There’s no better traffic referral for stores than word of mouth. Today, that translates to sharing on social media. But instead of relying on organic reach, a new company named Wildfire Systems wants to turn those recommendations into a money maker for customers via a sweep of new apps called Wildlink — and major retailers are taking notice.
Wildlink is the brainchild of Jordan Glazier, a former eBay executive turned Wildfire founder and chief executive officer. The software’s premise is simple: It transforms product links shared between friends into Wildlinks that earn the referrer money — similar to affiliate marketing.
“The majority of how people spend time online is direct personal communication, whether it’s through social media, chat apps or text messaging,” said Glazier. “That represents over 50 percent of people’s time online. And within that, it’s an enormous amount of people recommending things to each other.”
He cited a 2015 Nielsen report, which stated what most people might suspect — that recommendations from loved ones are far more trusted than any form of advertising. According to its findings, 83 percent said they would act on recommendations from people they personally knew.
“People recommend to each other over 2.5 billion times per day — and so much of that is fashion, retail, home goods, travel and other things,” the ceo added. “Like, ‘Where’d you get that dress? I love it’.”
The concept of monetizing social messaging and word-of-mouth recommendations may not be new, but what stands out about Wildfire’s technology is its scope and purview. Glazier said Wildfire “built it to be ubiquitous. So Wildlink works wherever you can share a link, which is pretty much everywhere — Facebook, chat apps, email.”
The tech lives as a mobile or desktop app, running in the background so it’s ready to step in whenever the user shares a product page. That usage comes with a caveat for iPhone users, however. While it works automatically on Android devices and PC or Mac computers rather easily — the app just has to be running in the background — Apple does not allow that sort of access to its iOS mobile operating system. So, as a third-party developer, the company worked around that by adding Wildlink to the iPhone’s existing sharing menu. Users are paid via PayPal.
For merchant partners, the app’s appeal is as a motivational tool that can take personal referrals — which are already powerful in and of themselves — and pour rocket fuel on them. At least in theory.
Now out of the testing phase, the app will be tested once more by the broader public. That means the next few months — i.e., its launch phase — will be critical. But the signs look good so far. As an application that hinges on word of mouth, it’s notable that it’s already building some of its own.
“We haven’t done any marketing yet, and we already have tens of thousands of users. That’s all by word of mouth,” said Glazier, who notes that usage tends to increase over time as well, going from once per week initially up to four times per week. Of those shares, fashion constitutes a large portion. “What we’re seeing — from what people are recommending to each other — is that fashion and retail is the largest segment. [It] represents more than 40 percent of the total.” Health and beauty, he added, make up 13 percent.
To date, Wildfire has 20,000 merchant partners, including Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Sephora, REI, Ticketmaster, 1-800-Flowers, Walmart and Hotels.com.
Having just launched its apps, the company is already eyeing the future.
“We’re just getting started,” Glazier said. “We have a small team that’s principally engineering and product development. We’re about to go into our next round of financing this fall to build out our marketing team further.”
In essence, it will look to new ways to spread the word — which seems rather appropriate.