Wanelo: Like a Digital Mall That Makes Online Shopping Social

Deena Varshavskaya launched Wanelo, a platform for both online shopping and social networking, in 2012. Two years later, the site has 11 million users and access to 12 million products and 300,000 stores worldwide, from big brand names to small boutiques. The image-intensive site allows users to browse, share, and purchase products immediately. Wanelo does not stock the products itself, but rather, every product is linked to a store’s online site.

Wanelo’s name is derived from the words “want,” “need,” and “love.” Varshavskaya started the digital mall because she believed the shopping experience was too fragmented.

“I’d go to the malls and it would be frustrating,” she said in The New York Times. “The selection was so predictable. I realized there was a huge opportunity to create a social experience that would tell me what my friends like, what products they like and more importantly, what stores they like. I wanted to discover unique, independent stores I hadn’t heard of, stores that are not in the mall, basically.”

Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram are all established social networks that allow people to share pictures of their favorite products, but it is not always easy to find where to purchase those products. With Wanelo, users can save products to their wishlists, and get feedback on their potential buys from other users.

Shoppers can tag friends and ask for their opinion or simply monitor the counter that shows how many times an item has been saved to users’ wishlists. Buying is just a click away from the product page. Wanelo users can also follow stores, people, and collections to find new stores and trends.

Wanelo started as a solely online venture, but in August 2012, Varshavskaya and a team of engineers launched an iOS app. The app for Android soon followed, and 85 percent of the site’s traffic now comes from mobile devices. Mobile users can now utilize some of the app’s newest features, such as an improved search function and a “stories” tool, which allows stores to write their own blurbs about a collection of products.

Nordstrom is just one of the businesses finding success on Wanelo. “Within five months, we had a million followers, the fastest growth of any of our social media accounts,” Bryan Galipeau, director of social media at Nordstrom, said in Bloomberg Businessweek.

Varshavskaya hopes to continue the growth by adding a feature that will allow users to see the availability of the product from the Wanelo site.