Combining fashion and technology is no easy feat. Add social, mobile and e-commerce into the mix, and the equation gets even more complicated. But that’s what Vitrina has set out to do.
Brazil’s first mobile fashion marketplace, Vitrina allows users to buy, sell and browse clothes and accessories in a fast, simple, safe environment. It promotes a social interaction among its users in order to create a community as well.
We met the startup back in September, when it landed a R$1 million (US$420,000) investment from Christian Ribeiro (Ribeiro is the Executive Director of BoaCompra, a UOL company). Since that time, it has managed to expand its pool of partnering retailers from 300 to upwards of 750 and launched a new iOS app. And while it’s not available for Android just yet, something will be in the works soon.
We chatted with Vitrina CEO Saulo Marti about the fashion-tech dynamic, the mobile landscape in Latin America, and what the arrival of eBay’s fashion mobile app means for startups in Brazil.
Emily Stewart: There are a lot of startups out there right now trying to combine fashion, tech and social elements, but none is really standing out so far. Why do you think that is, and how do you plan to differentiate?
Saulo Marti: Firstly, I believe one of the issues is market education. While Brazil is a very socially engaged country and we’re growing exponentially in terms of e-commerce, we still see a lot of trust issues. Brazilians tend to trust only bigger companies and need a lot of time to understand, trust and accept newer tools that involve purchasing.
Secondly, I think the main issue is execution. I truly believe our execution, design, experience and simplicity are what set us apart. Communication, marketing, etc. are also extremely important and something we’re very committed to.
ES: eBay’s started to make some moves in Brazil. What’s your take on what it’s done so far? How has the fashion e-commerce industry reacted?
In terms of reaction, obviously everyone is looking at eBay right now. We’re all expecting big things from a giant, and we (as well as any other possible competitors or partners) are trying to anticipate their next moves. We feel eBay can’t properly handle the social aspect due to their style as a company, something we’re very focused on.
ES: You recently announced a R$1 million investment from Christian Ribeiro. Given his success with BoaCompra, what does he bring to the table for you as an investor?
SM: He brings a lot of experience in terms of payment systems, management and entrepreneurship in general. He founded a very successful company at an early age, and he’s dealt with many of the same issues we deal with trying to grow your company and validate your business model. He’s really helped us find key points to measure and keep a close eye on as well. He’s also been very open and receptive of our strategy. He believes in our potential as a team above everything else, which is as humbling as it is empowering. He gives us a lot of freedom to really build our product and platform and helps us with any pains along the way.
ES: What sort of numbers are you seeing right now in terms of traffic and users? What sorts of trends?
SM: We’ve reached all of our goals, and we’ve received plenty of info. We’ve seen the need to develop new tools, new functionalities, and we’ve also seen that some aren’t as useful as they appeared to be. Our team grew from five founders to 12 total collaborators (even if only three are new employees).
While most e-commerce shoppers are very price-aware, we’ve seen the huge difference the entire user experience (from design to customer relations) can make.
ES: do you think needs to happen for mobile to really take off?
SM: For it to really take off, we feel that there is a learning curve to buying from your phone, as well as security issues. The same thing happened when people started buying from their computers. Whenever a new method is used, there is always a learning curve. We need to make sure our users feel perfectly safe buying from their phones. Besides this, I’d say it’s a natural progression. We’re in the early stages of mobile taking over. As phone providers tend to have better rates and plans, as 3G and 4G become more reliable and people started accepting their phones as their go-to gadget (which is probably already happening), things will just explode. We truly believe we’re on the cusp of something huge, a billion-dollar industry, and we need to make sure our experience, our reliability, our technology, our communication and our brand in general are always above and beyond what our consumer expects of us.