(INTERVIEW) Wanelo: Go Shopping With Your Friends Without Leaving Home

4 years ago

Of all BlogHer's editorial staffers, I like to shop the least. However, when I got the opportunity to try out Wanelo (“wah-nee-loh” from want, need, love) recently, I thought it was totally cool -- and I found a great way to make it work for me. Once you follow stores you like or people with great taste, it just starts streaming toward you without you having to lift a finger. Awesome.

I interviewed Wanelo's founder, Deena Varshavskaya, to get clarity about how BlogHers might use Wanelo.

BlogHer: What is Wanelo?

Deena: Wanelo (“wah-nee-loh” from want, need, love) is an online community for all of the world’s shopping. We bring together all stores, products and people into a single social platform. All the products are posted by users.

Today, more than ten million people (up from 1 million in November 2012) use Wanelo to follow people and their favorite stores, find the best products and organize their shopping online. Our users call it “dangerous” because of how addicting it is. You can just search “Wanelo” on Twitter or read our mobile app reviews to see what we mean.

BlogHer: What's Wanelo's story -- how did it get started?

Deena: I started Wanelo because I wanted to know which products and stores my friends like. I thought that commerce was very primitive and fragmented. There needed to be an easy way for everyone to find the best products and stores and a means for buyers and sellers to connect.

After not being able to find a technical co-founder, I did design consulting work and was able to hire developers to start building Wanelo. It took two years of experimenting until we finally started seeing our very first users in October of 2010. A few months later, I closed down my consulting business, ended a ten-year relationship and moved to San Francisco to work on Wanelo.

There is now a social network for almost every basic human need (Facebook for friends, LinkedIn for jobs, YouTube for videos, Twitter for news, Instagram for photos), and we’re building Wanelo to be the leading social platform for shopping.

BlogHer; What is your background, and what drew you to Wanelo?

Deena: What led me to Wanelo is that I’ve always loved questioning things, and I’ve always wanted to build something big. I moved to the U.S. from Siberia when I was 16, and at that age, I was already wondering what the meaning of life was. I knew my purpose in life was to do something I was passionate about and something I’d commit myself to for the rest of my life.

I never wanted to sell my time for money, and while attending Cornell for undergrad, I knew finishing college was not getting me any closer to finding my passion. I left college two classes short of graduating, and that’s when my life really began.

I founded two companies of my own before starting Wanelo. The first was a quick failure, and the other was a design agency I started when I realized I loved designing websites and became obsessed with social networking.

The idea for Wanelo came about in 2006 when I started thinking about the future of advertising and realizing that the way people find out about products was going to change.

BlogHer: What is your favorite thing about Wanelo?

Deena: For me, shopping is all about creativity and self-expression. Wanelo allows me to find the most amazing products and stores I’ve never heard about, and I’ve become the #1 addicted user and an expert shopper!

BlogHer: What do you think is the biggest benefit to a seller? A buyer?

Deena: Wanelo is the only social platform that focuses 100% on products and stores, and people come to Wanelo specifically to shop. It’s a community with purchase intent!

For buyers, Wanelo is a way to find the most amazing products and stores and organize all of them in a single place.

For sellers and brands, it’s a way to build a community of customers who will share and buy their products.

For example, Urban Outfitters has more than two million followers -- more than their number of followers on all other social platforms. More than 60,000 products have been posted and resaved by people more than 35 million times. Each time a new product is posted to Wanelo from Urban Outfitters, it appears in the feeds of all its followers.

BlogHer: How does Wanelo help sellers find people who will love their products? For example, I set up my account with all novels I wanted to help people discover.

Deena: Wanelo has more than 200,000 stores, from all the brands you know to tiny independent Etsy sellers you’ve never heard of.

When you sign up, you start by following stores and people you like. Your main experience on Wanelo is a personalized feed of products from those stores and people, and the feed continuously updates throughout the day. Wanelo is a way to see all new products that you care about in one place.

From there, Wanelo is designed for endless exploration. Every person and store leads to more new interesting people, stores and products.

BlogHer: How do products get posted on Wanelo?

Deena: Everything you see on Wanelo is posted by users, and this is important because we’re reorganizing shopping around people. We’re giving users the power to organize products online in the same way Twitter gives users the power to organize information online. The community-driven aspect of Wanelo has our users extremely active and engaged, spending an average of 50 minutes per day with eight million products saved eight million times a day.

BlogHer: How do the stores work?

Deena: Store pages are created automatically when members post products from a new store. All stores are also approved by our content team. After a store page is created, it can be claimed by the store owner. This allows the store owner to manage the store and to post content directly to the store followers.

BlogHer: As a writer, I'm fascinated by your concept of "stories." Can you describe what those are and how they are used?

Deena: Stories are editorial bits of content that reference a group of products. A story is a paragraph of text that can include external links, so it’s perfect for driving traffic to your site or promoting a store. When you publish a story, it goes out to all of your followers.

The stories feature is a perfect way to share branded content you’ve lined up outside of Wanelo or to build relationships with brands on the platform itself.

Stories can be as creative as you can imagine! They can be used to discuss a trend, post an outfit, create a Halloween costume, or announce a new collection or a sale at a store.

The best part about stories is that they can be easily shared to Instagram, Facebook or Twitter as a single image of up to nine products. Try it out on our mobile app to see how easy it is.

I think this is important because the future of retail is about recognizing people care about the story behind a product. It's not the actual physical object that matters, it's the context behind it.

Empowering our community to share editorial content and build a narrative around products will have a greater impact on how we discover, buy and influence each other’s purchasing decisions.

BlogHer: Are the items on Wanelo mass-produced, homemade or a combination?

Deena: It's everything. We have more than eight million products from more than 200,000 stores online, ranging from large retailers like Nordstrom and Crate & Barrel to independent sellers like those on Etsy or smaller online boutiques. So we're truly an online community for all the world's shopping.

BlogHer: Is there payment involved?

Deena: There’s no payment to use Wanelo. Just like with Instagram and Twitter, millions of people are using it because they genuinely love it.

BlogHer: What is the benefit for curating things?

Deena: People go to Instagram to look at photos, they go to Twitter to read news and they go to Wanelo to shop. We believe that the future of shopping is a platform like Wanelo, which creates a social experience 100% dedicated to shopping.

For influencers, Wanelo is an opportunity to extend their brand by building a massive audience on the platform and acquiring influence over purchase decisions of millions of users. We tell people that joining the right platform early is the key to gaining a enormous following, so the time really is now if you want to get involved.

Some examples of profiles on Wanelo include:

Media Editors and Bloggers

BlogHer: Even more important, BlogHer is on Wanelo! BlogHer is partnering with our friends at Wanelo to help our community learn how to shop and share globally, and we signed up Jenny Lauck and Stacy Morrison to find our picks. If BlogHers follow us, we'll follow back.

Rita Arens is the author of the young adult novel The Obvious Game & the deputy editor of BlogHer.com. Find more at www.ritaarens.com.

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