sites. You never end up getting the deal that you want until after you've bought the product and the retailer says, “Here's 20% off.”
It's a missed opportunity. We've spoke to a lot of shoppers in general and understood that this was an ongoing pain point that everybody was having. Online shopping is still really inefficient and not beneficial in terms of personalization.
We know that the majority of consumers use Google and Amazon to find specific items. But they’re not made for discovery. Countr is a digital realm that condenses recommendations with the shopping, and it's not sending consumers out to the ether. It's very unified. It uses that social curation element. We've built machine learning to create more of that precise shopping experience that we talked about. We focus on getting consumers to discover products and stores tailored to them individually.
Customers are also able to shop multiple stores all at once with one single cart checkout, eliminating the need for 20 open tabs. Amazon only represents about 5% of ecommerce in the U.S. We want to address the 95% of the other retailers that you can't get on Amazon. We want to let people shop Glossier, Cuyana and all these other niche brands all at once.
PSFK: Countr is about empowering people and not brands. Could you explain what this means and how it informs the customer experience?
First and foremost, we wanted to create a community where everyone had the opportunity to be recognized and lead the way to smarter shopping. At the core, we gave consumers access to all of these stores.
What they're able to do is build their own store where they can collect products to recommend, create shoppable posts, show off their style, share their recommendations, offer advice to others on their platform and ultimately have more power in terms of monetizing. Right now, the platform members earn money through cheers.
When you see somebody's post, you can clap it, which is essentially a cheer, our peer‑to‑peer technique system. The community members can show support for the content. Obviously, it's unsponsored. It's that idea that you support somebody else to support you back. Over the next months, we're going to be launching 10% commissions.
Anytime a member tags a product in their post and somebody buys it, they earn on that sale. Something else we're working on is how to reward users for everything they're doing on the platform. We're super excited about that we're going to be launching boosted comments to bring that to life, where users can get paid to respond. We know that influencers already spend a lot of time doing this for free, so we want to help them be compensated for that time and energy that they're putting in.
PSFK: Who is the Countr customer? Are there any particular strategies for reaching them?
Right now, our audience is mostly 14 to 25 years old. 98% of it is women. They're people who are already used to seeing what their friends are loving and buying, and are looking to influencers to get inspiration.
As we're growing, we definitely want to tap into the bigger influencers. We have a number of them that are coming on board, especially with the launch of boosted comments.
We're relying mostly on word of mouth and getting influencers to find us through Instagram. We're really building a personal relationship with them, so we can understand how to meet their needs.
PSFK: What is Countr's long‑term strategy? Where do you see the company in three to five years?
For the next five years we're focusing on building the online‑shopping experience that consumrs deserve, both in the U.S. and in Europe. Right now we're only U.S.‑based, but we want to break into the European market. Ultimately, we want to make shopping fun, easy and rewarding for both shoppers, content‑creators and brands. That means having a shopping platform where everybody wins.
Countr is taking stock of the shopping and sharing experiences consumers want, letting anyone become an influencer while preserving authenticity. For more from similar inspiring brands, see PSFK’s reports and newsletters.