Founder Henry Kim says he discovered how difficult it was for these smaller brands to reach customers when he visited a large trade show in Las Vegas and saw that they could not get buyers from the major retailers to even visit their booths.
“It's hard for the little guys to get noticed by Macy's, Neiman Marcus, etc. We set out to solve this problem for Indie brands by building a truly social shopping company.”
Sneakpeeq is tightly integrated with Facebook. “We were one of their initial e-commerce partners,” says Kim.
You sign in to the service with your Facebook ID, and it begins selecting brands for you to browse. When you find a product you like, you can “peeq” at the price, which is akin to turning over a price tag in the physical world.
“As to which brands get shown to the consumer, we have a brand recommendation algorithm that matches the person with the brands,” says Kim. “It’s a real-time algorithm, so when you peeq at a price or take other actions on the site, that triggers our technology.
"The algorithm reacts and gets better in response to people's actions. As you peeq at products, the brands and products you will see next all change dynamically.”
The site prices goods dynamically as well, so the price you get in a peeq would likely be different from the one I get. The way to get a better price is by increasing your social shopping behavior on the site. As you navigate through brands and products, you earn badges that will give you access to better prices and special discounts.
“Shopping is inherently social,” notes Kim. "You can earn badges by becoming a brand ambassador, by taking lots of peeqs at brands, and taking actions like purchases, ‘loving’ a product or brand, sharing, and other actions based on what your friends are doing on the site.”
There is also a surprise element, where a badge might just show up. An example of this would be a $10 off badge that expires in ten days.
The companies with products on Sneakpeeq set the pricing parameters at the site’s vendor portal. Here they set the “market price,” as well as the lowest price they would be willing to accept from a customer, known as the “map price.”
The delta between those two prices, which is often quite large according to Kim, is how his company makes money.
Sneakpeeq feels like a personalized mall of boutiques. Most of its customers (85 percent) are female, many of whom live in the Midwest, where they have less access to indie brands than shoppers do on the coasts.
The company, which launched in December 2011, says it has had 1.4 million customers to date, and that it will be entering the Japan and Korea markets soon.
Kim says the average customer takes 30-35 peeqs a day – the site sets a daily maximum on this action at 40. Average time on site, he says, is just over ten minutes.
Mobile phone apps for both iOS and android are under development, and the company is backed by Bain Capital.