A challenge for any company selling retail goods is to get consumers to acquire and use their mobile
apps. An app that debuted Thursday, though, might solve that problem by using strength in numbers. David Tisch, an angel investor at Box Group and former managing director of TechStars NY, debuted Spring, a mobile marketplace that offers fashion brands a direct line to consumers.
Spring creates a quasi-social network that lets shoppers follow fashion brands and purchase directly from them. The app has no inventory of its own, but instead acts as a middleman between brand and buyer, connecting consumers with a brand's existing e-commerce infrastructure. Products bought via Spring are shipped directly from their brand.
After a year of development, Spring launched Thursday on iPhone. Spring signed up dozens of partnering brands prior to launch, and debuted with 100 fashion brand partners, including Hugo Boss, Bonobos and Warby Parker. Another 350 brands are planned to roll out over the remainder of this year and into 2015.
Brands that sell via Spring are expected to offer an impressive shopping experience. They must make unique posts for the app and are not allowed to use existing photos and content feeds for their products.
To buy, the shopper browses through feeds and looks through the "lifestyle imagery" (photos of people using the products, instead of just the products) that accompanies each item for sale. Once the shopper has plugged in payment information (along with size and shipping information), a single swipe is all it takes to complete the purchase -- there's no shopping cart step that might pause the buyer to reconsider, as with Amazon.
When we reached Greg Girard, program director in Merchandising and Marketing Strategies and Retail Analytics for IDC Retail Insights, he said Spring fits well into a bigger trend.
"Brands want to get closer to the consumers -- to act more like retailers," Girard told us. "But they need distribution channels, and that's where this could help."
Spring takes a single-digit transaction fee from the seller, which it offers to lower if the seller offers such perks as free shipping or exclusive products on the platform. Vendors are in charge of everything from order fulfillment to customer service, including exchanges and returns.
"That mobile experience will continue to be key in this type of shopping," Girard said. "These brands want to weave shopping into broader areas like analytics and Web presence."
Spring, based in New York, has raised $7.5 million in venture capital from investors such as Box Group, Thrive Capital, Google Ventures and Lerer Ventures. It also has attracted investment capital from some fashion brands, including Coach, Uniqlo and Michael Kors.
Tisch co-founded the 26-employee company a year ago with his brother Alan. The two are Spring's chair and CEO, respectively. Co-founders include Chief Technology Officer Octavian Costache, an ex-Google employee, and Chief Marketing Officer Ara Katz, a co-founder of fashion startup BeachMint. A dozen engineers work on the app from Spring's office.
David Tisch has invested in more than 100 startups through his Box Group fund, including Fab, Flat Iron Health, Harry's and KitchenSurfing.