Shoppers have an unprecedented number of options today thanks to the advent of e-commerce.
But John Caplan, the CEO of OpenSky, noticed that a key part of shopping was missing from the web.
“Physical retail is over, yet shopping online isn’t always a great experience,” Caplan said in an interview at OpenSky’s New York headquarters. “Our site is the online equivalent to going to a flea market with a friend.”
Caplan founded OpenSky in 2011. Since then, the site has amassed 2.5 million members.
“Many e-commerce sites today act as search engines,” Caplan said.
For example, someone could go to Walmart.com and type in “toaster.” But the results don’t include recommendations and aren’t necessarily tailored to the consumer, making shopping online largely impersonal.
At OpenSky, the products members find are tailored to their interests and the recommendations of friends and experts.
“Shopping happens between people and is a social activity,” he said. “As a society, we were beginning to lose the joy of shopping together.”
Many companies have tried to get on the social commerce trend. Fab.com, which showcases people’s favourite designs, has more than 10 million members. One Kings Lane and Ideeli are flash-sale sites that encourage members to invite and interact with friends.
But OpenSky lets members interact with friends. They can also follow any of the site’s 2,000 vendors for new products.
“We’re harnessing the social experience and word of mouth so members are more likely to love the items they find,” Caplan told us.
Another thing that makes OpenSky wildly appealing is its celebrity curators.
Members can follow experts and celebrities like Serena Williams, Bobby Flay, and Martha Stewart for product recommendations.
“It’s easy to find stuff on the internet,” Caplan said. “But it’s harder to find stuff you love.”
Caplan said OpenSky’s most prominent customers are women between 35 and 45.
“These women have money to spend and they love finding out what their friends like and getting product recommendations,” he said.
Here are some photos showing OpenSky’s different features:
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