CSA Exclusive: New sports e-tailer brings human expertise to digital shopping
A new e-commerce platform provides personalized recommendations – from actual people.
Chain Store Age recently spoke with Eduardo Vivas, CEO of online outdoor sports retailer Curated, about his company’s distinctive approach to e-commerce. Curated matches shoppers with real experts for free customized product recommendations.
Customers first fill out a quick questionnaire on Curated.com, providing basic information such as experience level, specific needs, interests, and budget. They can then chat with an expert via text, phone or email, review their unbiased product recommendations, and purchase selections directly from the site.
What made you think of the Curated model?
“The past several years of my career were focused on connecting people to opportunity. I founded Bright, a startup that used artificial intelligence (AI) to help automate the recruiting process. Bright was later acquired by LinkedIn, where I spent four awesome years running its talent solutions business. During that time, I learned a lot about the power of relationships and community, which I took with me to my next project - Curated.
“My founding team and I at Curated, who are all made up of former post-Microsoft acquisition LinkedIn executives, saw a significant white space when it came to shopping for specialty products online. The complex items you would typically want to speak to a knowledgeable in-store associate about first; like skis, snowboards, bikes, and golf clubs. Curated felt like an untapped opportunity and a natural next step for us.
“Our mission at Curated is to discover the best category experts and connect them with online shoppers who can truly benefit from their advice. Curated puts people back at the heart of shopping, bringing an engaging and collaborative experience to life online. It’s a new approach to e-commerce that not only helps people find the perfect outdoor equipment for the pickiest or most avid hobbyist, but also helps thousands of sporting enthusiasts around the country make extra money off their passion.”
How have customers reacted to expert consultation so far?
“The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. Our return rate is nearly 0%, which is really low compared to the industry standard of almost 30%, a byproduct of fast shopping in the world of Amazon’s one-click purchasing. What pleasantly surprised us was that in addition to customers being satisfied with their purchases, they enjoyed working with their expert so much that they asked us how they could tip them. We’ve since created a feature to allow tipping, and now, over half of our customers tip their experts post-purchase; another thing you don’t see often in the retail world.
“Our customers’ relationships with experts extend beyond their purchase, as well. After using gear they have purchased on Curated, customers often send pictures, videos, and chat with their expert about using their recommended items and continue their conversations beyond our platform.
Do you see virtual expertise as something that will become mainstream in omnichannel retailing?
“Yes, given the demand for that personal touch that’s lacking in traditional e-commerce. Today, nothing seems special on the internet - we’re not really shopping, we’re just buying - and Curated solves for this. While Amazon has nailed convenience and timeliness, Curated fills the white space left around buying specialty retail products online.
“I think virtual expertise will continue to grow as long as there is still that gap. Curated has discovered that there are experts with the desire to share latent knowledge and lots of consumers who want and need this expertise.
Would you ever consider opening or acquiring physical stores as other digital natives have done?
“We’ve thought of creating concept stores where experts could work out of. It’s definitely a possibility down the line.”