The following is a blog post by Dalton Dean, co-founder and CEO at Mainspree, a recently launched startup that helps boutiques, artists or potentially anyone, snap a photo of an item using their smartphone and instantly sell it to their fans and followers through social channels. Seven days after launching, Shreveport-based Mainspree led one boutique to make 61 sales totaling over $1,200 in under 24 hours.
Mainspree isn’t going to save the world, but it will help people buy and sell items online faster.
My name is Dalton Dean. I’m a co-founder of Mainspree and I’m just like everyone else. When I get a few spare minutes I like to check my social media accounts. I’m not sure exactly what I’m always looking to find but yet I still catch myself hopping between social media apps to see what is going on in the world around me. I see the stories about breakups. The dog selfies. The baby pics. Etc. Just like everyone else.
Then, one day I started to recognize another trend.
It started on Facebook…
And now it’s happening on Instagram, etc.
The trend I noticed was that small businesses, artists, collectors, friends, you name it… were trying to create buzz and sell inventory by posting photos of items they wanted to sell to their social media accounts. And it worked! Well kind of… Just take a look at the comments in the images above. Social media followers messaged again and again and again…
They asked about…
They were even publicly posting their personal email address so that they could be invoiced!
Occasionally, even I’d see a post of an item that I wanted to buy. But me, being the efficient (what some people would call lazy) person that I am, refused to purchase the item because the the process to do so was time consuming.
To purchase the item I only had a few options..
I could comment back to ask any questions I had about the product. Depending on the item, I may, or may not, be comfortable doing this. And I’m not definitely not comfortable publicly posting my email address. But even if I was, it’s doubtful that by the time the seller sees my comment, responds, creates the invoice and emails it to me, that I will have the same level of desire to buy the item. It’s probably going to be a miracle if I even see, or open, the invoice in my inbox.
So let’s assume that we’re “lucky” and the seller has an online store. Then I still have to find a link to their website, go search through their inventory and usually complete a tedious checkout process.
I can dig through their social media accounts, google, etc. to find a phone number of the seller. If I am able to contact them, I still have the ask questions… “How much?”…. “Any larges available?” Then I either have to have them hold it for me or give them my CC info over the phone.
Like I don’t have anything else to do, right?…. I don’t exactly have the time to stop what I’m doing, rearrange my day, drive across town and sit in traffic for something I randomly decided I wanted to buy.
All of these options were frustrating.
Remember… I, nor the majority of social media followers, were ever actually on a mission to buy a particular item. These items just happened to come across our news feed and we had the impulse to buy.
It’s a lose-lose situation.
For the buyer.. Excitement was created when the item was first seen but a poor experience leads to no purchase being made. For the seller… a lost sale.
There needed to be a better way!
S0, one day I’m telling James (my co-founder) about this trend / problem and he started to laugh. I asked him “Why?” and he said his sister and wife were both just talking about this same problem… They didn’t have a quick and easy way to buy items they saw in their news feed.
When we discovered that multiple people were discussing the same inconvenience, we decided to go talk to small businesses (women/men/children boutiques, home decor stores, local artists, etc) in our area since we noticed that they were the ones posting most often. We wanted to know why they weren’t making it easy for their followers to buy the items they posted online.
Are you aware of existing e-commerce platforms?
If yes, then why are you not adopting them?
The answer to the first question was a simple “Yes”. The interesting part of our research came when we started getting answers to the second question. Three reasons generally came up to explain why sellers didn’t want to adopt the existing e-commerce options.
Small businesses are on a tight budget. Every dollar counts. Many didn’t want to invest the money without being sure there would see a return.
Not only is every dollar important but every minute is as well. It’s hard enough to manage inventory in an offline world, much less doing it online as well.
Most small business are ran alone, or with a very small team, so the addition of any task usually means the sacrifice of another.
One more reason
Something else continued to come up during our conversations. Their reason for not adopting the options available were that they didn’t want to change their daily habits. They were comfortable, and satisfied, in the way the way they had been operating.
With this insight, we thought… What if we could give them the best of both worlds? To do this, we formed a plan that we knew had to meet the following criteria:
- It had to be affordable and users would have to know that they could use the product risk-free.
- The time it took to post couldn’t be much longer then the time it has taken them in the past.
- The post needed to include all the information that may be asked by a social media follower.. price, quantity, color, etc.
- It needed to have restraints like post expiration so that the user didn’t have to monitor inventory.
- The financial transaction process had to be familiar, safe and secure. We chose PayPal.
- Most importantly, it needed to mimic the existing habits of users.
Then we went to work. And we came up with..
Selling on social. As simple as sharing a photo.