"What the heck is Wanelo," my tech-savvy girlfriend whispered to me during this year's SuperBowl game, after seeing several alerts pop on the email account she monitors for her tween daughter. I had to admit I was likewise stumped. Until that moment, I had never heard of the social network, which is image-focused (like Pinterest) but that really (at its heart) is about sharing product information.
Actually, it's kind of like an uber gift directory or wish list that transcends specific product categories or retail establishments.
The rather unusual name is a mashup of the following words: Want. Need. Love. When I last checked, there were more than 8 million registered users and more than 6 million products listed by those users.
What really sparked my interest in the site was an item I saw a few weeks back, referencing a Piper Jaffray report on the social networks that are most popular with 13- to 19-year-olds. Want to guess one of the top write-in responses? You'd be correct if you mentioned Wanelo, which was also one of the most popular online shopping destinations.
When I pointed this out in June, a Wanelo spokeswoman pointed out that while the young demographic is indeed big, the following among both men and women is building.
Any small retailer that is cultivating its e-commerce business will be interested to hear that the site is activelly encouraging boutiques, stores and marketplaces to create a store page (there are currently more than 200,000 of them). You don't have to pay anything to do this: If someone has posted products that you sell, you can "claim" them and organize how they are presented with reference to your online storefront. You will be identified as the store owner or manager on the site. Urban Outfitters, as an example, has more than 1.6 million followers.
But you don't have to be a big store to benefit. One example is Blackbird Tees, which sells ethically made apparel and was recently featured on the Wanelo blog. The company, which started selling on Etsy in 2009, has more than 69,000 Wanelo followers. There are close to 220 products associated with its store page.
As I was writing this post, I wondered whether there might be similar sites of this nature. And I actually received pitches related to two. One is called fancy (as in, "I fancy that new flat screen television, don't you?") The site describes itself as part store, blog, magazine and wish list. It doesn't just cover products, it also offers up curated social recommendations for things like vacations. And it also has set up a whole program encouraging participation by retailers and brands.
Another social "product discovery" tool that I heard about in late June is BabyList, which just received $620,000 in seed funding from 500 Startups, Okapi Venture Capital, Altair Capital and a number of individual investors. The site was founded by a former Amazon.com developer, and it lets parents or parents-to-be create a registry of items that span different stores and also different services. So, for example, you might be able to list an eco-friendly diaper service as well as homemade apparel items from local stores.
So far this year, 10,000 registeries have been created, covering more than 450,000 items. In May, more than $500,000 in gifts were purchased off BabyList, according to the company.