It’s probably easiest to describe Laudable, a South African e-store aggregator as a type of Fancy.com with a fashion bias. Its users discover fashion items — which ship locally — from their favourite brands through following people and stores that match their personal taste in style.
Laudable doesn’t have partnerships with South African ecommerce stores. Instead, it relies on its users to curate its catalogue. How? Laudable members are encouraged to install a web browser bookmarklet. When they find a fashion item that meets their taste, and its available in South Africa, they can bookmark the item. It then gets added to their profile, their followers’ feed and the main Laudable catalogue.
So, it’s part e-commerce, part social networking and part social bookmarking. The key here is that the items that show up in user feeds are available for purchasing and shipping locally — a breath of fresh air for fashionistas who’ve had their noses pressed up against the window after discovering an item is only available across the pond, or for import at extortionate rates.
Laudable hopes that by tying in a strong social element, members will receive deals and offers for products that they actually like.
“We’d like to become the go to destination for online shopping in SA”, says co-founder Ian Marvin.
Marvin studied computer science at the University of Cape Town and spent a couple of years writing software for corporates before deciding to branch out on his own. Marvin teamed up with Haydn Von Maltitz, a qualified chartered accountant with corporate finance experience to create Laudable. Both attended school together at Pretoria Boys High and hoped to one day start a business together. Laudable has been entirely bootstrapped by the duo up to this point.
So, how does Laudable make money? “For now we just want to build the Laudable community. At a later stage we’re going to look at offering onsite socially curated deals and taking affiliate fees for generating traffic that converts to purchases,” says Marvin.
Affiliate linking is one of the ways Pinterest intends to monetise its ridiculously popular social bookmarking service.
To use Laudable, users are required to sign up using their Facebook profile. Why? Marvin points to Facebook’s rich social data and its popularity in South Africa.
“When you’re trying to create functionality that leverages already existing social graphs this becomes something of a no brainer. For instance, when you sign up on to Laudable, we tap your social graph on Facebook and ask you if you’d like to follow any of your existing Facebook contacts, this is important because the Laudable platform only displays content from people who you follow, so we need to intelligently suggest people to follow by tapping your social graph,” he says.
Marvin tells Ventureburn that another compelling reason for basing Laudable on Facebook is Graph Search.
“Graph Search is rolling out now and we believe it could get quite popular for a lot of use cases. It’s simply a better fit than Google for searches where social context is valuable. For instance, if you search for restaurants, you don’t necessarily want to get the same results as everybody else. Search results that take into account your social context are probably more useful here. So what we’ve done with Laudable by integrating with Facebook, is make sure that everything that goes onto Laudable is Graph searchable — it becomes a great way for retailers to get their products onto Graph Search and it becomes a great way for consumers to find socially relevant products through Graph Search and Laudable,” he says.
Laudable is focussed on South Africa currently, but plans to scale out to more emerging markets.