In the days before Web 2.0, e-commerce was like this: you had very few buyers. You had very few sellers. You had a website which costs a bomb to set up and you had to rely on Google and keywords to help you sell.
Fast forward to 2013 and you have a few million buyers, a few thousand sellers, you have a website and you you still have to rely on Google to help you sell.
That need not be the case, contest Suchi Mukherjee & Prashant Malik the of Limeroad.com, an e-commerce portal for women. The duo, are re-imagining online retail.
In the fashion and apparel industry, most of the times the users don’t know what they want. Which is why window shopping or even glossy magazines are popular.
“You may not have discovered it, until you actually see how it looks,” says Mukherjee.
So how does that make a difference? The difference is that people aren’t searching for things they don’t know about on Google.
“The e-commerce experience is fundamentally distorted even while the world has moved on to Web 2.0,” says Suchi, who spent much of her career working for e-Bay, where she built Gumtree into a leading free classifieds portal in the United Kingdom.
In the older format, e-commerce was driven by by basic visuals and Google. In today’s format, its about great visual and social networks, she says. Limeroad has lots of Web 2.0 elements. For instance, it lets users create scrapbooks in which they can put together looks and share with others who can browse through them and discover interesting looks.
This user generated content is a major differentiator for Limeroad which is clocking nearly 26 mn page views a month. If people buy something after seeing it on a users scrapbook, the user get a small percentage of the sale.
Limeroad, which raised $5 mn in Series A from Matrix Partners and LightSpeed Venture Partners, also leverages Facebook very well. Nearly 80% of the site’s traffic (in double digit millions) comes from Facebook– a company where Prashant worked in its early days. Prashant was one of the two authors of Apache Cassandra, a distributed database management system originally developed at Facebook and later open sourced.
“I had in mind to build a social platform & ecommerce happened to be a natural choice,” says Prashant who returned to India in 2012 to start Limeroad. Much of the technology is being built by Prashant and his lean team with “social” on their mind.
The portal has individual feeds for each user which will evolve as you use it. The startup gives you credits if you get your friends to sign up, lending it some virality. Rival site Fashionara also gives discounts on referrals and features “look books” that help users discover products. These are not user generated though.
According to Suchi, the site gets 16-20 page views per visit and has positive contribution margins on the products it sells! On an average, a buyer spends over a thousand rupees on the site and there are about 2-2.4 items per cart.
“Our fixed cost is just people and some amount of marketing with very little of warehousing services,” said Suchi. The company employs about 65 people in total. “Within people cost, there is a 4 person team that is managing an excess of 250 different vendors,” she said.
The company doesn’t have a mobile app yet. A Flipboard style application that helps users flip through the magazines and create scrapbooks would have been ideal.