It all started for Jordan Whelan when, at 1am, someone complimented his new winter boots.
It’s a common scenario, and word-of-mouth is one of the oldest ways for businesses to market themselves. But it got Whelan thinking: what if that word of mouth could earn customers money?
He decided to run with the idea.
Whelan is the co-founder of Framestr, one of Canada’s fastest growing e-commerce sites. Framestr is an online shopping platform that allows users to earn money for sharing products with friends. It launched in September and already has close to 15,000 products in more than 15 countries and includes everything from GoPro cameras to handmade jewellery.
“We make recommendations for products and services, and we’re acting as mini salespeople . . . but we don’t necessarily receive a monetary reward,” he says. “Affiliate systems today are often overly complicated and reserved for a select few. For literally just clicking a mouse and making a recommendation you were already going to make, you can now make money.”
By sharing a unique link via options such as social media, emailing or by embedding it on a blog, you can earn up to 15 percent commission from each purchase that comes from people who clicked the link. That money can be withdrawn or transferred to a friend.
Not only does it benefit the consumer, but it helps businesses grow quickly.
“We all have these social circles around us, and you give those people a financial incentive and spread it on circles . . . you get a natural promotion,” Whelan says. “With Framestr, you see exponential sharing of your products over different circles.”
Framestr has drawn the attention of hundreds of businesses that have migrated from giants such as Shopify and Etsy, which charge more than $100 a month.
Whelan says this allows small businesses to compete with large corporations with overflowing ad budgets. He cites companies like Spanx, which grew from nothing to becoming a household name while allocating no money for advertising or marketing costs.
“This technology, which harnesses the power of word of mouth, creates a sort of David and Goliath scenario,” he says. “I guess it’s what I defaulted to as a gay person, in that you sort of relish in being the underdog.”
The platform hopes to bring offline conversations online and vice versa. Whelan believes the future of e-commerce will be highly socially integrated, with the company’s slogan being Welcome to Social Commerce.
“We’ve built a business around the way in which people behave,” he says. “We’ve excited to see where it takes us.”