The Fancy has yet to officially confirm the news, but there’s no doubt that now is an important time for the four-year-old site. It’s experiencing rapid growth and the company has its sights set on expansion, and their goals aren’t overly ambitious.
Last week, we stopped by The Fancy offices to chat with the site’s enthusiastic 32-year-old founder and CEO Joseph Einhorn, who explained how the site, which NY1′s Pat Kiernan admitted yesterday morning he hadn’t even heard of, grew from 200,000 users and no revenue to 7 million users and $100,000 per day in sales–all in the past year. And all without offering discounts, flash sales, advertising, or using any of the (often overly) complex e-commerce models that we keep hearing about every day.
In addition to (maybe) AmEx and the Fresh Prince, The Fancy counts Kering’s Francois-Henri Pinault, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey among its investors and board members. Additionally, Kanye West is a “friend and inspiration” to the company, as Einhorn put it, hence the below photo, in which Einhorn is modeling a functioning Daft Punk helmet that reads “Yeezus,” which you can actually buy on The Fancy now (for $500).
However, The Fancy started small, as a “Pinteresty” (his words, not ours–though we would totally say that) image-driven social sharing/discovery platform, where, like most of those sites, if you clicked on an image, you were directed elsewhere, or nowhere. As Einhorn explained, “You see cool stuff but when you click on it sometimes it’s a dead-end or it doesn’t load on your mobile or your browser or it’s not in your language or they don’t ship to your country, so it’s not really ideal.” The company’s rapid growth can be attributed to the integration of e-commerce in a way that’s extremely simple for the shopper, but extremely complicated for The Fancy to pull off.
The Fancy is basically a platform where you can browse cool stuff that people find and post in an aesthetically appealing way. You can ‘Fancy’ it, which is essentially liking it–and the more something is Fancied, the more visible it becomes on the site. You can also purchase everything posted to the site and checkout without leaving The Fancy and they’ll ship it anywhere in the world. “Our thing is: No matter where you are in the world, no matter what language you speak, no matter what device you use, if you see something that you ‘Fancy,’ meaning you see something cool, you add it to your cart all in one place and you buy it and get it in a box from us,” Einhorn explained.
Thus, it does more than the typical Pinteresty platform because you can purchase, and the e-commerce concept is more modern than other e-commerce sites because the inventory is user-generated.
As you can probably imagine, while the concept may be be super simple for the shopper, that makes things extremely complicated for the company, as it essentially requires them to make everything available to everyone, everywhere at all times. “We operate the most chaotic shop that has ever existed,” says Einhorn. So, why do they do it?
For one, Einhorn feels that by shipping to more countries in more languages, they’re tapping into a huge international market “Half of our business and half of our users are outside the USA and outside of the USA everybody is young, has a mobile device and wants to shop this way and they’re crazy underserved. Nobody does anything for them. I grew up when the USA was the center of everything and that’s not really happening anymore.”
Another reason is customer service. “Third parties will never treat your customer the way you would treat your customer, because they don’t have that attachment to them.” And finally, they don’t want to share the data they get regarding what people are interested in and willing to spend money on. “We think we have a really special data set that no one else has and we don’t want to share that and have that reverse engineered. We have this great signal of what millions of people Fancy, what’s something they would spend money on, so we didn’t think it was practical to share that information.”
But how does someone in Budapest Fancy some Phillip Lim jacket online and then have it at their door less than a week later?