Interview: How Social Commerce Platform Dote Merges The Mall Experience With Mobile
PSFK speaks to the founder of Dote to find out how the social shopping app is enabling community-driven transactions like livestreamed "Shopping Parties" that translate previously IRL-only elements of retail to digital
Arguably, shopping today is less social than ever—an activity that was once an inherently community-driven interaction. Evolving from bartering all the way to late-night Amazon clicks, the nature of retail has become increasingly flexible, and, often, isolating.
Enter Dote, a social shopping platform that aims to use today's advanced mobile technology to enable shopping that mimics the malls of yesteryear—but for a digital-first audience. The one-stop-shop mobile app goes beyond letting its Gen-Z customers add their favorite brands like Sephora and Urban Outfitters into their cart, effectively creating a digital content hub on members' profiles where they can build lists, quizzes, polls and more to share and consider purchases with the Dote community. Even more, the ecommerce app hosts live ‘Shopping Parties,” where Dote members can watch their favorite influencers browse and buy items for sale on the site.
PSFK spoke to Dote's CEO and founder, Lauren Farleigh, to find out more about the app that takes social commerce to the next level, aiming to translate the interactive and community benefits of IRL shopping to the digital realm:
PSFK: What inspired you to found Dote?
Lauren: I grew up in Alaska, so I didn't have access to very many stores or malls. I was an early ecommerce shopper. As a result, I ended up moving out to the Bay Area and started working at a mobile gaming company.
I saw that market evolve from being desktop‑based to mobile, creating really big businesses, but also engaging, interactive, entertainment experiences for phone.
Games are usually early leaders in terms of leveraging new technology, and I didn't see anything out there that was applying it to shopping yet. Dote makes it a very easy experience to shop across multiple different retailers on the phone, while also bringing in a lot of the engagement, entertainment and experience aspects.
We try to replicate what we've lost when we moved online and stopped going to the mall with our friends. That was the genesis of the company. Currently, our target demographic is Gen Z, primarily women. They are just shopping fundamentally differently from prior generations. They're on their phones constantly, and they're making purchasing decisions and lifestyle decisions driven by influencers.
These social stars are truly the celebrities of the current time. No longer is it a top‑down dynamic—like Nike telling consumers, “These are cool, buy these things.” It happens in a much more bottom‑up, community driven way. Those are the two trends that we're building upon.
What do you think is missing from other digital shopping platforms today?
I think what's really missing is the experience that community builds around shopping. That's what Dote is doing. It's creating a community with new ways of socially interacting and telling stories around the purchase experience. It does so in a way that builds branding for our retailers.
There are a lot of different ways contextually or technically that that is coming to fruition. For us, we just launched a shopping party, which is the first livestreaming shopping experience of its kind. We're at a place where we can have a meaningful interaction as opposed to just a shopping experience because of what the technology allows us to do.
Of course, Twitch has done that very successfully for the gaming space, but we're yet to see that community‑driven, interactive shopping experience. That's the gap that we're filling.
We focus on building the brand aspect for our retailers: Consumers aren't buying the item. they're buying the story behind that item, and how that item speaks to their values and identity. That makes the experience inherently social, as well, as identity is something to be shared.
Can you describe the experience for shoppers who use Dote?
There are two different ways to shop on Dote. First is a classic brand experience. We partner with over 150 brands and make their entire product catalog shoppable within the Dote app.
The second is the social way, which is content‑driven and people‑driven. We have hundreds and hundreds of influencers on the platform, most of whom started out on YouTube or Instagram and now are building their Dote following. We are also seeing the first ‘homegrown stars,' as we call them—people who've amassed tens of thousands of followers just on Dote, which is exciting for us.
A lot of the content that influencers were making on YouTube and Instagram that was getting them this enormous following was shopping‑related content: home videos, makeup tutorials, ‘get-ready-with-me' videos. We realized the power of a content-driven path to purchase, and built our platform around that.
If our influencers interact with a product, we see a 4x uplift in the general audience interest in it, which is super exciting for our brands. We're also piloting sponsored ‘Shopping Parties' where certain influencers will get paid by a retailer to host a shopping party at the store and stream it on our platform so our viewers can shop along with them.
Would you say Gen Z is your primary user demographic? How do you build rapport with them and cater to their consumption patterns?
To be a brand that Gen Z connects with requires a fundamental shift in terms of brand-audience communication. Previously, it was a one‑way communication track. It was the brand using its own platforms or other platforms to broadcast their message and hope people connected. Gen Z expects to interact with brands through two-way communication. If brands can achieve that, they can build a brand that truly resonates with them and have a super loyal following.
We certainly do that at Dote. It allows members to be part of our brand-building experience, our company-building experience and our creator experience in a way that other brands might shy away from.
We'll ask our members what influencers they want to see. We ask them what brands they want. We'll go live with them and truly have that interaction.
As we look forward, do you have any insights about how e-shopping will evolve in the coming years?
A lot of brands are struggling to reach this younger, up-and-coming demographic because their behavior is different and where they spend time is different. Certainly, we'll see a move to a more bottom‑up approach and more platforms like Dote that are able to bring online what used to be only available in real‑life experience. There will be innovation to enable that comprehensive, entertaining, meaningful shopping experience digitally.
Dote is combining consumer insights and behavior with leading mobile tech to enable engaging and social-driven ecommerce for today's audience. For more from similar inspiring platforms, see PSFK's reports and newsletters.
Lead image: stock photo from Estrada Anton/Shutterstock