The Cools is primed to be the next big thing in e-commerce.
Olivier van Themsche created The Cools as an online marketplace that combines commerce, content and social media. Here, van Themsche explains his unique concept.
What is The Cools?
The Cools is a marketplace where a curated selection of brands can sell directly to the consumer. However, we’re not an e-shop and we’re not a content site; we’re a platform that links brands with consumers, almost like an extension of the brand’s website. We are not editing a brand’s mix or offering our point of view; we allow each brand to manage its own profile. The brand decides what pieces to sell and creates content for its own page. We search the market for emerging brands and they pay us a 12 percent commission on retail sales. This disrupts the current wholesale model because brands can make 4 to 6 times more profit. The Cools provides the tools to sell and offers an active community [of readers and shoppers]. Mass market brands can sell directly to consumers on platforms like Amazon or eBay, but emerging brands might not be able to sell on those marketplaces. We want to become the platform for those influential, quality brands.
How did the concept originate?
The original concept came to me when I was living in Paris and owned a PR/event company. My friends were very stylish and always wearing cool, rare pieces from all over the world, but it was never easy to find where to buy these brands. So I came up with the idea to create a platform that sells them all in one place.
Explain the site’s social aspect.
The social aspect of the site acts as inspiration between users, the same way I was inspired by my friends in Paris. A site can have an algorithm that tells consumers “if you like this then you will like that,” but unfortunately, it doesn’t work all the time and that’s why the human factor is important. In June 2012, we launched as a members-only site and everyone created a profile (we had 50,000 members at that time). Now it’s open to the public and users can browse the site without creating a profile. However, if they want to interact or comment on other users’ and brands’ pages, then they must register and create a profile. Users can post images of products sold on the site, as well as other images, videos or links to their personal pages. (Editor’s Note: The Cools opened to the public in April 2013 and is free to use.) Eventually users create their own personal style magazines. The platform is constantly updating because people post often. Everyone’s profile is public, but communication between users and brands can be private. We also have a magazine section where we profile certain designers, tastemakers and brands. We try to update the magazine with new content every day.
What do you sell on The Cools?
[Comission on] e-commerce is our main revenue stream. We sell style and lifestyle products: fashion apparel, accessories, footwear, furniture, bicycles, etc. We currently have 300 brands and it’s split about 50/50 men’s to women’s. In men’s, we carry designer contemporary brands like Costume National, Public School, Howes & Baum, Feltraiger and Field Scout (we have a solid range of products from $300 to $800 retail). When consumers buy a product, they fill out a seller rating and if the ratings are not good, we get in touch with the brand in order to maintain the quality of the platform. If the feedback is not at the level of what we expect we either push them in the right direction or we take them off the site. We have a team that helps the brands get set up and assists them in that process. We do offer a service to photograph products if a brand needs images, but then a higher percentage of commission will apply.
How are you promoting The Cools?
Our marketing has been pretty organic until now (social media, etc.). We’re going to start doing paid marketing like online advertising and a street campaign in New York (then in LA). We’re throwing monthly events in New York, too. We did an event in Paris but our main focus is on the U.S. market (currently 58% of sales). We want to do PR for the brands, so we’re going to launch and promote exclusives and collaborations to get press and sales.
Fast Facts on The Cools
Unique Visitors: 190,000
Page Views: 2,199,406
Membership Demographic: 18-30: 51%; 22-30: 44%; 22-40: 75%
Female: 63%; Male: 37%
Traffic Location: USA: 58% (of that, NYC: 31%, CA: 8%); Canada: 2%;
Europe: 31% (of that, FR: 11%, UK: 6%, IT: 2%); Other: 12%
Since opening to the public in April 2013:
-Purchases on the site were up 250%
-Average time per visit to the site was up 130.8% with returning visitors averaging 19.2 minutes per visit
-Overall unique page views were up 53%