For On-The-Go Clothes Stalking, The Hunt Releases An iOS App

Catering to a smartphone-happy user base that skews young and female, the fashion site The Hunt has released its first iPhone app. The startup closed a Series A round of $5.5 in early July led by Javelin Partners, having accumulated a roster of high profile seed round investors including Ashton Kutcher and Tyra Banks.

Since its launch in January, the site has allowed users to post “hunts,” or pictures of unidentified clothing items from Tumblr, Pinterest, or the like that they want to track down. Community members then jump in to either identify the exact product or to provide suggestions for similar ones. Unlike sites that trade in inspirational photos — the Tumblrs, Pinterests, and Instagrams of the world — The Hunt’s aim is to serve those people who want to act on that inspiration.

At this point, users are joining 200,000 hunts each week, twice the number they were seeing two months ago.

With its iPhone app, The Hunt is focusing in on mobile, and will next be making their website mobile optimized. CEO Tim Weingarten said that at this point mobile accounts for 50% of traffic, with 85% of that coming from smartphones — largely iPhones — and 15% from tablets. The team noticed a significant jump in mobile usage last spring, and that percentage has been growing steadily since, a trend Weingarten chalks up to their young user base’s preference for mobile overall.

“What happens is that you see someone on the street and take a picture of their jacket,” Weingarten said. “You’re browsing Instagram or Pinterest and take a screen cap. That’s really the key experience… You add products as you’re out and about.”

So mobile makes sense. The bigger question is how The Hunt, which is essentially a log of the specific items that people want to drop money on, is planning to leverage commerce and the wealth of data it is accumulating on consumer intent.

“We know what people are looking to buy. Not what people were buying two months ago, but what people want to buy in the future. That information is very helpful for brands,” Weingarten said.

The site currently uses an affiliate model for purchasing products suggested by community members. Personalization is still minimal, meaning the site doesn’t employ a true feed that floats hunts to the top based on user relevance. According to Weingarten, that’s on the roadmap for the next six month, a good plan since it would almost certainly result in higher purchase rates; the conversion of outbound clicks to ecommerce sites to purchases now stands at 1.5-1.75%.

That said, the new app does employ a tagging system that surfaces related tags for users, which the team is also building out in the next six months.

“The personalization that we’re pursuing is challenging you to solve appropriate hunts as a stylist and also hunts that are most interesting to you as a shopper. That surfaces itself as a feed,” Weingarten said.

Based on users’ intention to buy and a significant amount of traffic driven to other sites, The Hunt has been getting a lot of inquiries from ecommerce sites. As far as brand involvement goes, those that want to get involved with The Hunt typically do so by having their social media manager solve hunts with links to their most relevant products. The Hunt has also begun to offer brands relevant data on user activity.

If the brand starts getting too overtly spammy — posting queries and then solving them with their own products — community vigilantes tend to call them out on it, Weingarten noted.

The Hunt also has the potential to make use of user-generated product photos, which many ecommerce sites are picking up on as a tactic to increase conversion rates. If hunts concluded users posting photos of themselves in the items they finally tracked down, you can see how this could encourage further purchases. While this isn’t in the startup’s immediate plans, it’s one of many roads that they could go down, and we’ll be looking to see how that pans out in the coming months.

[Image: Flickr / Joseph Brent]