Larchmont, NY-based startup Merchpin is hoping to capitalize on the recent growth of ecommerce and content marketing to help connect customers with products, with a minimum of fuss and in a way that presents targeted items for sale depending on what users are currently looking at or searching for on a site. It’s yet another approach to supplying buyers with personalized advertising, but in a way that also connects directly to the checkout process in order to shorten the loop between inspiring a shopper and having them confirm their purchase.
Merchpin allows its customers to turn any site into a catalog, simply by inserting a widget that syncs products from various ecommerce startups including Magento, Shopify, Etsy, Amazon and more. Website owners can then pin those products to any site, using CMS and publishing platforms like WordPress, Drupal, Tumblr and Facebook, as well as any website via a basic HTML snippet. The types of products presented by Merchpin’s tool can be targeted depending on rules merchants set, using variables like webpage URL, content keyword, or more. So, for instance, a blog post about sunglasses could offer up either buy links to specific sunglasses mentioned in the article, or to a general sunglasses category at the target store.
For Merchpin, operating at the intersection of content and sales opportunities is a way for it to appeal to brands looking for content marketing opportunities, where bloggers, videographers and others are used to present high-quality consumable media in order to boost a brand’s reputation. Merchpin allows them to more easily monetize these kinds of campaigns, without affecting or undermining the quality of the content itself.
“We’ve really targeted the brands and marketers, the people that have their own products to sell, but also communicate through all these other channels, like blogs, websites or even a corporate website that’s not attached to the store, etc.,” Merchpin founder and CEO Matthew Knight said in an interview. “But at the same time, let’s say you’re not a merchant but you’re a mommy blogger, and you blog about, say, great strollers. You can sign up to be an Amazon merchant, pull a couple hundred products from the Amazon API and target those products to different posts on your blog.”
That makes it easy for any content creator to become a marketing affiliate for any major ecommerce website. “From that perspective, you’re monetizing your community,” Knight said. “You’ve got these great followers, and they’re listening to what you have to say, but there’s really no opportunity to transact or buy once they’ve read your content. So they’re convinced, but they’re kind of at a dead end, and using Merchpin you can create an opportunity to potentially make a sale.”
Merchpin offers another monetization opportunity for influencers and bloggers, but its biggest attraction so far has been its simple Facebook store publishing options. With the Merchpin Facebook app, it’s easy for brands to set up Facebook stores with very little work, and without having to use a separate storefront solution from the one they’re already using for the web. “When people sign up, we find that that’s the first thing that they’re doing,” he said. That’s been a major driver of sign-ups, according to Knight, and a key one, since it’s only available to people who sign up for Merchpin’s second tier paid plan at $39 per month, rather than the basic $9 plan.
For Merchpin, success depends on making sure that people don’t just see their offerings as ads, but rather as value-add supplements to other content. For big brands, it’s a way to tie non-store sites and social media efforts back to their ecommerce platforms, and for influencers, it’s yet another way to make money from the trust relationships they’ve worked hard to build. Merchpin’s only real barrier may be in not having a basic free plan to get small-time bloggers on board to help spread the word, but even at $9 a month, it’s should provide good value if it results in a decent number of affiliate sales.