Today, we are going to introduce our next website of the month: US based The Cools is a true social commerce marketplace. Officially launched June 2012, The Cools offers 300 selected fashion and lifestyle brands now. Here, Olivier van Themsche, CEO and founder of The Cools, discusses the concept and the inportance of social media for selling. Interview by Maria Hunstig

Please explain the concept behind The Cools.
The Cools is a true social commerce marketplace. The official launch of The Cools was in June 2012, and was a closed/members-sign in platform. On April 11, 2013 the site became open to the public. Now consumers can freely explore the over 300 selected fashion and lifestyle brands, along with the tastemakers’ and other members’ profiles in our community.

Our platform allows brands to create and manage their own shop pages and provides users with direct interaction to ask questions, engage in conversations, and enjoy exclusive content and products directly from the brands themselves.
We supply brands with all the tools they need to share their unique story and vision, grow their following, express their voice, and increase their sales online. For users our site is a unique destination to discover and explore a curated assortment of cool brands and products.

What’s the idea behind the concept and why did you decide that starting the page would be a good idea?
Olivier van Themsche, CEO and founder of The Cools
Olivier van Themsche, CEO and founder of The Cools
When I was living in Paris my most stylish friends were always wearing great pieces from amazing brands that I never heard of. Sometimes these brands were popular in a certain country but with no distribution in France. You had to go to London, New York or Tokyo to find these brands. This led to my idea to of creating a platform where people could discover all of these brands in one place and buy their products in a unified marketplace; a place where the consumer can follow tastemakers, bloggers, and also other members of a community that share their tastes. By following the members who correspond to your style you’ll customize your experience and will enjoy content personalized to you. Consumers become their own style editor and get inspired by the brands and the community.

How many members do you currently have? What sort of people are your main users?

Since our site became open to the public on April 11th, our traffic has had a great increase. We have a range of domestic and international members who belong to our site. The majority of members are based in metropolitan areas and in the age range of 22 to 40 years old.

How do you get in touch with the brands that are selling on The Cools?
We have a team of experienced ambassadors located in different cities around the world along with our in-house brand team that travels to specific markets to select leading and emerging brands. This helps ensure a quality level of sellers and offers a curated selection of products for users to discover.

What does a brand or seller need to be accepted to introduce to the The Cools portfolio?
The criteria for selling on The Cools are a culmination of various aspects. Creativity and craftsmanship is so important to us to ensure that each brand selling on our site will meet the needs of our community. We look at the story behind each brand and make sure that it matches with our own direction. Another key aspect is that each one of them is capable of delivering goods and meeting the requirements of our customers to ensure the best possible social and shopping experience.

'We look at the story behind each brand and make sure that it matches with our own direction.'
'We look at the story behind each brand and make sure that it matches with our own direction.'

How important is the social media / community aspect for your website? How can it promote shopping behaviour?

The social / community aspect is one of the core components of our site and one of the keys in making our platform a unique experience. Brands can post content and tell their unique story through their shop pages. Along with this, we give them all the tools they need to express their voice and gain exposure through a social community.

As a user you have direct engagement with your favourite brands. Many social curation platforms recently from Svpply, The Fancy, Nuji, etc. allow users to share products, however they act as affiliates and do not offer a direct connection with the brands. We differ in having a curated marketplace that provides direct consumer to brand interaction. This offers the customer more inside knowledge about the products they are buying and helps the brands with direct feedback from demographics they are targeting.

Additionally we allow users along with the brands to post content (photos, videos, links). By uploading content and following the other members of the community you can be inspired and become your own style editor for everyone to see.

What have been the biggest challenges of running the site so far? And the greatest joys?

One of our challenges is introducing this new sales model and platform to the brands. We are giving the power back to the brands and eliminating the middleman in order to offer a direct channel of interaction with their customers. With every new model, it does take time for people to understand all of the benefits, but we are seeing leading brands from around the world becoming more and more excited about the site.

The model allows brands to make 4 to 6 times more profit then other eshops and retailers. We are disrupting the current industry norms, which is exciting and one of the greatest joys. Our model as we progress will bring more interactions and better value for the consumers.