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With a mission to fuel small businesses, OpenSky is creating a marketplace for indie brands to flourish.
The social shopping Web site, which allows members to connect with friends, icons and experts, will launch another element to its site on May 1 to allow smaller companies — including beauty, fashion, healthy living and electronics — to open virtual shops on OpenSky.
“When you think of the challenges new businesses face, they struggle to reach new customers, to use their time wisely, to interact and engage with their customers to grow their businesses,” said John Caplan, chief executive officer of OpenSky.
To that end, the new platform will give brands the opportunity to receive orders, gain followers and share products, photos, recipes and stories that are pertinent to each company.
“As far as a brand, it is a really strategic move,” said Indie Lee, founder and ceo of her namesake skin-care line and one of the many brands to join OpenSky’s marketplace. “We’ve been growing in terms of reach. It’s hard for a brand given limited resources, but you are able to reach so many more incremental people through OpenSky.”
While endorsements helped put OpenSky on the map, this marketplace gives consumers a chance to directly interact with the brand.
For example, model, actress and OpenSky curator Molly Sims recommended natural skin-care brand Indie Lee to her followers and sales soared, and members continued to vouch for the products.
“The amplification from social connections really helped Indie Lee reach a far bigger audience than she could ever reach on her own,” said Caplan. “For Indie, she’s seen online sales growth of 300 percent, and that’s from OpenSky.”
Similarly, makeup artist Kevin James Bennett recommended makeup brand Whip Hand Cosmetics on OpenSky. “We think it’s going to be a central part of how we grow our brand, develop feedback and through customer service as well,” said Matt Cardwell, cofounder of Whip Hand Cosmetics.
According to Caplan, compared with a Facebook follower, an OpenSky connection is worth 27 times more to an emerging brand than a faithful follower is.
The site’s executives declined to break out figures, but industry sources estimate OpenSky’s marketplace could reach between $900,000 and $1,800,000 in its first year.
“These shops become the gateway to over 2.5 million members that are actively using OpenSky,” explained Caplan. “So the launch of the social shops for us is completing the social circle.”