A new form of social commerce, tailored to luxury shopping and populated by a deep, yet curated, well of premium goods from around the world, stands ready to meet the market with a heady promise.
Luxury commerce platform The List wants to usher in the finely tuned digital metamorphosis this echelon of brands and consumers deserve. On Wednesday, the business announced a new iPhone app to deliver it, along with a high-profile new investor: Rachel Zoe.
The List is among the first backed by Rachel Zoe Ventures’ new vehicle for early-stage start-ups, the Access Fund.
“As a consumer, as a stylist, as an entrepreneur, this really checked all the boxes for me,” Zoe told WWD. A consummate luxury consumer herself, she found herself drawn to the model and the new features in the mobile app, which lay out a social commerce vision that she thought was sorely needed in the luxury space.
The framework begins with The List’s no-inventory model. Instead, the platform plugs into retail partners’ back end systems, scanning product images using computer version and accessing metadata. The technology can identify the items and pinpoint tags, categories and more from a pool of more than 300 attributes, then automatically clean up the images and pull product descriptions to populate the online store.
It also handles shipping, duties, pricing and transactions, while a wallet system can pay merchants more promptly than typical 30-day terms or longer.
It’s easy to see how convenient onboarding for merchants can translate into a robust selection for the customer. Right now, more than a million monthly customers across 190 markets can shop luxury the world over, including Armani, Balenciaga, Fendi and many others. More than 800 brands flow in through retailers in more than 40 countries, with sourcing primarily in the U.S., Europe and Japan.
A pricing algorithm helps customers determine the best choice between products, factoring in the final price and shipping time. It ranks options in a suggested chronological order to highlight the best price and the fastest delivery.
Now the new version of The List’s app brings social features to the mix. According to Andreas Skorski, founder of The List, this new front end blends with the backend technology and deep sourcing network to create something new for the luxury market.
One-on-one video in the app allows customers to connect with a sales associate or seller for a demo or to ask questions, similar to a personalized livestream. Plans are also in the works to expand into livestreams for larger audiences as well.
Customers may also follow favorite brands and stores or engage with sellers’ feeds, which contain shoppable images and videos.
Another feature, called Source Request, uses computer vision, this time to help shoppers find products. People with discerning tastes or a penchant for difficult-to-locate products can upload a photo and the system will scour the platform to find the item depicted, even if it’s lingering in the back room of a store four time zones away.
“It’s the first social commerce platform where you can actually connect the sellers, with the consumer,” Zoe said. “That’s really exciting, because there is, of course, luxury fashion marketplaces and sites that aggregate all the different sellers across the world or across the country. But at the end of the day, there’s this disconnect between you and the seller.
“For me, as someone who really knows product, and always wants to know a little more, source a little more, dig a little more, it’s such a dream.”
Given the luxury orientation, technology and ambition, comparisons to Farfetch may abound. But Skorski rejects that notion, citing The List’s “plug and play” approach to merchant partnerships.
“We were the first one to do [that],” he explained. “Farfetch or anyone else, they literally tell a partner, please send us all of your inventory. So you have to imagine a new season arrives and all of those pieces physically get sent to a production facility. They take the pictures, write down the details, build the category structure and all of that in the back. We don’t do that.”
He also points to the editorial content, including the social feeds. The algorithms offer a personalized experience, which makes for a combination of content, commerce and entertainment that, he said, is “the right environment to sell.”
Zoe agrees. While other platforms can add separation between the merchant and the customer, this content approach and experience does the opposite.
“What really differentiates it from everything else is that it is an advocate for you to develop your own relationship with the seller,” she said. “So not only is it great for the customer, but it also really empowers the seller to build their customer base and their relationship with the customer.”
For Skorski, having a fashion expert as an adviser has been invaluable for different reasons, including to help balance out a team filled with technical staff that hails from Amazon, Farfetch, Microsoft, Uber and more.
He and Zoe were introduced to each other during the pandemic at a public bench in Los Angeles. They were there because all the restaurants were shut down, he recalled.
Now he’s one of the first founders in Zoe’s Access Fund, a new venture capital investment arm for startups that launched roughly two weeks ago.
Skorski’s no stranger to fundraising, but Access Fund is structured a little differently. An AngelList rolling fund with quarterly subscriptions, it has a one-year minimum subscription for accredited investors with commitments starting at $100,000 per year, so there’s no sudden influx of cash.
It’s more about sustained advisement and support. In that way, Access shares some similarity with incubators, with guidance and access to a network across media, social, e-commerce, fashion, tech and finance, among other things. Zoe thinks of herself as a strategic partner who’s willing to roll up her sleeves and help.
“For us, it was really about getting our hands into becoming advisers, investors, in companies that continue to excite us,” Zoe said. “We get presented such amazing opportunities with such incredible companies that we just wanted to do more. We wanted to launch this fund, and I just love it.
“I’ve always loved being an adviser to companies, consulting, giving my opinion and seeing companies win,” she added. “Honestly, to formalize that and become a bigger part of it, it’s just really fun.”