Field Notes: Folk X Grabble

Q/ Where did the idea for Grabble come from?

Joel [the other Co-Founder] and I had actually set up a group buying platform using white label software whilst we were both still employed.

Although we had some early success, global PR towards that industry turned sour quickly.

We weren't enjoying it anyway: we owned none of our tech. We decided to shut up shop, leave our jobs and think about creating.

We’d already started a business in a peak market area, so we decided to launch one from scratch in a growing area – social commerce.

Our challenge was how to launch a tech-focused product when neither of us had ever written a line of code.

Q/ What makes your site relevant for today’s shoppers? What is it that you're providing that they need in today's world?

We’re enabling them to save their favourite fashion from any site.

Pinterest’s a place to save inspiration; Grabble lets you save it now to buy later. Crucially, if it drops in price, you get an email.

Sale alerts drive a lot of response on our site.

Q/ What does it offer fashion retailers who sign up with Grabble?

We work with major retailers because it’s beneficial to all.

Our ultimate aim is to provide marketing solutions for smaller retailers that struggle to reach their desired audience at a reasonable cost.

With the Grab button, retailers get the benefit of adding their products to our platform in a matter of minutes. They can share them with their audiences on Facebook and Twitter, and can sell their products with pictures.

Smaller retailers don't want to change the HTML on their site just ‘cause the BAFTAs happened yesterday.

Grabble can create collections almost instantly; selling products around fast-moving stories without any labour, coding or stress.

Q/ How is it unique from its competitors?

Everything on Grabble has been handpicked by someone like you.

Every product has been brought in using the Grab button. The industry works with a few select retailers, takes in their data feeds, and floods their website with products. Our website has a community curated feel and that’s important for how we want our audience to shop.

We also focus on the retailer side of things, working with up-and-comers looking to find new audiences.

We don't rely on a business on the affiliate side, so we aren't restricted to work with certain brands.

It’s our mission to help market brands large and small, and especially those that struggle at first to sell online at all.

Most importantly, everything you Grab comes with a price drop notification. If anything you like goes on sale, we can notify you immediately and buy it straight from the retailer’s website before anyone else.

Q/ What are your plans for Grabble moving forward?

For consumers: We want to be the go-to place for consumers to see what’s trending in the online fashion community.

For retailers: We want to be a tool to assist you in your social media marketing, finding new audiences for your products, as well as leveraging better results from your existing social following.

We want to be as supportive as we can to anyone starting up.

There’s a huge amount of entrepreneurial and fashion design talent around, but that doesn't always translate well online.

We want to bridge that gap.

Q/ What is your advice for people in other startup companies like yours?

Just because you don't know how to do tech, don't let that stop you.

Be patient, and get out there meeting people. Secondly, if you don't truly believe in what you are doing - whether it’s a brand, a pair of socks, or a website - you probably won't succeed.

You’ll encounter people in the early stages telling you you’re crazy and wrong, so usually the only thing keeping you going is self-belief.

An unexpected lesson I've learned: don't rely on friends. They can be selfish and useless without meaning to.

Strangers can become passionate evangelists and supporters of your brand, which is quite wonderful.

Focus your attention on impressing people you've never met before.

Q/ What industry [fashion tech] trends would you say Grabble takes advantage of?

There's a particularly interesting trend emerging with social media.

Thanks to Facebook and Instagram, people get snapped in an outfit and it gets shared round the Internet; people don't want to wear the same outfit again. This has led to a fast turnover in low cost, perishable fashion, supplied by the likes of ASOS, Boohoo, Missguided, and AX Paris.

We like to take advantage of the latest releases from such sites knowing that they don't last in stock very long.

Our consumers Grab all over these kinds of sites bringing them into the community, so they can evaluate their wish lists and make purchasing decisions.

This makes shopping easier for other members of the community who don't have to leave Grabble to shop the latest looks from high street brands.

Q/ Are there other trends you're keeping an eye on?

Thinking about the way we use mobile will become unavoidable sooner or later.

It can be hard enough setting up one website, let alone an extra one that’s tablet friendly, all the browsers, and then mobile sites on top of that.

We’re creating a solution that will help retailers monitor a live feed of their products on our app and provide a simple way for them to sell. We’re looking to release this in May.

Q/ How important would you say (and perhaps know, from your research) mobiles are in fashion retail right now? How should retailers engage with them, if at all? How important do you think they will become in the future?

Very important. It would be foolish for everyone to have an app; that’s a pointless and costly exercise.

The most important thing will be for them to have a place for consumers to access their outlet via mobile.

Some habits you won't be able to change.

Mobile is still a long way off being a trusted and good experience for purchasing over tablets and computers.

Q/ How important do you feel mobile apps are and are becoming in fashion retail? Will you be producing a Grabble app?

Our app is going to be pretty exciting because it will sync up with our website. Everything that’s live can be downloaded as a list of top-trending items on Grabble; you can essentially say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to a constant stream.

You can, for example, choose shoes, choose a colour and begin flicking through your favourite products, and the ones you like will download on your Grabble profile for purchase later.

Similarly, for Android, when you download our app you will automatically download the Grab button, meaning you can shop on any fashion site, whether ASOS or a tiny boutique, and save products from their site by clicking Grab, so you can buy them later on your computer.

It’s all about facilitating mobile commerce, but, to be clear, buying things on mobile is still a fiddly, awkward experience, so we aren't trying to solve that just yet.

Q/ We've just had a month of curiosity at Folk - does curiosity play a part at Grabble?

The concept of Grabble evolved from trying to find out what habits people had when they shopped online.

I was never expecting to hear about this because it’s not something I personally do, but everyone else was in on it, and my idea stemmed from there.

I believe the best ideas come from asking enough people the right questions – if you are curious in what people do and what their habits are, you might strike gold – and I like to think we hopefully have, based on those early discussions.

Q/ Do you think cultivating curiosity is something retailers should engage with or at least consider in their business?

Continuous feedback is really important.

Fashion is difficult because trends are decided in advance and by a select few.

Retailers have two choices: play into the trends or break away from them.

Ultimately this decision needs to come from the creative director and stylist, but in truth you should always find out why customers buy from you, and what they love about your brand. There should always be a research budget.

If not, one day you'll wake up totally out of touch with your audience and you won't have enough money or insight to begin to re-engage.