It's sort of amazing—and by amazing, I mean amazingly depressing—that this is 2014 and there are still no great shopping apps. Our phones are permanently attached to our palms, and we can order food, cabs, even dates (oh, hey Tinder!) at the swipe of a finger. But if you want to buy a great pair of black boots, you're either going to have to go into a store or open up your laptop which is, OK, not that much work, but it's still more work than it should be.
The good news? We have one now. Spring is a new e-commerce app that might ~actually~ change the way you shop on your phone. It launched today—literally hours ago!—so we caught up with Ara Katz, the insanely stylish CMO who cut her teeth at Beachmint (yup, the same Beachmint that just merged with Lucky magazine) to find out what sets this one apart from all the others.
A word of warning, though, guys? It makes buying cool stuff almost TOO easy, so proceed with caution.
MTV STYLE: This is the coolest start-up office I've ever been in. How many people do you have working on this app?
ARA KATZ: Over 30! We're half engineers, and half marketing and fashion. And half women! Make sure you include that.
Impressive! How did Spring come to be?
It was a number of things. We love the seamless life that phones give us, but when we really thought about shopping, there's nothing on your phone. We are frustrated by downloading multiple apps and going to different sites and having a really bad checkout experience. We started to think about, from the consumer perspective, you know, just as shoppers, what would it mean to have a place to go shopping on your phone with all the brands that you love and you could also discover new ones all in the same place? We wanted to create that place on your home screen that you could check every day for new stuff.
We've curated a community of hundreds of brands that's much more about the way we shop. No one dresses head to toe in one price point. It's high-low. We wanted to figure out how to get fast fashion, emerging designers, luxury, beauty, lifestyle—everything—while creating an experience that brings new stuff to people every day.
The other big thing to solve was the checkout experience. People spend so much time on mobile but they don't check out. We also had to figure out how to get brands involved. They're seeing so much happening on mobile and they're seeing traffic come from mobile, but they don't know how to use mobile. The last thing that makes it super awesome is the immediacy and real-time quality. My background is in e-commerce, and if you look at a heatmap on e-commerce sites, everyone goes to new arrivals first.
We thought if we could solve all the things for the customer, all the things for the brands, put it in one place, and still have it be direct to consumer—just brands, not retailers—it would be a big win.
What kind of brands can we expect?
If you look at the brand mix, you can see it's everyone from Levi's to Proenza to Warby, which shows you that it's more reflective of your closet than if you were to walk into a retail store.
Your feed is comprised of the products that the brands you're following are posting every day. The nice thing is that brands control the images you're seeing, and they can use the photo carousel to tell really cool stories, like how they made something or, for makeup, they can show a tutorial. You also get zoom, so you can really see the details.
You can "love" something [similar to the heart feature on Instagram] which saves it, allowing you to keep track of the things you like. There's expensive stuff on here so it's a good tool if you want to save something for inspiration or save up to purchase it.
Now, for the most important question: How do you actually buy stuff?
Probably what we're most excited about is the checkout. You choose your size and after your first purchase, when you've saved your credit card information and shipping address, you just swipe to buy.
There's also a discovery aspect, right? What's that like?
There's a feature called "Discover," and we'll have bloggers, partners, and other people curate shopping lists. We have hundreds of influencers who will be contributing. Spring is about discovery, so it won't just be the people you're expecting. We want you to discover new people, too.
Do you have anything special planned for fashion week?
A lot of people will be doing something called "Shop the Shows," and you'll be able to get exclusives straight off the runway on Spring.
How did you get all of these amazing brands to participate?
It was a lot of work—literally hundreds and hundreds of meetings. To email someone and say, "We have no users, but you should dedicate bandwidth, inventory, time, and content to an app"? You just can't do that.
How much work do the brands have to put into it?
We make it as easy on the brands as we possibly could, but they still have to post every product. We built technology that hooks into their e-commerce system. We're not just an app—we built some serious technology. To buy something at the swipe of a finger, a lot has to happen.
Would you consider yourself a community, even though you're not actually following friends on it?
There's been talk about figuring out how to purchase from Instagram, but where I see my friends and where I experience my life visually is not where I want to buy a pair of black shoes for this thing I have next weekend. It's just not.
Spring is a community, but in a different way. It's a community in the sense that it's you directly connecting with brands. It's just that you're not following friends, you're following brands.
How collaborative was the process?
We really did build this with our brands. It feels like we got together with hundreds of brands and said, "Let's build a new retail channel!"
So go download it, why dontcha?