Warby Parker, like so many other lifestyle/tech hybrid companies, faced the problem many small companies see while trying to launch a real brand: how do you make the story resonate?
Neil Blumenthal, co-founder of the company, spoke at the Wired Digital Conference where he described Warby Parker as a “mission driven” company. Blumenthal said that the idea behind the company came when a friend left a $700 pair of glasses in an airline seat pocket. Having seen how cheap glasses are made in Asia at the same factory that made those $700 glasses while working at a non-profit, Blumenthal imagined a lifestyle brand that reduces the friction associated with hopping down to the optometrist.
“There’s a strong business rationale for everything we do,” he said. “We’re doing good in the world.”
The company is a mere three years old and Blumenthal and the other founders spent a full year working on a few basic things, including building a narrative around the brand.
“We only invested into three things the first year: to start our first collection, our website, and PR,” he said. Blumenthal later talked up importance of having a socially responsible mission — in this case, the company’s buy a pair, donate a pair Do Good program — and the effect it could have on driving sales. According to Blumenthal, having that sort of vision increases customer loyalty and word of mouth buzz — right now, about half of Warby Parker’s sales are driven by word of mouth.
The final step in the plan? Raising awareness. Even before the company moved to New York and began creating pop up shops, the nascent Warby Parker team allowed customers to come up to the office (a.k.a. Blumenthal’s apartment on Philadelphia’s Walnut Street) to try on frames. They got very lucky. Business took off.
“When we launched, within 48 hours we had to suspend the home try-on program because of lack of inventory,” he said.
The company became so successful that the office they worked in SoHo kicked them out – customers who wanted to visit the office were using the elevator so much, they broke it.
Read the original here: The Three Things Warby Parker Did To Launch A Successful Lifestyle Brand
Last year, Tim Sae Koo, Nikhil Aitharaju, Eunice Noh and Ryo Chiba launched HypeMarks to give people a less hectic way to consume social media. The startup aggregated tweets, articles, links and more shared by influencers and celebrities on social media accounts and, by grouping those by topic, aimed to give people a snapshot of an industry through the eyes of the people who know it best.
Although the USC grads were able to generate some interest and raise a small round of seed funding from Bill Gross and Idealab, the service never quite took off. Using the social media aggregation technology they’d developed for HypeMarks, they shifted their focus to take a B2B approach to social media aggregation. In December, they launched Tint — a simple, DIY platform that helps brands aggregate, curate and display social media feeds from multiple networks on their websites, in their mobile apps, Facebook pages and event displays.
In other words, Tint’s platform is designed to help brands create social hubs on top of their digital properties and, in turn, create a deeper level of engagement with their audiences. The idea is that, while there are a number of social media aggregators out there, the average consumer tends to gravitate towards one particular social network and, once there, tends to do their socializing and interacting on that network, rather than switching between them.
Tint allows businesses and brands to connect their social network accounts with their websites, in part to help them promote their products and services through their social feeds, but also to provide their websites with more engaging content. Businesses can link their Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook and RSS feeds to their Tint accounts, whereupon the service auto-populates the page from those feeds, serving the social content in a river that is Pinterest-like in design.
Or, perhaps the better analogy is Flipboard, as each piece of content is given a headline, an excerpt and a photo, served in a create-your-own social magazine sort of layout. Users can then personalize their pages by changing fonts, background colors and so on or change the headline, URL and image of each piece of content. Tint also offers a handful of starter templates (on of which is free) in case you want to get started quickly.
After that’s done, you can embed the product on your site, tweaking the code to customize it for your site or page, whether it be WordPress, Tumblr, Weebly or some other. Tint also allows you to choose the dimensions you want the embedded stream to be and the number of cascading columns you want to appear, automatically serving up the embed code. Take that to your blog, page, drop it in, and bingo, bango, bongo, you have a social feed on your website that is automatically updated every time you tweet or post cat pictures to Facebook.
Admittedly, Tint probably sounds a little bit like Rebelmouse, but Sae Koo tells us that there are a few differences: Namely, Tint enables you to display social media feeds from specific hashtags, YouTube channels and Pinterest boards to help keep your users on your website, app or event (and engaged). Plus, he says, Tint wants to be a platform tool and an aggregator, not a publishing CMS — and one that’s easy to use and takes 10 minutes to set up. The alternatives, he says, are generally expensive, custom solutions that take time to implement and integrate.
While it may not sound earth-shattering, in the four months since launch, Tint has started to build some traction. Over 10,000 brands are actively using Tint on their sites, averaging 2.5 million monthly pageviews and has been doubling revenue and user growth month-over-month. Today, Tint’s clients include Enrique Iglesias, Toni Braxton, a number of NFL and NBA teams, Honda and more, and its 10,000 clients have averaged a 10 to 15 percent increase in traffic, 20 to 30 percent increase in time spent on their site and 12 to 18 percent decrease in bounce rate, the founders tell us.
Next up, Tint will be looking to expand its partnerships with digital agencies, build out its templates and customization options and finish raising its seed round.
Find Tint at home here.
Pinterest is now slowly gearing up to take more commercial control of its massive data stream of consumers pinning branded content, and brands and other businesses trying to use the wildly popular social network to push their products. But in the meantime, a huge swathe of other companies have emerged to do that job instead. Now those companies themselves want to progress to the next stage of growth.
One of the bigger of them, Pinfluencer, today is announcing a rebranding to Piqora, marking the company’s strategy to mine information not just Pinterest but other image-based social networks like Tumblr, Polyvore and Twitter. And it is also spreading its product wings: the company is today launching Gallery, a new service for customers that lets them take products that get pinned elsewhere and aggregate and show them on their own sites.
The change to Piquora, says Sharad Verma, CEO, was for a couple of reasons. First, it references “pics”, short for pictures, as well as “pick”, referencing the curating role that many play on sites like Pinterest.
On the other hand, he says it was also made to set itself apart from the number of other pun-tastic, Pinterest-referencing branded companies in the bunfight for offering analytics, marketing services, influence/sentiment analysis and more, and to also get the company itself away from being too tied to Pinterest by association. “There are a lot of companies in that bucket whose names start with ‘pin,’ and we don’t want to be confused with being a ‘Klout for Pinterest,’” he told TechCrunch. “But also, eventually we are going to be a multi-platform company.”
That multi-platform strategy, he says, will see the company go beyond sourcing data from Pinterest and Facebook and extend first to Tumblr, Twitter and Polyvore. Eventually other image-based social networks will also get caught in the net, Verma says.
The reason for the aggregation of multiple social networks is because Piqora is also expanding its product set.
Today sees the launch of a new Gallery mode that businesses can put on to their own sites, showing users what products of theirs are getting pinned on Pinterest (and tagged elsewhere) and giving users one more way of discovering them directly on those brands’ sites — and eventually buying them.
This is all-important because it is one more sign of how companies are trying to “close the loop” between discovering a product, finding out more about it, maybe passing on the information to others, but most importantly — actually buying it.
It is also a mark of how, no matter how much marketing budget these companies are ploughing into sites like Pinterest and Facebook, they are still interested in spending more on their own turf — a trend highlighted by a recent survey from Gartner, which found that companies’ own websites still got the lion’s share of marketing budget above and beyond what companies were prepared to spend on other highly-trafficked sites.
Gallery, Piqora says, will be optimized for tablets and effectively becomes the new public facing-product of the analytics that the company had already been providing to brands (customers include Overstock, Sephora, Zappos, Etsy, Z Gallerie, Orbitz, and Steve Madden).
It charts not just what’s getting tagged and trending with consumers, but then also adds more retailer-specific data such as stock availability and purchasing links. This also puts Piqora more in direct competition with companies like Lyst, which also provides a similar level of detail about where to buy products.
Here’s how one gallery looks, on World Market:
While Pinterest has yet to release an API, companies like Piqora have been picking up relevant data for its service by crawling publicly-available Pinterest pages. For now Pinterest is totally fine with this, it says, because many of these companies are providing services that Pinterest is not.
As Pinterest’s product manager Cat Lee said to me at the time of its Analytics launch last week, the company is “super glad” that businesses like Piqora exist now. In part this is because they help brands keep the faith in using Pinterest as a platform now and in the future. “We hope that these businesses continue to provide services that we don’t have plans to add at this time,” Lee said.
Two of the key examples she gave me: those who help businesses run contests and promotions and then measuring the level of engagement on these; and those helping companies manage email campaigns that feed into Pinterest traffic.
So whether the new aggregating business takes off, and regardless of how Pinterest’s own moves into analytics may pose problems for those third parties that offer the same thing, this puts Piqora into a good position going forward because at least one big part of its business falls squarely into those areas where Pinterest says it has no interest to play for now. Piqora says it has powered some 100 contests and sweepstakes to date, with up to 25 million impressions per contest and 20 pins per participant, “saving marketers hours of manual work by automatically tracking user eligibility.”
Tel Aviv-based Appoxee assists iOS and Android application developers in engaging directly with their users to keep them interested in, and regularly coming back, to their smartphone apps.
It’s struck a chord with developers: Appoxee, founded in 2010, already claims hundreds of millions of app installations, thousands of SDK downloads, and billions of push notifications sent to end users thus far.
In a few days, the company plans to release a new version of its engagement platform in beta, giving app developers and publishers more ways to reach out to users in an automated and personalized way.
Essentially, Appoxee is providing app makers with tools to increase the ‘lifecycle’ of an app as well as a user’s lifetime value, hopefully boosting revenue and usage numbers in the process.
Primarily built for large publishers, brands and digital ad agencies, the new Appoxee software suite offers features like marketing campaign level management, goal setting, advanced tracking, message scheduling and improved segmentation and message targeting based on behavioral data, device attributes or other parameters.
In addition, Appoxee now comes with a cross-platform preview simulator, which allows its customers to test-drive and customize rich-media messages for a slew of smartphones and operating systems.
Top image credit: Thinkstock
Much like this gif, Aol added another layer of management last week. Aol Brands got its own CEO, Susan Lyne, to round out the triumvirate of Aol Networks CEO Ned Brody and Aol Membership CEO Jimmy Maymann. And, in an impressive sleight of hand, the company also lost a layer of management, with COO Artie Minson out, perhaps due to Patch’s less-than-inspiring performance.
Because Aol reorgs are almost always baffling, Arianna Huffington gets to be the boss of Huffington Post, not answering to Lyne even though HuffPost’s and HuffPost Live’s traffic and revenue will be listed as Brands revenue on Aol earnings reports. Being one of the more recognizable brands, TechCrunch too will get the kid-glove treatment, with Lyne promising me we’ll retain editorial independence.
“You’ve increased your traffic massively with little or no input from Aol. You don’t need help,” she told me in an interview, above, on her very first day in her new role. And on Arianna in the room? “The Huffington Post has a well-developed plan for growth, including Huff Post Live and more international expansion. There’s lots we can do together, but my time is better spent on areas that are not growing as fast.”
What else? Other than there are, as of yet, no plans for a TechCrunch “Swimsuit Issue”? Well, Michael Arrington is her favorite TechCrunch writer. Just wait until she gets a load of Lawler.
See the original post: Michael Arrington Is Newest Aol CEO’s Favorite TechCrunch Writer