Interview: How A Peer-To-Peer Mobile Marketplace Lets Anyone Open A Virtual Store
Aiming to democratize retailing, Storr is an online marketplace where anyone can build their own outlet, encouraging friends and followers to shop their curated wares from startup and big-name brands instead of going to Amazon
In a market saturated with influencers, consumers are increasingly in want of authenticity and connection when it comes to their online purchases. Billed as ‘the ultimate side hustle,' Storr is a mobile marketplace with the aim to meet this demand, striving to democratize retail by letting anyone open up shop straight from their phone and sell new, brand-name goods of their choosing.
Taking might away from Amazon, Storr ultimately is about empowering anyone to be their own retailer, simply downloading the app and curating their favorite products to populate their personalized stores for friends, family and strangers alike to shop, as well as earning commission from the brands themselves who handle all the details, like shipping. PSFK caught up with Storr's CEO and founder, Eric Senn, to learn about about how the social retail platform aims to shift the market from channel-first to people-first commerce, making online shopping more personal as well as embedding charitable donation into the system:
PSFK: What are some of the broader trends that you're seeing affect retail today?
Eric: We found that 92% of all product recommendations were coming from consumers' friends and family. There are celebrity influencers, too, but 21% of U.S. shoppers made a purchase as a result of a peer recommendation versus 14% because of a celebrity recommendation.
It's the psychology of buying, and who's in your network. Social media has been great, but there's a certain inauthenticity to it. The most authentic recommendations are coming from people you know and trust.
What led to the creation of Storr and what unmet needs was it designed to fill?
We were working on a totally different concept. I think a lot of Silicon Valley companies have started this way. We were working on a sports marketing idea with a professional golfer.
That was where we started research into how people have become more influential than brands. As we dug deeper and did research on retail and commerce dating back to the 1850s, when department stores came into existence, we saw that peers have always been influential, but just haven't had the kind of resources to be able to do something like this.
This is two years ago during the height of the retail apocalypse—the decline of the traditional retail distribution model and the rise of DTC brands. We saw a real opportunity to make retail a more personal experience again.
We looked at Dick's Sporting Goods and how it started in 1948 as a bait and tackle shop in Binghamton, New York and saw that people would go down to the bait and tackle shop because they knew Dick. It was a very human, personal interaction. We saw we had an opportunity to use technology to bring retail back to that.
Could you talk a little bit about how Storr works and how customers can earn money?
The app is designed so users can virtually create their own store in 30 minutes. This is for anyone. They download the app, and log in with Facebook or email, and then immediately have a profile where they can add products from any of the brands on the store platform.
We launched yesterday with 175. We launched 10 more yesterday. We're growing really quickly. We hope to be on pace for about 1,000 by the end of the year.
Users can search through the catalog. Let's say, they click on the brand Spiritual Gangster. They go into the Spiritual Gangster catalog Then they click on, let's say, a sweatshirt. They can add that product to their store, and add their own description—the description's actually pretty important for conversion. This is humanized commerce. The more our users can create a human experience around a 2D static image of a shoe or a sweatshirt, the more they create a personalized experience.
Storr usters can continue to populate their store with the things they like. Once they have their store populated, shoppers anywhere can buy from it. A customer can come in to purchase from their store from Instagram who doesn't have our app. They can buy from Storr right on Instagram, or Twitter, or the web.
Do sellers earn a commission of the retail price for the products that they sell?
Let's say, your friend buys from your Storr. You earn that commission. That goes into your account. We basically hold that commission until the brand's return period has passed. Then we release it, and you can cash out to your PayPal account.
It's a really sticky experience. When somebody buys from you and you get a push notification that says, “So and so has bought from you. You made a sale. You earned $14,” it's magical because you're not doing any of the shipping. The brand's fulfilling everything. You never touch the products.
You mentioned that you have over 150 brands on your platform and aim to have over 1,000 by the end of the year. What types of brands are you working with?
Any brand that's thinking about coming on the platform can just download it, open a store and see how the experience works. We're working with all sorts of different brands—footwear, luxury, jewelry, and other accessories, consumables, books, home and novelty.
It's all over the place. A couple of the names we like to throw out are Birdies, Jonathan Simkhai, RE/DONE Denim, Rosie Assoulin, Solid and Striped, Spiritual Gangster. We're also launching with Adidas later this summer. Ultimately, though, it's really just a move away from channel-first commerce to people-first commerce. It doesn't really matter what's being sold. You could sell insurance or digital products or consumables, for example, but you're just buying it from someone you know, someone you trust, rather than a channel.
What are the benefits to the brands in offering their wares through Storr versus third-party retailers?
The current retail landscape is brands distribute through Amazon or Macy's or Dick's Sporting Goods. They get a channel out of that, and a big channel. Our model is instead of distributing through this large, rigid, impersonal channel, we give the brands an opportunity to plug into Storr's platform.
Many of these brands can integrate in under a minute to ingest their entire catalog and plug back into their order management system. They get access to a network, potentially millions of these organic microchannels that are highly influential at the micro level.
They're doing it at no cost. They only thing they pay for is the marketing at the point of sale.
You mentioned authenticity earlier. Could you explain how Storr promotes authenticity and maybe how it differs from other forms of marketing?
The biggest thing is that Storr is for anyone. Who are we to say who's influential to you or to anyone else? That's really a personal decision. We wanted to take a democratized approach. If the data point is true that 92% of all product recommendations are coming from friends and family and people you know, then all these influencer networks are cutting out the most influential channels.
We're democratizing retail. We have people who have never sold in their life that are selling and making sales. We have college freshmen on track to do $100,000 in sales and they're not influencers. They have maybe 1,000 Instagram followers.
The peer to peer element is at heart of this mission and, I think, at the heart of authenticity. Instagram, Coachella—it's just not real.
Authenticity is at our core. We're trying to help people monetize organic ambassadorship, not influencer marketing where it's really an industry that was created to dupe consumers. The brand pays the influencer to post something in the influencer's voice, but it's really what the brand told them what to say. Authenticity and transparency are two of the pillars of Storr.
Storr has a feature that enables users to donate a portion of their sales to charity. Why was it important to include social impact?
There are a few reasons. CSR is no longer just nice to have, it's a must-have. I think Tom's really pioneered this and a lot of brands have followed suit, and rightfully so. Gen Z is willing to completely switch brands and throw brand allegiance out the window to a brand that actively participates in CSR. We wanted to create a model where anybody could give to something they really cared about.
As you pick out your Storr store, you're populating it with things that reflect your personal style. There's really a window into your life—the book you're reading, the vitamins you're taking.
We wanted to enable people to donate a percentage, anything from zero to 100% of their earnings on every sale, to something they care about. We have Conservation International, DonorsChoose, The King Center. We'll continue to build out charities. We want something on there for everyone to give to.
Here as a consumer, you make an impact just by buying at retail price, because it's not coming out of your pocket, it's coming out of the seller's pocket. We really think that we are taking the money that a channel like Amazon makes, and we're giving it to people and charity.
Finally, how do you see Storr evolving over the next 1-2 years?
From a brand perspective, we want to continue to build out verticals. We want to add larger brands that have more volume. We have some really exciting brands launching in a couple of months leading up to the holidays.
Ultimately, we want products and charities that people care about. The model lends itself to really empowering people to open up their own stores and to donate. It also lends itself to empowering brands.
Shopify has created this amazing platform where anyone can really open up a brand. They have 800,000 merchants, but a lot of those brands struggle with customer acquisition and they struggle with distribution. You have an online website, but how do you get it out there?
If we can scale this thing and really show some rapid user acquisitions, then any brand can quickly plug into the network and have distribution. We also want to bring these smaller brands up too, and give them a chance to succeed in a retail landscape that has been dominated by larger brands and larger distribution channels. It's really about building a platform for everyone.
Lead image: Storr