Instead of fretting over shopping cart abandonment, retailers wanting to move merchandise through mobile sales should abandon shopping carts altogether.


That’s the advice from Harper Reed, who served as chief technology officer for Barack Obama’s re-election campaign and occupied the same role at T-shirt marketplace Threadless before that. Today Reed and three fellow Obama campaign alums are officially launching Modest, a mobile commerce tool they’ve been working on for the last year. The Chicago-based company is also revealing funding from investors that include Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt, Mercury Fund, Pritzker Group and 500 Startups. The amount of the round was not disclosed. 


“We came off the Obama campaign, where we did a bunch of big problem solving. But one of the problems we didn’t solve was how do you do ecommerce well on a mobile phone?” recalled Reed. “We’re kind of like, I can’t believe this a problem that has yet to be solved.”


So they took it on. What they’ve come up with allows mobile shopping without a cart and allows retailers to set up an app from scratch or integrate the technology into an existing app powered by commerce platforms such as Shopify and Magento. For consumers, the Chicago-based company’s technology streamlines in-app buying to an experience that’s more akin to ordering an Uber than the multi-step checkout path typically found online.  


While many have pegged the comparatively small screen size of mobile devices as among mobile commerce’s thorniest challenges, Reed and an 18-person team that includes Dylan Richard as chief technology officer say that perspective is misguided. It’s not the screen size, but a purchasing process held over from the early days of the Internet that’s creating barriers at a time when more people are using mobile devices than ever before. Last year, mobile sales grew 80 percent to reach $84 billion, according to Internet Retailer. 


“You enter your credit card, you enter your address twice, you click next and you’re just kind of like, ‘I just want these shoes.’ And so often you’re like, ‘I’ll just do it on my desktop,’” said Reed, Modest’s chief executive officer. 


Rather than re-designing or adapting the purchase path that occurs on Web sites to fit mobile screens, Modest aims to deliver mobile commerce with fewer steps to complete a transaction, transparent pricing and the option to bundle tax and shipping charges into a product’s listed price. Tested in beta by small retailers such as Wildflower and Slow Factory, the approach is especially well-suited for selling products to shoppers already familiar with a brand. Reed envisions companies with fan bases that re-order items or seek out new releases or styles. The tool can assist these buyers complete a transaction while waiting in line or riding public transportation rather than waiting until they are in front of their computers. 


Using a “free-mium” pricing model, the company offers a branded version of the service for free, while a professional subscription is free to retailers for the first six months and $200 a month after that.

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