ShopLocket is launching today to let users embed and sell a product anywhere, no storefront required. Somewhere between selling an item on Craigslist and setting up an online store, it allows users to embed a product for sale anywhere they’re already driving visitors – Facebook pages, blogs, their own website – instead of directing people to a storefront on a tool like Shopify, all without writing a line of code.
Founder Katherine Hague got the idea while looking for a way to sell some extra t-shirts she had made for her consulting business. She wanted to sell them from her blog but quickly realized that setting up a storefront on a platform like Shopify didn’t make sense since she only had a few items to sell, and it wouldn’t justify the cost of setting it up (plans on Shopify start at $29/month). “I thought okay, there’s got to be something as nice as Shopify but for what I want to do,” Hague said in an interview. “I looked around and my options were eBay, a PayPal Buy button, Craigslist, and there wasn’t something that was nice and simple and cheap that I could just put in a blog post or a Facebook page easily.”
Hague started working on ShopLocket in September 2011 with co-founder Andrew Louis, and quit her job to work on it full-time in November. She says the tool is ideal for anyone looking to sell one item like an ebook, album, or t-shirt. “We want everyone who falls below the threshold of needing that shopping cart or needing something like a Shopify or a Magento,” Hague said. “They just want a quick, easy solution.” The company has funding from Toronto-based investor Heather Payne, who saw a demo in early November and decided to invest on the spot. “I never once had second thoughts. I’m more excited about ShopLocket‘s potential now than ever,” Payne said in an interview.
To sell a product on ShopLocket users enter product details including the name, quantity, sizing variants (for clothing), description, price, and images. There is also the option to customize details – users can set an expiry date if it’s a limited time offer, show comparison pricing for a sale item, and specify taxes and shipping rates. Users can pick from several widget styles, which all include the ability to embed, share, and buy directly. Once published the product can be embedded (similar to embedding a YouTube video with a snippet of code), or shared with a link. “People can embed whatever you’ve put together on their site, and now if you change your price, if you change the title, if you change your photos, it will change wherever anyone else has shared your product too,” Hague said. Listing a product is free, but there’s a $2 publishing fee when the first item is sold and a 2.5 percent transaction fee per sale. The site integrates with PayPal, with additional payment options being added soon.
Startup Gumroad launched in early February and is taking the idea of simplified online selling one step further, allowing users to sell digital content with just a link. The company was started by Sahil Lavingia, who was on the founding team at Pinterest and has worked with Turntable.fm. Like ShopLocket, Gumroad allows users to sell content (songs, code, unused designs) without a storefront. But Gumroad only requires users to specify a file and set a price, then share a link – payment is handled by the company before the buyer is given access to the content – and it’s focused exclusively on digital content, not physical items. Gumroad accepts all major credit cards and takes five percent plus $.30 of each transaction. Lavingia says he may add PayPal support in future, but it would take away from the user experience. “Enter in your payment information and your email address. Hit pay. Get the thing you want. That’s it,” Lavingia said in an interview. He said they’re working on adding support for physical items.
Competitor Kout is another company tackling simple e-commerce solutions. The AngelPad company allows merchants to sell physical or digital items with a link that corresponds to a one-page checkout where they can pay with credit card or PayPal. They are targeting what they call “micro merchants,” ones with no need for a full store. Kout is in the process of closing a seed round of funding, and has $20,000 from the 10x accelerator. Founder Devan Koshal started working on the idea in 2009, and says Kout will launch in May. “It’s a fun problem to solve, but it’s a hard one, but we’ll open up the beta to the public very soon,” he said in an interview. “As we deal with all types of products (digital, physical, and services) not just digital things get complicated in terms of fraud and general user flows.” The 20 most active merchants in Kout’s private beta have been averaging $600 in sales per month.
These simplified selling solutions bring up the issue of security. One benefit to using a solution like eBay is that there are built-in ratings for merchants. Anyone buying something from ShopLocket, Gumroad or similar solutions doesn’t have that peace of mind, though PayPal does offer the ability to file a dispute against a merchant.
And these solutions are only effective for sellers with one or two items. Hague recognizes that ShopLocket is only ideal for a merchant who has few items to sell, and eventually customers with multiple products to sell will need to upgrade to a more robust solution. “We joke with the guys at Shopify about doing a ‘graduate’ button,” Hague said. “Our goal is to make it the simplest way possible to sell. So we don’t want to start building the huge back-end system. We want to be compatible with the existing ecosystem.”