Jai Rawat is the founder and chief executive officer of ShopSocially, a company that offers a cloud-based social app platform. Jai has over 15 years of experience in the industry and has worked in the B2B and B2C spaces. He holds a degree in computer science from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, and a master in computer science from Iowa State University. In this interview he describes how ShopSocially helps retailers to drive more revenue by creating user generated content and recommendations for their products and post those on social platforms.
Sramana Mitra: Let´s start with a personal introduction as well as one of your company. What is the analysis that you did with the market to come up with what you are doing now?
Jai Rawat: My name is Jai Rawat. I have been in the Valley for a few years and did a few startups before this one. This is my fourth startup. The idea behind ShopSocially came about towards the end of 2009. The original idea was to create a community where you could connect with your friends and look for recommendations for anything you may want to buy. What we realized is that currently people rely a lot on friends ‘opinions. If I am looking for a school for my kids, or if I am looking to buy a camera, I ask my friends for opinions. Most of these exchanges would happen over the phone, e-mails or face to face. But that knowledge gets lost after the conversation happens. Nobody else benefits from that.
I thought if you can create a community where you can ask those questions and get answers, those could be preserved for other people and they could benefit from it as well. That was the original idea behind ShopSocially. We created a user facing site, where you can ask a question when you are looking to buy something or want a service. Or after you buy something or got a service from somebody you can share that and say: “This is what I got.” Other people can benefit from that as well. We launched our site on October 2010. It did very well; we got some good user traction. But we realized that we were trying to change the behavior of users instead of just sending an e-mail or picking up the phone we asked them to go on a site and do this interaction. We tried to make it happen but we saw it wasn’t taking off as rapidly as we wanted it to. So we changed the model a little bit. We asked ourselves, “The technology platform we created, where users can share and ask questions – can we use that for online?” They would eventually benefit from these kinds of activities. So we created a SAS-based social commerce platform for retailers, where we have a suite of social modules that the retailers can embed into their e-commerce website to increase user engagement, sales conversion, social discovery, social proof, word of mouth amplification, etc.
Let’s say you are on a website and you are looking at a bunch of shoes and you are not sure which pair of shoes you want to buy. You can then create an equiry and ask your friends or family for their opinion. That way you are making a better buying decision by getting an opinion from somebody else as well as introducing that person to the brand or website. After you buy something, the website can give you an incentive: “Hey, you just bought this pair of shoes, why don’t you tell your friends about it?” When you are in this moment of euphoria, the chances are that you will tell your friends anyways. But if you do it through the website application we provide, the website also gets some credit. Everyone benefits. Over time we have added more and more social modules – social login, a live feed of what other people are buying, etc. The retailers embed those on their e-commerce website, and that is what ShopSocially does now.
SM: Let’s take a few of these retailers and do three interesting case studies, where you use your platform to its fullest potential.
JR: I´ll share with you the three most recent ones we announced. They are all small to mid-sized retailers. The most recent one we announced is LinenTablecloth. It is interesting, because it is not a category you typically associate with social. They added a few of these modules on their site. One of those modules is called Get-a-Fan. A lot of retailers are looking to increase their Facebook fan base. What they did in the past is trying to run contests and promotions on Facebook, saying: “Become a fan and win a trip to Hawaii.” Then they are getting a lot of Likes, but they are not necessarily fans, and they don’t engage later on when you post something.