Bestie: The Instagram-Inspired Shopping App on iOS [Interview]

bestie 650While mobile users have plenty of options for shopping on their mobile devices, Bestie’s self-titled app wants to be the best, offering an Instagram-inspired view of products from a user’s favorite stores, as well as other users. Available to download for free on iOS (and also available on the web), Bestie allows users to follow the stores they love, and view products posted in a selection of categories, from “women” to home and office products. Users can shop for items from directly within the app, or share their favorite items with friends, which can also be purchased.

After downloading Bestie, users are encouraged to follow their favorite stores and outlets, including Amazon, Etsy, DSW, Bloomingdales, Nike and many others. Like Instagram, each user has their own profile, and can also follow friends and strangers with shared likes and shopping tastes.

Each individual item on Bestie is presented as a large image, viewable one-by-one in a vertical scrolling view on the user’s news feed. Each item is displayed with any associated comments and hashtags, and the ability to save the item to a user’s collection for later viewing (think Pinterest boards) or buy the item now, directly from the app.

Users can either browse already existing products on each user’s profile, or upload their own, adding their own images and information before searching to find a matching item at any website, or using stock images from specific websites.

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When adding an item via a website, users choose a store from the app’s supported list, and are taken to the app’s web browser, where the store is presented in full for browsing. When users navigate to a product they’d like to share on Bestie, the app automatically converts the item to a sharable post, complete with images and prices. From there, other users can interact with the item as well, saving it to their own collections, commenting on the post or purchasing the item for themselves.

Elsewhere, users can connect to Facebook to find and follow their Facebook friends (or invite them to join), or can browse all Bestie accounts, based on those with the most followers.

We had a chance to chat with Bestie co-founder, Gary Lipovetsky, about the inspiration behind the app, and how users are engaging with the platform thus far.

Inside Mobile Apps: Can you tell us a bit about the history of Bestie, and what inspired the company to enter the crowded social shopping market?

Gary Lipovetsky: Bestie was inspired by my wife. I was out shopping with her when I saw her taking [a] picture of herself in the mirror and then feverishly punching away at her iPhone. I asked her what she was doing and she told me that she was texting the pic to her friends as well as posting it to various social media platforms. I asked her why she was doing this, and she told me that she wanted her friends’ opinions before making her purchase. Hmmm, interesting I thought.

So I went online and looked around. I found various social shopping sites, but none that delivered what I thought was a truly social experience where people can collaborate on products that they’re considering buying. I saw stores that have social elements. I wanted to create a social network with a focus on people and the products they obsess over. I felt that shopping online was kind of boring and anti-social, so I wanted to create a platform that made it fun, just like in the real world when you go shopping with your friends.

In terms of being a crowded market, I could see that there were a few sites out there, but I felt that this is a huge market. Besides, it’s not about first to market, it’s about being the best. I like taking concepts that have been proven out, and then innovate within the concept to make it better.

IMA: As mentioned, there are a lot of options for users looking for social shopping experiences, even on their smartphones and tablets. What makes Bestie the “go-to” app in the category?

GL: In a word, “simplicity.” I love Instagram; they did an amazing job in bringing people together through photo sharing. They did it in a very clean and simple way. Bestie presents our users with a “one at a time” feed of products posted and saved by the people and stores they follow. We try to eliminate clutter as much as possible.

IMA: What has the early response been like from users of the Bestie mobile app? Are you seeing particularly high engagement rates on certain days, or with particular user demographics? How about the most popular categories?

screen1136x1136GL: It’s still early for us, but I can tell you that we’ve had thousands of app downloads and we just submitted an updated version that should hit the app store in a couple of days. Yes, we’re seeing great engagement, people are coming back often to check their feed and they’re saving products to their profiles regularly. We’re seeing activity consistently throughout the week, but Thursday seem to see a significant increase. I’m guessing people start thinking about shopping closer to the weekend.

The demographics of our early adopters are women with almost 75 percent aged 18 to 34, but I feel the demographics will widen as different types of products are added to the site. At this early stage, the most popular category is women’s apparel, but we’re seeing a growing interest in pricey novelty items and home decor.

IMA: How is Bestie monetized? Does the company earn a percentage from the purchases made within the app?

GL: Yes, we make money when people purchase via the app, and also from our site. We have a lot of web traffic coming from desktop computers, tablets, and mobile smart phones. On the web, we place targeted ads that are tailored to each individual user, so they actually enhance the user experience and depending on the feedback we get from our users, we may start placing ads on the app as well.

IMA: Outside of viewing merchant promo codes, what sorts of updates can users expect in the Bestie app going forward?

GL: We’re actually developing a very cool feature that allows users to share the outfits they’re wearing on any given day. This came about because we found that several of our users started uploading photos of themselves basically modeling various items, so we’re creating functionality that allows them to do this easily and share the photos in our community and get feedback.

We’re also working on a function where people can sell their stuff to each other. Everyone’s profile will have a collection called “Things I Want to Sell,” and we’ll let our members communicate directly. There’s more stuff coming, so stay tuned.

IMA: Anything else you’d like to add?

GL: We’ve had a lot of fun developing the app, launching it, and watching users interact with what we’ve created.