It’s not easy being all things to all people, but being all things to a targeted segment sounds like a recipe for success, at least to Kollectin — a women-focused social commerce platform for fashion — and artificial intelligence may help it get there.
After four years, the L.A.-based company is coming out of stealth mode, debuting with a new AI sales assistant, the company told WWD.
The business, a blend of retail tools for indie sellers, a marketplace and a social network, allows everyday users of its app to open their own stores with merchandise from participating brands. It’s similar in spirit to Instagram Shop for creators and other social commerce initiatives that have come out in recent years to challenge traditional business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) models.
But it’s not exactly the same. Kollectin chief executive officer and founder Nadia Lee calls it “B2C2B,” she told WWD, because her business connects aspiring micro-entrepreneurs with sourcing.
Brands include Skies are Blue, Crescent, Sugarlips, Adina Eden, Pistola Denim and Z Supply, many of which “are the brands that show at MAGIC [the annual fashion trade show in Las Vegas],” Lee said. “Most usually wholesale their brands now, but during the pandemic or already before that, they realized they also want to go direct-to-consumer, and then they now have a website selling direct-to-consumer. And they’re actually finding a lot of difficulties and trying to sell direct-to-consumer themselves.”
Other brands, even those doing relatively well as a public-facing business, may still come to Kollectin as another channel, one where thousands of women help push their product.
Understanding this context is key, because the bot was created to help both sides of the retail equation, customers and sellers.
“It’s a personal shopper for the people who are buying, but also for the entrepreneurs who are building their business,” Lee continued. “It’s their selling assistant to help them get more accurate, faster and better sales.”
Like a “mini me,” the AI gets to know the seller, its habits and preferences and can even take some limited action. It’s a companion for solo entrepreneurs who often have no one else to lean on. The system can also see and serve up relational data.
“Because we’re a marketplace and we’re connected to all of this, 80 different brands and data, we’re able to use our chatbot to give you relational data, in terms of who you are as a shopper, when you come in, who recommended you, who you like in our community, [etc.],” continued Lee. “It’s multidimensional data … and because it’s in our internal proprietary database, we can serve it up to you accurately and quickly.”
The platform stores customer data, such as shopping, habits and behaviors. It also has social data. It knows who their friends are. People often wind up on Kollectin because of a referral asking “them to buy something or they’re conducting business. So there’s a lot of relational data between people,” she added. “So like, between me and my friends and my cohort of friends, there’s a lot of likenesses.”
Individuals can sign up in the mobile app, open a store and then start shopping or selling right away.
“We’re between a Shopify and an Amazon,” she explained. “If someone wanted to start a store and a website, they would have to go to Shopify to get a set of tools, subscribe and pay [monthly fees]. On Kollectin, we offer the tools Shopify gives you … but you don’t have to pay anything to start your business in three minutes.”
Notably, the platform integrates with Shopify, which allows it to connect to 80 brands at present.
For years, the retail sector has been enamored with AI, but amid the latest boom, it has only scratched the surface of what’s possible, and often those efforts were driven by major brands, national chains, large department stores, well-funded start-ups and others that had the ability to invest in these areas. Smaller operations hardly had the resources.
But the past year has seen an explosion of AI and development tools, which could mean plenty more start-ups like Kollectin may be preparing to change the retail game.