Want to Turn Your Brand’s Fans Into Expert Advisors? Try This Startup
The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark. If you would like to have your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here.
Quick Pitch: Needle offers expert live chat service to online retailers to help customers find the best products and increase sales.
Genius Idea: “Fansourcing” — Turning superfans of your brand into part-time advisors for the rest of your customers.
It’s hard not to argue that Needle is a cool startup when you see its headquarters — essentially, a top-of-the-line RV with a roofdeck lined in artificial grass.
Needle connects online shoppers with product experts who assist them through chat, voice and video communication. Imagine the high-quality customer service of a sales person on the shop floor at Nordstrom, but when you’re shopping online.
Needle re-creates a real store experience, but even one better because the experts are top-notch and love the products they recommend. They also don’t work full time, so they don’t get burnt out and are always eager to help.
“Needlers,” as they are called, can earn credits for selling items, which they can put toward purchases of their own. They can also create “social coupons” to share with friends on Facebook.
Needle’s CEO Morgan Lynch gave us the tour of his mobile office and introduced us to several “Needlers” who were working for Skullcandy and Under Armor, two of Needle’s clients. Lynch calls it “fansourcing” commerce.
Lynch and his team drove the mobile office from Salt Lake City, Utah (where it’s based) to San Francisco, then headed to southern California and finally Las Vegas to recruit for and promote the company. The inside of the RV is decked out with flat-screen computer monitors, dark wood paneling and a long bench with two sizable tables, where they can give PowerPoint presentations to clients.
The mobile office can hold 30 staffers and Needlers, however most Needlers reviewers are based all across the country.
We checked out the websites of Coach and Under Armor, sites that supposedly have Needlers. But no chat invite popped-up on our screen. The company explained a Needler wasn’t available at that moment. Neither of those sites queue chats, so if there are not enough Needlers a visitor won’t receive an invite.
Otherwise, the Needlers can be found by clicking on buttons such as “Chat with an Expert” or a pop-up that says “Live Chat.”
Live chat on online retail shopping websites is growing in popularity and demand. Social sharing also increases the likelihood of purchase.
A survey by Social Labs in 2012 showed online shoppers were 57% more likely to make a purchase from a retailer after seeing a friend’s activity on that retailer’s site.
What do you think about Needle as a consumer or an online retailer? Tell us in the comments.
Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark
The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark, a startup program that gives you three-year access to the latest Microsoft development tools, as well as connecting you to a nationwide network of investors and incubators. There are no upfront costs, so if your business is privately owned, less than three years old, and generates less than U.S.$1 million in annual revenue, you can sign up today.