Katherine Hague had a plan worthy of ninjas. She had seen a video on The Onion that depicted a parade of ninjas so stealthy no-one even knew they were there. Inspired, Hague started a company called Ninja Parade and ordered a bunch of T-shirts from the printers. Unfortunately, once the shirts arrived, Hague realized that she had a problem: selling them.
This problem would soon lead to her next business idea, a distributed retail platform called ShopLocket, which adapts the indie online sales model for a more intuitive user experience. Hague wanted to sell her $20 ninja T-shirts and nothing else, but to do so she would have had to sign up with dominant ecommerce platform Shopify, which charged $30 a month for the pleasure. Of course, that just didn’t make economic sense.
So Hague, who is 21 years old, decided to build her own solution. The Toronto-based ShopLocket, which today moves out of private beta, offers an easy solution for individuals and small businesses that want to sell items without having to pay monthly fees to run an entire virtual store.
ShopLocket was designed to be as low-fuss as possible. Its killer feature is an embeddable widget – compatible with Facebook, WordPress, Tumblr, and other publishing platforms – that lets users customize items that are for sale and specify the purchase quantity. One could think of it as a micro-shop.
Since launching in private beta, the service has been used by 1,200 customers. Hague intends to keep improving and adding to the product in the coming weeks, which should allow the company to soon move out of public beta.
Competitors Shopify and Gumroad allow users to create a virtual store or share their products via social media. ShopLocket, on the other hand, focuses on ease of use, restricting retailers to an easy-to-digest one-item portable “shop,” hosted on their platform of choice.
The service claims to make selling anything online as easy as embedding a YouTube video. ShopLocket wants to decentralize online sales, which means it is betting on virtual storefronts becoming a thing of the past. The model is reminiscent of Traffic Junction’s just-launched decentralized affiliate market program, Have You Seen. Both services turn consumers into revenue generators on an individual basis without tying them into a static, curated platform. We seem to be witnessing the beginnings of a shift to – or at least an experimentation with – a distributed commerce model that leverages an individual consumer’s network connections, rather than their ability to build a singular presence.
ShopLocket won’t charge users any money up front, but it will charge $2 after the first sale and then a 2.5 percent transaction fee for any further sales. So far, it only accepts payments via PayPal.
Maybe now Hague can get around to selling those ninja T-shirts.