Startup turns to the gig economy to bring expert sales advice online

Discussion
Source: curated.com
Feb 14, 2020
Tom Ryan

Curated, an e-commerce start-up, matches knowledgeable sales associates with online buyers by making use of an on-demand labor platform.

The site, quietly operating since 2017, focuses on “high-consideration purchases,” or complex, higher-ticket items that often require expert advice. So far, the site handles four sports categories — skis, snowboards, golf and cycling — and yacht charters in the travel category.

The site, led by former LinkedIn and Facebook veterans, has been gaining more coverage since October when it officially launched with $27.5 million in funding.

When customers visit the site, they are prompted to answer a few basic questions about their needs and then matched with a category expert — a real person — to discuss what they’re looking for. The expert provides a list of personalized recommendations with detailed explanations of why each product is a fit. Further discussions often occur until the right item is found. Customers then buy directly from Curated.

On the other side, Curated has to find those “experts”. Part of the job’s appeal is being able to share their passions to help others. The recruiting pitch starts, “Ever wish you got paid every time you gave your friends advice?”

Experts are promised average monthly earnings of between $800 to $1,000. About a third of the income comes from a fixed fee, another third comes from commissions on sales, and the rest from tips.

So far, the site is supported by only a few experts within each category. For instance, the winter sports category includes profiles on eight experts, golf has nine and cycling has four.

Experts are reachable via text, email, video chat or phone, and they make their own hours. Customers are promised their expert will get back to them within 24 hours. Curated’s average expert rating is between 4.9 to five, and their advice supports a less than one percent return rate.

Eduardo Vivas, CEO of Curated, told Fast Company, “We believe we’re giving our ‘experts’ a way to monetize their passions and talk about the thing they love doing most in life.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you think of Curated’s strategy of matching knowledgeable sales associates with the needs of consumers online? Does the on-demand platform work for incentivizing sales associates?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"I can certainly see this leading to sales although I do see some level of risk that Curated will need to stay on top of."
" would expect keeping a high level of knowledge and customer service in a 1099 position will keep this from growing."
"It seems Curated’s target audience is wealthy, under-informed, and lazy — in that regard I think they will have a pretty difficult time scaling with their current format."

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10 Comments on "Startup turns to the gig economy to bring expert sales advice online"


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Rick Moss
Staff

I clicked on an item in an email I received from Uniqlo last evening, and then browsed their website, checking out a few more items that looked appealing, and a couple that didn’t (as in, “A collar-less fleece jacket? That looks odd. Who would wear that?”). Today, I received another Uniqlo email with “Top products hand selected for you.” The email contained all five items that I had clicked on, including the weird fleece. This is AI with an emphasis on “artificial” and a world away from getting genuine recommendations from genuine people. I hope Curated can make a go of it. It would be another reason to avoid less-than-satisfactory in-store experiences.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
BrainTrust

The strategy of matching experts with buyers is great. As they roll out and become more popular the challenge will be to find and motivate true experts to fill demand and keep the experts motivated in these categories and more as the company grows. As the experts start interacting with more potential buyers, finding time to stay on top of new products could be challenging. Another issue will be, what will motivate experts to continue to deal with the online requests for advice?

Lee Kent
BrainTrust

For many if not most of the categories mentioned, retailers do try to fulfill the sales associate roles with some level of expertise, however the relationship here is what makes the difference to me. This takes it to a more personal level and gives both parties a chance to really chat, share pictures, stories, etc. I can certainly see this leading to sales although I do see some level of risk that Curated will need to stay on top of. They have to get and make sure they have the right experts. I would also be very interested in the metrics. Sales associate investment to closed sales is top of my mind. Is this sustainable? That is the big question. Cool idea, though. For my 2 cents.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

If you have read my comments, you know there are a few things I would not buy online. Among those include skis, snowboards, golf equipment and bicycles. Yacht charters, yes. I may like to talk to an expert about skis, snowboards, golf and cycling but, in the end, I want to touch and feel the product, swing the club, sit on the bike, etc.

The compensation that the “experts” are promised is an average monthly earning of between $800 to $1,000. Gee, that sounds more like a hobby than a dedication. I wonder what the turnover is?

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

It all depends on two factors: cost and consumer satisfaction. In short, the devil is in the execution. And there is a systematic problem. If Curated becomes wildly successful they will have trouble scaling since there really can’t be that many serious “experts” in all the fields. Put another way, at scale, demand for information could rapidly outpace the supply of experts. The result will presumably be that the experts really won’t be experts. Nice idea as a boutique offering, though.

Evan Snively
BrainTrust

The appeal of receiving a recommendation/consultation from someone who you know has already been vetted as an expert in the purchase area is very high. Of course that’s the same experience consumers are hoping for when they actually go into a brick-and-mortar store, especially a specialty store in the areas that Curated services. Also, consumers that are making a “big-ticket” purchase in those spaces tend to be experienced and well-educated in those fields themselves (particularly cycling). So it would seem that Curated’s target audience is wealthy, under-informed, and lazy — in that regard I think they will have a pretty difficult time scaling with their current format.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

On the surface this sounds great but being an on-call resource is not a career move. I would expect keeping a high level of knowledge and customer service in a 1099 position will keep this from growing.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

The problem, of course, is that the consumer has no idea what is the background of these “experts”; and the compensation levels hardly seem designed to attract the best and brightest (maybe the altruistic!). People will be dependent on word-of-mouth, whether it be on-line or the old fashioned way of actually conversing with a fried/family member, and even one or two bad experiences will greatly tarnish the brand.

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust

For years, my agency relied on a telemarketing firm whose agents worked at home. It worked exceptionally well. But … we were seeking only limited expertise — primarily it was script driven work.

The idea that the same thing can be done with experts is likely to have two truths.

1. It can be one in small batches and on limited basis. And it will work well in those cases.

2. It won’t scale. Any company who attempts to grow too big with high expertise phone sales of this type will fail.

Christopher P. Ramey
BrainTrust

Thoughtful products are sold and bought differently. What they’re selling is personified expertise –real life influencers. Or as retailers call them: sales professionals.

I like the idea a lot. It’s consistent with our philosophy that clients don’t buy what you think you’re selling. The Home Trust created “Leaders in Luxury + Design” because we believe people only buy from people they like. This is what Curated has created, a site of influencers who are likable and seemingly want to serve you first.

The format for their videos is brilliant and compelling.

Each of the categories is a niche. Is it scalable? Yes, if you accept that this isn’t meant to be a mass play. I’m a big fan.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"I can certainly see this leading to sales although I do see some level of risk that Curated will need to stay on top of."
" would expect keeping a high level of knowledge and customer service in a 1099 position will keep this from growing."
"It seems Curated’s target audience is wealthy, under-informed, and lazy — in that regard I think they will have a pretty difficult time scaling with their current format."

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