At Copious, The Love Button Drives Social Commerce

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anyone with an item to sell can upload a photo, set a price, and wait for a buyer to come along and make an offer. Copious handles the credit card payments when a transaction closes; to reassure buyers, it holds the money in escrow until the purchased item arrives in the mail. The startup makes money by subtracting a 3.5 percent processing fee from the seller’s profits and adding a 6 percent fee to the buyer’s price.

But that’s where the resemblance to eBay or Craigslist ends. Copious tries to make the user’s experience “personal out of the gate,” Ehrlich says, by asking them to login using their existing Facebook or Twitter identity (90 percent of members choose to connect through Facebook). That lets the company immediately suggest a group of people to follow, meaning that there will always be some new items in the “feed” that appears on a new member’s Copious home page. There’s also a page that lets new users specify what kinds of things they like, from gadgets to purses to vintage shoes.

The Copious feed, which is the rough equivalent of the “Following” page on Pinterest, amounts to a personalized store where every item has been endorsed in some way by someone in a member’s network. “Everyone’s experience is unique based on who you are, as a function of your friends, the styles and categories you identified when we set you up, and the actions of the people you are following,” Ehrlich explains.

"Power seller" Althea Harper's page on Copious

"Power seller" Althea Harper's page on Copious

Equally important, every product page features a big heart-shaped button that lets you “love” a product, and a comment area where you can leave your thoughts about it. If you love or comment on a product, an update or “story” about that event will show up on the feeds of your followers, and in e-mail updates to those people.

The interplay between the Love button and the personal feed is where things really get interesting. All marketplace-based businesses face the same economic pressures: they have to acquire users and generate transactions at the lowest possible cost. The more people who see an item’s product page, the more likely someone will buy it. So Copious has poured a lot of effort into building mechanisms for story creation and sharing.

Ehrlich walked me through a hypothetical example involving Kaitlyn Barclay, who happens to be Copious’s community manager. In the example, Kaitlyn “loved” a black-and-gold handkerchief dress being sold by Kim, one of Copious’s leading sellers. Kaitlyn has 1,200 friends on Facebook, 200 followers on Twitter, and 50 followers on Tumblr, which means her actions created the opportunity for 1,450 stories to be shared across her networks.

But that was just the beginning. Kaitlyn also has 30,000 followers on Copious, and Kim has thousands of followers of her own. Also, 114 people had “loved” the handkerchief bag prior to Kaitlyn, meaning they were also destined to get updates about actions related to the item, both on their Copious home pages and in e-mail updates.

In all, Kaitlyn’s simple action in the example Ehrlich shared generated nearly 60,000 stories—most of them in the form of personalized e-mails, which happen to have very high open rates. That’s copious.

“That is the idea that makes the experience powerful,” Ehrlich says. “If you think about it, Facebook was also built off e-mail. When friends tag you in a photo, it’s like a person-to-person e-mail, not Facebook-to-person, so the efficiency is much higher.”

When people on Copious set up their profiles to receive e-mails when things are loved or followed or sold, Ehrlich says, “the result is this crazy, organic, viral, engaging experience where people are coming back in based on e-mail notifications. And when they do come back, they oftentimes buy things. I haven’t seen another commerce experience that’s doing this.”

Copious members can specify which of a dozen different events on the site should prompt an e-mail, so there’s an opportunity to dial back if … Next Page »

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Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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4 responses to “At Copious, The Love Button Drives Social Commerce”

  1. I have to admit, being in a business that uses email heavily too, that I always wonder who those people are that have time for a “crap-ton of email”, as Jon hilariously puts it. (We think so hard–too hard?–about being useful and not producing spam when we craft our emails.) It certainly softens the email bludgeon effect if it is person-to-person as Copious understands, and their competitor Yardsellr really makes hay with social sharing tools very well too.

    Jon is very astute in recognizing that Pinterest “sucked the discovery layer off of Etsy.” I would go further in saying that Pinterest recognized that their users probably perceive Etsy as mostly about shopping, with the exception of people who do avid crafting. Pinterest is much more about dreaming up a better future for yourself, which makes it feel less like a time-waster and more like therapy. I’m not sure that Copious can really draw on that oxytocin effect with a marketplace, but they sure have the cred to give it a college try.

    • Wade Roush says:

      Thanks as always for the comment Jules! I think you’re right that Pinterest has found a special formula. At some level it’s all about stuff, but the materialism isn’t front and center. The site is more about aspiration and constructing a self-image by curating the things you like. I don’t know if Copious can afford to go that far — it’s always going to be more about selling and buying.

  2. Bette says:

    Too bad copious doesn’t pay their sellers or respond to their emails.

    • Wade Roush says:

      Bette, if you have a specific problem with Copious that you don’t feel is being addressed, I can probably help put you in touch with some people there. Write to me at wroush at xconomy dot com.