The social shopping space is a crowded one these days. Aside from the OG LiketoKnow:It affiliate link program that helps bloggers and influencers monetize their Instagram outfit posts, there is a growing number of stand-alone platforms that aim to streamline the mobile and social media-driven way that people increasingly prefer to shop. From Dash Hudson to Spring to the Alexa Chung-backed Villoid, these programs have been met with varying degrees of success and excitement, but all aim to solve a common problem: How can you immediately purchase that great piece you find while browsing your social feeds?
Enter Project September, a new platform that's the brainchild of Gilt Groupe's founding CEO (and later CMO) Alexis Maybank. The idea came to her after observing the surge of shoppers flooding to Gilt from Pinterest and Instagram — as well as the observation that about 50 percent of Gilt sales were coming from mobile. Last summer, with Chief Design Officer Leah Park and Chief Technology Officer Dustin Whitney, she began working on Project September. The name is a nod to the most important month of the fashion calendar, and the ever-evolving ways in which the industry is merging content and commerce.
Maybank was a pioneer in the e-comm space when she launched Gilt in 2007; she admits the relationship between fashion and technology is like night and day from that venture to this one. "The commonalities [between the two] are we're solving the way we want to shop, and we are the target customer," she explained. "But now, we all operate in a mobile world, and the quality imagery produced by individuals with a point of view — and how quickly they can reach millions — is new. But it hasn't quite been fully unlocked for the follower, the shopper or the consumer." To that last point, Project September marks the first time that any user can earn a commission from their posts, without meeting certain pre-determined requirements.
In addition, Maybank's had a much easier time selling fashion labels on participation in Project September (as retailers to which users can link and earn a commission) than she did in the early Gilt days. "Brands are so much more sophisticated and experimental — they recognize just how social media can really help change how customers reach them and how quickly," she said. Two thousand brands are represented at launch, with more to come in the near future.
The platform is built to display a curated feed of fashion photography, outfit posts that can be pulled directly from Instagram with the click of a button, editorial images and more — all of which can all be linked to products directly. Linked images are tagged with green dots, showing what's available for sale; interested users can check out immediately through a partner site with a single finger tap. The app's focus is entirely on imagery, and thus, captions are nonexistent.
To build buzz at launch, Project September approached select bloggers, photographers, stylists and editors, including Nina Garcia of Marie Claire, to create profiles, and since one of its primary backers is WME/IMG, they've tapped into the agency's talent to spread the word, too. To really get in with the Instagram influencers, the platform is doing an activation with Revolve at Coachella, which you'll likely see all over your feeds in the coming days. While the platform's focus on visuals makes for an entertaining and inspiring shopping experience — and not to mention a quick one — its success depends on consumers adding another social app to their already-crowded repertoire, which might prove to be its biggest challenge.
Project September is available for download now in the app store.