Alexis Maybank is familiar with game-changing concepts. Just take a look back her tenure as CEO of Gilt Groupe, introducing the world to flash sales. Now she wants to change the mobile commerce space, specifically when it comes to shopping for fashion pieces. We spoke with Maybank about her new app Project September, her thoughts on visual commerce and image recognition technology and seamless user experiences. Read on to see what she said.
Ashley Paintsil: Why did you decide to create this app?
Alexis Maybank: The concept for this idea percolated while we were at Gilt Groupe. We noticed an increase in online traffic from social media platforms.
After exploring that influx, and taking our own experiences into account, we found that people were frustrated that there wasn’t a way to immediately buy the products they liked. We set out to provide fashion lovers with a way to find and purchase the items they love.
There has been many times where I’d spend 30 to 40 minutes looking to buy something I liked.
That’s where the idea for Project September was born.
Project September is a mobile shopping app that allows a deeper, more immediate connection between fashion and design influencers, their audiences and the brands they love.
AP: Where did you get the name for the app?
AM: Project September is named for the September issues and September is the start of the fashion calendar.
AP: How does the app work?
AM: For the first time ever, consumers can bridge the gap between online shopping and social browsing by tapping an image to instantly make a purchase.
Users can scroll through their feeds to explore and discover through images and buy items they like. Creators, who we call editors, can curate images to generate a magazine-like spread.
They can tap on any element of their photo to tag the item with a link to its retailer web site. Tagged items are marked with Project September’s signature green dot.
When items are purchased from an editor’s spread, the editor will earn a commission from that sale.
AP: What type of technology powers the app?
AM: Most of our technology comes from open-source software projects via Facebook. Our APIs are constructed using a spec Facebook created called GraphQL, which allows the front end to construct custom queries to the backend.
AP: How does visual search technology play into how the app works?
AM: At this time, visual search technology and image recognition software is not a part of the platform. Users are able to manually tag their images based on their knowledge of the product through our advanced back-end.
AP: There are several shopping apps in the marketplace right now, how is Project September different from them?
AM: Project September is a seamless and beautifully designed platform with virtually no words. That’s all intentional to create a truly immersive shopping experience.
Project September provides users with an opportunity to earn commission from items purchased through their feed.
Anyone can use Project September to connect online shopping and social browsing. Users just see an image they like and tap to purchase the items they see.
AP: Are you working with influencers to promote the app?
AM: Though anyone can use the app, we have recruited fashion advisors like Marie Claire Creative Director, Nina Garcia, Nicole Richie, Christy Turlington Burns and top social influencers like Patrick Janelle, Pari Ehsan and Blake Scott.
We’re hoping their creativity and passion will guide the way and for Project September users.
AP: How do brand partnerships come into play?
AM: Companies like Coach, Matches Fashion, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord and Taylor, Nike and Nasty Gal are on board, and we’re thrilled to see the response from retailers and shoppers alike.
AP: How was the app initially funded?
AM: We are thrilled to have investors like WME, Greylock and Venrock in our corner, and we find that their strategic support and vision coincides with ours.
They see the esteemed partners we’re working with and are impressed by both the rate of acquisition and their quality.
Our founding team has an impressive track record that inspires confidence among our investors.
Now that the app has launched, what’s next?
We’re only right out of the gate, but at this time we are excited to get more and more users on the app. They’re the ones who will really determine what is next for us.