Santa Monica, CA-based TopFloor, a video-based platform which lets brands embed links to purchase items in media like videos and Tweets, launched its platform to the public today. The company, which has been in beta for several months, was part of the Science incubator and has secured $6 million in funding to date from Google Ventures, Polaris Ventures, Crosslink Ventures, and Rustic Canyon Partners.
The idea came about when co-founders Brian Lee, founder of Shoedazzle and The Honest Company, and Mike Jones, the CEO of Science, were looking for ways to convert and monetize social audiences for brands and celebrities. “There’s this dichotomy between having these large social audiences but not being able to sell directly into those social audiences. After thinking about all the technology that existed and capabilities that are out there, they thought about how interesting it would be to create a social shopping layer over the internet where you could activate a retailer or a brand or a celebrity’s social audience and give them a shopping experience within the network they’re already spending a lot of time on,” CEO Rebekah Horne said in an interview.
The company works with brands to create videos based around their products, and gives consumers the ability to shop and purchase an item directly from videos. Links are added to videos using YouTube annotations, and when users click they’re directed to a sales page in TopFloor with the item ready for checkout. The company has also been approved by Twitter cards to insert its video links into Tweets as rich media objects that lets Twitter users discover, view, and shop through its videos directly from their feed. The company also wants to target Pinterest and Facebook as additional networks for their social videos.
TopFloor offers video production services, access to sell through its platform, and shipping and fulfillment if required (they currently only ship to U.S. addresses). TopFloor will operate on a revenue sharing model, getting an undisclosed percentage of each sale the platform generates. “We work with partners or vendors to develop videos, we handle the production as well as the platform,” Horne added. “We’re trying to get the balance right between content and commerce. We’re testing formats to see what that right balance is for the consumer experience and for their engagement. But with the combination of both those things, its about whether we end up with more branded content versus what would traditionally be described as an infomercial.”
Lately there has been a big trend towards creating a more native and seamless online shopping experience that is both socially driven, less intrusive and more integrated with platforms users already use on a daily basis. Companies like Referly, which announced $1 million in funding today, provide users with a platform to earn affiliate revenue by sharing and promoting products and services they own and love by creating their own curated storefront. There are also native video advertising networks like ShareThrough that give content creators new ways to monetize their sites, all resulting in an online ecosystem that will increasingly see the lines between social sharing and ecommerce becoming blurred.
The company will look to continue to iterate on the product, eventually rolling out an even more socially integrated online shopping experience, that could see users having the ability to purchase within their preferred social network. It will be interesting to see how the continuing commercialization of online social behaviour impacts users, and whether its something that will be welcomed or seen as the next version of banner ads.