Belgium-based Shopigram launched in September as a mobile-first resale platform which let users take a photo of an item, upload it, and sell it other users in the Shopigram community. After recognizing the difficulty in making such a model work given the resources that the bootstrapped startup had, not to mention the variety of resale competitors including Hipswap, eBay, and Craigslist, it recently decided to shift its focus to become a platform for local brick-and-mortar merchants to quickly build their ecommerce storefronts and start selling their products.
CEO Vincenzo Ruggiero spoke with BetaKit about why they decided to shift directions, and the relaunch of the company’s platform with its new focus. “We decided to move away from this model for a lot of reasons, but mainly because it is too difficult a model for a startup company. We wanted to have more impact and be faster, so we had two possibilities, find a lot of money to grow really fast or change,” said Ruggiero.
The company recognized that retailers were a more reliable source of income as opposed to individual sellers looking to sell their items, especially because resale marketplaces rely on having a critical mass of buyers and sellers to be useful in local markets. With the change Shopigram now aims to be a go-to marketplace for people to shop for items from independent and local merchants including boutique clothing stores, home decor, culture, entertainment, and food. The platform is currently available in the company’s hometown of Brussels, with plans to expand to other major urban centers across Europe including Paris and London.
Merchants can get set up by adding photos of their products, either uploading them online or via the revamped iPhone app, making their own store catalogue available for browsing. Retailers can choose to just showcase their items online, or they can add a buy now option for those who want to buy and ship them. Local merchants can choose either to pay eight percent commission on each item sold through the platform, or pay a monthly subscription fee of €45 per month. In the near future merchants will also be able to add a custom-branded mobile app that’s fully supported for €95 per month.
“This is very cheap, this is very easy to set up. We visit a shop in Brussels, we have the mobile app and we can create the shop and sell something like 10 products in 20 minutes with the retailers. This is very easy, they don’t have to wait for some agency to create an online shop,” Ruggiero added. They will be supporting the classifieds site for another two months, and then shutting it down to focus on the new marketplace.
The pivot to being a platform for local merchants to create their own catalogue is very similar to Canadian rival Shopcaster, which also decided to focus on helping people buy items from local stores after pivoting from mobile resale marketplace HipSell. For merchants who want to sell directly to consumers and have their own devoted storefront, they also have the option of using services like Shopify to create their own standalone ecommerce store, however, according to Ruggiero, the benefits of going with a platform like Shopigram is that it attracts shoppers who might not know a store or product exists.
Shopcastr is active in Toronto and Vancouver right now, and will likely focus on North America with planned launches in Montreal and New York City, while Shopigram is looking to carve out a niche in the European market. The company will be looking to raise a seed funding round to add to its development team and build out the platform as it gets ready for its European expansion. However, it will have to make sure it’s drawing the right amount of traffic to make its service more attractive than the multitude of other options merchants have to bring their brick-and-mortar stores to the world of ecommerce. It pivoted to get away from a business model that relied on critical mass, but Shopigram will now have to get enough shoppers and retailers on board to make it a robust, active online marketplace.