Last fall, fashion commerce startup Monogram launched an iPad app that was aiming to be kind of like a mobile, shoppable magazine for those hip to fashion. It had all the makings of a great mobile commerce app: It looked good, it was easy to use, and it allowed viewers to buy all the latest fashions really easily.
But it didn’t catch on the way that the team had hoped, according to founder Leo Chen. One of the reasons he believes the app didn’t resonate with users was that “the motivation to share individual products wasn’t strong enough.” And there just wasn’t enough content. With the launch of Monogram 2.0, the startup hopes to solve both of those problems. So the team went back to the drawing board.
Rather than position Monogram strictly as a platform for consuming content and maybe buying some stuff, the team decided to leverage the huge existing world of fashion bloggers to help create and share content through its platform.
As a result, the new Monogram provides a full web editing tool suite, which will allow bloggers to publish and share their favorite fashions with others. Bloggers can create posts, or full “magazines,” of all their favorite content, which readers can browse or subscribe to. Each post provides shoppable links to products either featured in, or similar to, the clothes and accessories that are being shown off on the page.
For bloggers, the simplicity of the Monogram platform comes primarily in the tools that it provides for enabling easy purchases through their pages. Not only is the publishing part of the tool beautiful and easy to use, but the ability to add clickable items for purchase is just drop-dead simple. Rather than having to scour the web for the items they want to add, and putting in affiliate links, the Monogram platform provides an integrated search functionality within the platform, which scours the web for the products bloggers wish to share.
On the viewing side, the new version of Monogram enables easy to read and share versions of bloggers’ posts and magazines. Monogram is built as a web app with responsive design that can be viewed on PC, tablet or mobile device. The startup has also built a native app with all the same viewing features. However, users who wish to publish need to do so from the web.
Individuals who are logged in can repost the content of others, kind of like you can do on Tumblr — but all links go back to the original post. The idea is to build a sense of community within the platform, but also to provide the original publisher with the credit for creating the post.
The company is working on adding more features for bloggers — like, for instance, advanced reporting. It’s also working on figuring out an affiliate model so that they can get paid for the products that are sold thanks to their magazines. Chen tells me that he’d like to see the bulk of affiliate revenues go to the bloggers, while the company will take a small cut.
Monogram can afford to do that, he says, because the company’s R&D team is based in Shanghai, which means a low burn rate. The company has raised about $1.25 million led by Quest Venture Partners, with participation from Great Oaks VC, Alexis Ohanian and Garry Tan’s Initialized Capital, 500 Startups, Chinese seed fund Innovation Camp, Yintai.com CEO Robin Liao, Rapportive CEO Rahul Vohra, Decide.com’s Brian Ma, and angel investors Jared Kopf Christina Brodbeck.