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Wanelo Wants to Crush the Category of Social Shopping

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As shopping malls expand to compete with online shopping, websites are evolving to combine e-commerce and social browsing.

There are plenty of e-boutiques that enhance the shopping experience through product aggregation, but none quite as robust as Wanelo (the site title is a fusion of the words "want, need, love"). If Pinterest and Net-a-Porter made a baby, this would be it: a well-designed social shopping platform populated with products that are posted by users post.

Similar to Twitter, the content you see is dictated by the friends and brands you follow. You can "save" products to lists, tag a friend to draw their attention to an item, or post desired merchandise that has yet to grace the site. Almost all the items on the site were found by users and are available for purchase; the site directs shoppers to transact on retailers' websites.

"I was really frustrated with mainstream shopping at malls because I have unique taste and it was hard to sift," Deena Varshavskaya, Wanelo's 33-year-old CEO told Racked. "Ultimately, I wanted to see what my friends were shopping for, what stores they liked and I realized there was no social platform for shopping."

Varshavskaya started Wanelo in 2010 but based on its numbers, the platform has only recently begun to catch fire, now boasting 10 million users. It currently offers some 200,000 brands and nine million products, and the average user spends 50 minutes a day browsing the site.

On the playing field with Wanelo are other aggregating shopping sites like Svpply, Canopy, and Polyvore, but Wanelo combines the social shopping experience of following what your friends are browsing with actually being able to make purchases. It essentially solves a problem some encounter on Tumblr and Pinterest, where readers browse products but can't actually purchase from the source.

"Wanelo basically organizes all of the world's shopping for you in a single place," Varshavskaya added. "If you're into affordable shopping, that's here for you. If you're into home shopping, that's here for you. If you're into high-end stores, that's there for you. These are the categories."

Some big companies have an even better social presence on Wanelo than other social media platforms; Urban Outfitters, for example, has 2.3 million followers on Wanelo but only 803,134 Twitter followers.

Corporations have noticed the Wanelo bang too: companies like Aeropostale, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Rag & Bone even have the Wanelo save buttons on their website next to the Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest ones.

A quick jump onto the Wanelo site might initially seem overwhelming. Because you see a feed of the brands and people you follow, fun home gadgets from MoMA could be listed alongside a new NARS lipstick in your feed. But it's proving to be a great tool ahead of the holidays: users can saved desired items to a gift wish list, which sounds like a brilliant tool for clueless husbands. ("Honey, I appreciate the ugly sweater, but a simple glance at my Wanelo wish list would have brought you into the wonderful world of Chanel flats.")

"I think the gift lists will really change the way people shop for holidays," Varshavskaya added. "The site also helps keep up with fast fashion. Places like ASOS, ModCloth, Nasty Gal, they all have quick turnaround with inventory, so Wanelo gives retailers with big distribution more exposure."

A Twitter search for "Wanelo Christmas" shows that many users are hopping on holiday gift list idea, and Wanelo has even snagged lists from popular fashion bloggers and celebs including the Man Repeller, Bag Snob and Jamie Chung.

Varshavskaya's goal is to turn Wanelo into a one-stop shop for all online shopping, which sounds similar to Facebook's venture to take over the internet. If the site continues to succeed, we'll take bets on which media company will jump to buy it.
· Wanelo [Official Site]
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