Q&A: How Tophatter brings a party feel to ecommerce

Tophatter is offering more than 10 million shoppers around the world a new ecommerce experience.

Its marketplace app lets users compete in 90-second auctions to win deals on jewellery, electronics, beauty and fashion goods, drawing on smart technology to give shoppers a unique experience with each visit.

Tophatter’s Director of Marketing, Malcolm Scovil, let Retail Connections in on how innovation and gamification helped this live auction marketplace became a buzzing ecommerce platform.

Retail Connections (RC): Tell us about the Tophatter proposition and what makes you stand out from your competitors?

Malcolm Scovil (MS): Tophatter is a pioneer in the mobile discovery shopping category, and we consider ourselves the “anti-Amazon”.

Shoppers compete in fleeting, 90-second auctions to win deals of up to 80% off jewellery, electronics, beauty and fashion. With more than 12 million users around the world, the company is on track to grow over 100% in 2017, selling $1 million worth of products a day.

Many marketplaces like Amazon focus on a ‘buy now’ experience where the shopper comes to search for a particular item, instead of ‘window shopping’ for items they might not know they wanted or needed.

On Tophatter, the user experience is closer to an Instagram feed, where there are approximately 100 products being auctioned at the same time. Each auction is fast about 90 seconds creating the fun and engagement of a mobile game.

RC: Give us an indication of your current sales performance and growth?

MS: We have about 12 million users around the world and the company is on track to grow by over 100% in 2017, selling over two million items per month. We’re focused on growing in our home market of the US and internationally.

In the past year, we started selling in the UK, Ireland, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Mexico, Spain, Austria, Germany and France.

RC: Explain what your smart technology entails. We like to hear of innovative technology use…

Tophatter is a both an ecommerce marketplace and a technology company. Many of our technology efforts right now are focused on personalising the shopping experience.

When a shopper comes to Tophatter and bids on a ring, browses shirts in the catalogue, or purchases a drone, all of that data is captured. Given our focus on mobile shopping, we also gather insights into scrolls, taps, hover times, push notification open rates, and other lightweight actions.

Tophatter’s engineers and data scientists build code and write algorithms so that the next time that shopper comes back to Tophatter they see items that make them think “I love that!” and “I didn’t know I wanted this!”

With over one million products, and customers in 14 countries bidding against each other simultaneously, the technology requirements to balance supply and demand around the clock provide a number of technology challenges to solve. There are many moving parts, and we’re certainly at the forefront of personalisation in ecommerce.

RC: Why would people shop with you rather than Amazon or eBay?

MS: Tophatter shoppers like to have fun while they shop. When you come to Tophatter, you can instantly see and feel the magic of thousands of shoppers winning amazing deals every minute of the day.

It’s more like walking into a party than visiting an ecommerce website. This excitement and fun of discovering new items and then competing against others for the chance to win them is what makes Tophatter so unique.

It’s worth noting that 90% of the top apps in the Android and Apple app stores are mobile games. This shows us that users are downloading apps to provide themselves with entertainment, not just a service.

RC: Talk to us about how your brand is received in different markets, and your international strategy

MS: We recently announced our Series B funding round of $21 million to support our international expansion. One year since launching outside the US, international countries account for 15% of our total sales. We plan on growing that significantly early indicators are strong that there is demand around the world for a mobile shopping experience like Tophatter.

We’re in 12 international markets now, and each country provides new learning experiences. In Europe, our expansion strategy is focused on partnering with strong local teams and technology platforms.

Our main partner there is Pivot International. They work with us to introduce Tophatter to experienced ecommerce sellers who are looking for new marketplaces to grow revenue. We also partner with inventory management platforms like ChannelAdvisor, Linnworks, SellerCloud and others to add large amounts of inventory to the marketplace. Payment partners like Payoneer and WorldFirst further help us integrate into the established community of international ecommerce sellers.

In China, where we have a fast-growing team in Shanghai, we’ve discovered that sellers move extremely fast and are aggressively expanding on newer marketplaces like Tophatter. Our strategy is to continue to hire and partner with smart teams with international ecommerce experience, and build partnerships that help Tophatter reach more shoppers around the world.

RC: What are the targets for Tophatter in the 12 months ahead?

MS: At Tophatter, we use a framework called Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) to prioritise our goals and activities each quarter. Our targets all flow towards positioning Tophatter as a billion-dollar business.

Over the next 12 months we have targets on revenue and profitability milestones, improving the Tophatter brand, expanding into new countries, making our personalisation technology more robust, adding automation to our support team’s capabilities, and operating more like a public company. Perhaps most importantly, we’re investing in supporting and growing our team.

It’s an exciting time, and we’re looking forward to working with the international seller and shopper community in the months ahead.

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