Online commerce still isn’t as easy as it should be. That’s because many times, consumers find something they want while browsing a publisher site online, but then have to search for and buy it elsewhere. Well, that’s a process that Los Angeles-based startup Mulu wants to change, with an ad plugin that allows users to buy the products they’re reading about directly on the page.
Mulu enables that kind of shopping experience with a plugin for publishers that works by scanning the content of the page and providing links to related products which can be purchased directly. Clicking on a product that’s displayed within the ad unit will take users directly to the product page on any of a number of third-party sites that Mulu has integrated with.
But beyond just providing a better shopping experience for users, the plugin makes life easier for publishers. While linking to products related to the content on a page is nothing new, the “Shop This Page” feature drastically simplifies the process of enabling commerce on publisher sites.
Previously, publishers would have to keep track of multiple affiliate codes and often create links manually to products that they refer to. Not only does the plugin enable one-click commerce on the site, but it enables publishers to benefit even if they haven’t struck up a direct relationship with an advertiser.
“Online content pages are becoming the new retail store,” Mulu CEO Amaryllis Fox told me. She envisions a world where users no longer have to go through the two-step process of finding an object they want to buy in an article online, and then having to search for it through an e-commerce site or *gasp* by shopping in a brick-and-mortar store.
As for advertisers, the “Shop This Page” feature is driving more clickthroughs — and that, in turn, is driving more sales. Since the products that are shown on any given page are relevant to what end users are reading about, they’re much more likely to buy something.
The plugin works with pretty much any type of content, and on any platform. The “Shop This Page” plugin — which is really just a few lines of code — is optimized to be viewed on various different displays, whether on a traditional desktop web browser, or on a mobile- or tablet-optimized website.
With that sales pitch, Mulu’s gotten a good number of lifestyle and fashion brands on board. Clients include Hearst, Conde Nast, and Food Network, with the plugin being featured on publications such as Cosmopolitan, Vanity Fair, Good Housekeeping, Redbook, Country Living, and others.
And it seems to be working pretty well. A representative from Hearst says that in the publisher’s initial implementation on Seventeen’s site, Hearst Digital Media was seeing click-through rates close to 13 percent. While that is at the high end of the spectrum — Mulu claims click-through rates between 2 percent and 13 percent with its publishing partners — it’s an immense upgrade over the sub-1 percent click-through rate of most standard ad units.
One reason for that might be the social good component of Mulu’s business model. While commerce is at the forefront of its offering, the company also ensures that all publishers give a percentage of the cost-per-click payment to a charity of their choice. Those charities are displayed along with the products, giving consumers an easy way to give back.
Now that it’s gotten a good number of customers on board, it’s looking to accelerate its growth with more tech and sales people and a bit more funding. The Los Angeles-based company currently has 14 employees and is in the midst of raising a Series A round of financing.