The site works as a promotion and mobile payment platform. Once users sign up, Chirpify sends them promotions on Twitter, similar to a flash sale. Recent items offered included a Green Day album, screen-printed t-shirts and Sorel boots. If the customer is interested in the item, they respond to the tweet with "buy," and the item is on its way. Chirpify is gaining traction, with more corporate sponsors and tens of thousands of users.
Here, CEO and founder Chris Teso talks about the future of mobile commerce.
Ashley Lutz: How did you first come up with the idea for your business?
Chris Teso: About 18 months ago, I was selling stuff on Craigslist and also noticed a lot of friends and family selling stuff on eBay. People would tweet about the stuff they were selling, and the tweets would take you back to the checkout process on those websites.
AL: Why do you think businesses have struggled to make mobile commerce work in the past?
CT: I think that other platforms haven't quite nailed how to engage customers. For instance, some brands were going to Facebook and just kind of putting items from an e-commerce site on a Facebook page. The customer has no incentive to buy the item there instead of on the company's website. It's not any more convenient for them and the experience isn't tailored. But we've made it so that it's a part of the person's experience on Twitter or Instagram. They don't have to go anywhere special or do much different than what they're already doing. That convenience is appealing.
AL: What has been surprising for you about starting your business?
CT: I expected to be selling traditional merchandise, like shoes or clothing. While we've had our fair share of stuff like that, the process actually works great for selling music, too. People can get an album at a discounted rate, and then they get a link to download it. The platform works really well for digital music, which I wouldn't have necessarily expected. And the artists don't have to pay a large transaction fee the way they would from iTunes.
AL: And you're not just selling?
Teso: Right. One rewarding thing we've been able to do is use it as a platform to give to charities. We can tweet out "Donate $5 to disaster relief" or whatever the event may be, and people can donate right there.
AL: What will social commerce look like in the future?
Teso: I think it could become a model even more appealing to customers than e-commerce. Instead of just offering advertising on e-commerce sites, we're offering a seamless platform. I believe that's the only way to succeed at social commerce.
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