I realize this is a completely random story to start a post with, but bear with me. A few weeks ago, I was searching for a Christmas outfit for my daughter–I found an adorable one on Pinterest but it didn’t have a link to where I could buy the item. I searched Google, and a variety of ecommerce site but couldn’t find the exact same one. This same problem actually takes place across a number of photo-sharing networks, such as Instagram, Twitter or Tumblr, where there isn’t necessarily a link associated with an item in the picture. In fact, more than 90% of these photos do not contain links or buying information. One newly launched startup, The Hunt, is aiming to solve this pain point.
The startup provides a community-driven shopping experience that helps consumers find and purchase items inspired by those photos on social networks. Here’s how it works. You join the site, and can post a photo of an item you are looking for. You can upload photos from any website or connect to Tumblr, Instagram and Pinterest to get your likes and posts imported.
Members “can start a hunt” by clicking on a button that links recent photos they’ve “liked” on Tumblr, Instagram and Pinterest, or from any website. They then fill out characteristics about their photo that will help others hunt for the item or similar items.
The Hunt has a community of fashionistas that help “hunt” these items down. You can search for hunts as well. On member profiles, you can see how well members are at solving hunts, or what hunts they have started. Members can also follow other hunts for items, like hunts, or add a recommended product to go along with a hunted for item. For example, you can recommend a certain type of shoes to go with a desired dress.
In fact, prior to site’s official launch, the startup was able to generate more than 65,000 active members who spend an average of 24 minutes per day on the site. Unique visitors to the site in December crossed 615,000, with a strong participation from the 18-34 female demographic. In just 6 months, members have found for each other 115,000 products from over 10,000 unique stores. In December alone, members generated over 250,000 referrals to eCommerce sites with conversion rates to purchase five to ten times higher than other sources of social/web traffic. That’s with little to no marketing or PR.
Tim Weingarten, co-founder and chief executive officer of The Hunt, explains that the community aspect of the site is extremely powerful, and the women who are participating are extremely passionate about helping others find items they are looking for. Currently, 20% of members solve hunts.
“The Hunt is about making photos found on these sites as well as user-generated photos actionable; a visual Q&A that allows users to present a fashion dilemma that is then solved by the community,” Weingarten explains. Another element that is helping The Hunt create viral engagement is the gaming aspect. There’s a thrill, explains the startup, in finding an item online.
Besides early engagement numbers, the startup’s team itself is also impressive. Weingarten is a former VC, and co-founder Simon Peck ran the web team at Quantcast. The Product and engineering team is from both Quantcast and Zynga.
The company has raised $2 million in funding led by Javelin Venture Partners.