Tech-savvy consumers are certainly no stranger to interest-based social-sharing websites like Pinterest, and e-commerce aggregator sites such as Polyvore and ShopStyle. A New York-based start-up, however, has ingeniously combined both in its social fashion platform, catchily called Brick & Portal.
Currently still in the beta-testing stage, Brick & Portal operates like a shopping aggregator site offering a large inventory of products from various merchants – but with a very attractive difference. Instead of retailing products directly to consumers, it allows individuals to open online stores, and stock it with items they love and would recommend to those in their social networks.
Example of Brick & Portal Store
In a nutshell, it means that now, no matter where you are in the world, you can be an online shopkeeper merchandising apparel, accessories, beauty, home and food products from over 150 (and counting) top global retailers and brands with an inventory of more than 3.1million items.
Names represented include Farfetch, Topshop, StyleBop, Bloomingdales, Saks, Paul Smith, Acne Studios, Rag & Bone, Derek Lam, Nars, Dean & Deluca, and even Sasa of Hong Kong. Unlike opening a store on eBay, Etsy or your own blog, you no longer need access to a physical inventory of products.
Elaborating more on Brick & Portal’s business concept and model was its founder and CEO, Anjelika Kour, who was in Singapore recently on a whirlwind Asia tour. “Our USP is curation – we cut out all the noise that you would traditionally find on a department store or shopping aggregator website, and direct you to the things you want to buy through the sellers or personalities in your social network or whose style you admire. It is a new way of shopping. It changes how people enter the shopping stream.”
1, 2, Sell
For sellers, Brick & Portal offers a user-friendly interface and tools to allow them to customise their personal storefront quickly and effortlessly. You create your store name and unique URL, select the wallpaper and colour scheme, then add images, text and items. The next step is to share your new store with your social network, then collect points for each item that sells.
The points may go towards your own purchases, or you could cash them out. Brick & Portal doesn’t charge users a fee, but it takes a cut from the sales revenue as agreed with the merchants.
There are currently more than 200 stores so far, some opened by the most influential online personalities from across New York and Europe. The focus currently is largely on fashion and beauty, but Anjelika says that the range of stores will expand to include other categories as the company signs on more brands. “Electronics is huge, and chefs curating kitchen supplies is another exciting development in the retail scene,” says the entrepreneur, techie and former model, who launched the business concept this September.
Demo of Brick & Portal
Upping the Ante
What makes Brick & Portal special in the online shopping space is its flexibility and ease of use. You’re not just able to create a unique storefront, you could also treat it as a blog with a retail element. The powerful platform loads instantly, doesn’t lag, and is a robust system that provides filters to facilitate painless and quick product selection.
The infinite scrolling interface and dynamic inventory management constantly update your feeds and products, updating prices and availability instantly. When a product is no longer in stock, you’d get an alert to remove it, or the system automatically deletes it three days after notifying you.
Within each link of a product is a direct deep tracking tool that identifies every sale that is made through your store, upon which you are credited with points immediately. There are three ways to cash out: via Paypal for Singapore-based users, electronic giftcards, or donating it to charity (starting March 2016).
For brands and retailers, Brick & Portal offers them the potential for more targeted marketing and collaborative efforts. Explains Anjelika: “They are able to directly identify the stores that are sending them traffic and revenue. Instead of shooting in the dark by reaching out to thousands of bloggers and social network personalities, the brands are now able to foster stronger relationships with the key players and work closely with them.”
At this point, user recruitment is by-invitation only. The good news: Brick & Portal is seeking to expand across Asia Pacific, and is actively looking to partner up with more merchants and recruit bloggers and social network personalities as users in cities like Hong Kong and Singapore.