John Wantz thinks blockchain can create better relationships between brands and consumers.
Back in 2011, the serial entrepreneur co-founded Comr.se, a commerce-centered API for social networks, mobile and marketplaces. After a failed attempt to sell the startup to Target, Wantz joined the big-box chain’s innovation team and worked for a year on its secretive Project Goldfish initiative. When Target shut down Project Goldfish (as well as its Store of the Future innovation group) following disappointing holiday earnings, Wantz launched yet another startup, SHOP—which looks to the decentralized nature of blockchain technology to reimagine the retail experience and, Wantz hopes, to strengthen consumer relationships with brands.
At SXSW, SHOP revealed that it has acquired three other startups: Wantz’s own Comr.se, Kanga and venture capital-funded FoxCommerce, the latter two of which will be the first apps to run on SHOP’s blockchain protocol. While FoxCommerce’s website claims it’s an e-commerce platform designed for the digitally native brands disrupting retail today, Kanga says it’s a millennial-driven apparel marketplace—offering goods like Angie Bauer lingerie and collections from Diesel—with seemingly revolutionary rhetoric built into its mission. It’s “a brand-direct marketplace for those who reject the status quo. gamechangers. rule breakers. goodtrouble makers,” according to Kanga’s website.
Kanga, in particular, maintains that retail has had too much control over consumer data for far too long. But Kanga, according to its website, “empowers you to take your data back, control who knows what about you, and respects the value of your personal information by rewarding you for the data you choose to share.”
The SHOP technology ecosystem seems to be a response to Amazon and its obsessive control over brand data.
“We’re laser-focused on shopping and powering experiences that enhance the direct relationships between brands and shoppers,” Wantz said. “SHOP is establishing a decentralized retail ecosystem where brands and shoppers have the power to dictate how value will be exchanged amongst themselves based on shopper-controlled access to their own personal data and appropriate rewards given by brands in return.”
Those rewards come in the form of the SHOP cryptocurrency token, which shoppers receive for sharing information with brands such as their personal style preferences, profile info and purchase history. Consumers then can exchange tokens for discounts and other purchase incentives, according to SHOP. The company plans to sell 100 million SHOP tokens between May 14 and June 13 this year. Kanga was acquired via SHOP tokens. Former ModCloth co-founder and chief experience officer Adil Wali is the brains behind FoxCommerce.
“The SHOP token has been designed to support an ‘information marketplace’ that continually increases the amount of personal consumer data being shared between shoppers and brands,” Jamie OShea, SHOP CMO, explained. “This equitable exchange helps brands deliver more meaningful retail experiences to shoppers while returning greater savings to them in the process.”
“For shoppers, this is the first tool that empowers them to own and monetize their personal data, shifting that control out of the hands of third-party retailers like Amazon,” added OShea, who co-founded the counterculture art publication Juxtapoz and provided marketing consultant services to brands like Disney and Nike.
“Blockchain technology has the power to greatly improve many industries, and retail is chief among them,” Wali said. “SHOP is well positioned to be a large part of the meteoric rise of decentralized technology.”