Multiply social shopping site is here to stay
MANILA, Philippines—When four tech whizzes from Boca Raton, Florida, got together to form content sharing website Multiply in 2003, they never thought their baby would become an e-commerce platform. But evolve they did because that was what the users wanted.
Now Multiply is a social shopping site teeming with entrepreneurs, selling myriad products and services, from trinkets to clothes to gadgets to cars. This model—a hybrid of e-commerce and social networking—may be here to stay, at least in the foreseeable future.
According to Multiply Inc. founder and chief executive Peter Pezaris, this social shopping model looked to be what subscribers wanted.
“If we’ll have a strategy shift, it won’t be soon,” he says in a recent Management Association of the Philippines conference, adding that the recent investment that global e-commerce leader Naspers Ltd. made in Multiply further cemented its positioning as a social e-commerce site.
At this point, he says the company would just be improving on the current model to ensure the satisfaction and delight of its more than 18 million registered users and more than 100,000 registered merchants worldwide.
Unlike other e-commerce sites that just sold stuff and offered limited engagement among users, he says Multiply had more of a social element—true to the site’s original concept.
Pezaris relates that there were a number of other social shopping strategies, including group discounts or group buying as used by Groupon and outright selling via Facebook. The Multiply model, however, capitalizes on engagement, allowing buyers and sellers to interface more closely with each other.
“Engagement results in more transactions. On Multiply, there’s a lot of social interaction and conversations are public. Sellers actually talk to buyers, and buyers can learn from (the conversation threads),” he says.
Pezaris explains that Multiply recognizes it could not compete head-on with Facebook in the social networking space. This recognition, coupled with user feedback, helps prompt the shift in business model.
“To compete with Facebook, we had to raise a lot of money. We had six engineers, Facebook had more than 600, so it was really difficult. In 2009, we started to realize how much (selling) activity there was on the site,” he relates.
Philippines at the forefront
The Philippines was actually a huge factor in Multiply’s transformation into a social shopping site, Pezaris says.
When the company started to really scrutinize the traffic on the site, it was discovered that many of Multiply’s subscribers, the majority of whom came from the Philippines, used the site as a platform for business.
“Before, it was actually illegal to use Multiply to buy and sell, then we heard there was a lot of buying and selling on the site. But it was mostly anecdotal and we had no means of measuring such kind of traffic,” Pezaris relates.
“Then we started asking our users to register, and 50 percent of the registered Philippine users were sellers. That signaled our shift to e-commerce,” he further says.
These sellers, known collectively as Pinoy Multipreneurs, steered the multimillion-dollar company to the path it was now treading.
As a testament to its commitment to the Philippine market, Multiply partnered with ABS-CBN Interactive before eventually opening its own office in the country with its own staff and country manager.
The company also set up an office in Jakarta.
Moving forward, Pezaris says Multiply will continue to listen to what its customers want. The company would also be building for the future by keeping its service free to all merchants who want a storefront sans the hassle and the significant overhead.
“There will still be no charge for merchants. We’ll take the short-term loss to build for the future. These short-term losses will pay themselves back eventually,” Pezaris says.
The company also commits to keep evolving—the very principle that allowed Multiply to be the success that it is now.
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