We caught up with the US-based founder and chief executive officer of MyEndoShop, Russ Gottesman, to learn more about his new affiliate marketing-based startup.
Q: MyEndoShop.com’s platform allows users to earn commission for their influenced purchases. Can you summarise how this works?
RG: MyEndoShop works in two ways. First, we open up affiliate marketing to the everyday online shopper who might be too busy to know how to create their own affiliate partnerships. Second, we allow users to share products they love with their friends and earn commission for promoting or sharing an advertiser/retailer’s product to consumers who end up purchasing the product.
Users on MyEndoShop act as affiliates when they recommend products to their friends and network, and should someone purchase that product, our user earns affiliate commission.
Users then endorse, or ‘endo’, products that they love. These products are then added to their storefront (user profile), and from there a user can easily share this product with their friends and network through our integrated social media buttons or good old fashioned email. If someone purchases the product, the user earns commission for that influenced purchase.
Q: You claim to be ‘introducing affiliate marketing to the masses’. How does your offering differ to competitors and who are your main competitors?
RG: I like to think that our approach to affiliate marketing is unlike that of any other service out there.
Sure, there are a lot of companies that provide affiliate links for people to add to their websites and blogs, but there is not a website that pulls this all together and allows the everyday online shopper the chance to promote and share products within a specific platform. That’s where MyEndoShop comes in.
Unless you are a active in the online blogging community or familiar with different internet marketing techniques, chances are, you don’t know what affiliate marketing is. And to be honest, at first, most people using our site probably don’t understand what affiliate marketing is; but they do understand that they can earn commission for having their friend by a product, and to them, that is what matters most. It allows them to share cool products they love using with their friends, and earn a little extra cash on the side. We’ve had so much positive feedback from our beta users that they cannot believe they can actually earn money on their recommendations. To be able to save about 2% on every purchase is a total bonus too.
Q: Who can use MyEndoShop and who is its target audience?
RG: The beauty of what we call Web 2.0 is the fact that MyEndoShop can be used in any country. We have over 30,000 retail partners from around the world, though a large number of them are based in the United States. People are becoming addicted to sharing product and searching product pictures, we take this model one step further.
Our early adopters tend to be between the ages of 18 and 39, skew slightly female and do a large amount of online shopping. Ideally, we are targeting anyone who enjoys shopping online, social networking, and earning a little extra spending money. From our preliminary research, we have discovered that a majority of our users will continue to grow, skewing female between the ages of 18, capping out at around 50, and who regularly online shop.
Q: How has the business been received?
RG: The concept was thought of in the winter of 2010 when I was talking with my sister-in-law about my Samsung TV. She was in the market for a new television and was asking me all sorts of questions. She loved the picture quality, trusted my opinion, and proceeded to walk into a local retailer to make the purchase entirely based on my recommendation! That’s when the entrepreneur ‘aha’ moment happened and we knew that word of mouth recommendations deserved some financial reward.
I then wrote a business plan for MyEndoShop in the summer of 2012. We secured funding in October 2012, entered the University of Dayton Business Plan competition placing third later that year while launching a pre-beta of test customers.
We officially launched MyEndoShop into functional beta in February of 2013. Leading up to the launch we had a group of highly motivated young students at a local university help to recruit their friends and family to be our very first beta users.
We launched out of beta earlier this summer. We have been in business about five months, and are just shy of our first thousand users, with a majority of them being US residents. This summer, we launched out of beta and are now offering everyone the ability to save around 2% cashback on online purchases while earning an additional 2% for recommending products to their friends!
Q: What are your wider views on the affiliate marketing industry in the US?
RG: I read a Forbes article recently that sited a Forrester Research study saying that by 2014 the affiliate marketing industry is expected to reach $4.1 billion in the US alone. I think that you could argue this proves that affiliate marketing is not only a formidable method for people to earn money, but also an incredible avenue for retailers to go down when searching for cheaper ways to get the word out about their products.
While this number is impressive, it appears that the affiliate marketing industry is very niche and relatively closed off and unknown to the general public. If affiliate marketing could somehow be opened up to your average Joe or Julia, I think we would see a noticeable increase in affiliate industry revenue. That is how we are driving MyEndoShop; bringing the benefits affiliate marketing to everyone.
Q: Prior to running the business did you work in any similar roles and did you have much knowledge of the affiliate industry and how it works?
RG: Prior to founding MyEndoShop, I grew a startup called Commuter Advertising; an idea I had in 2005 that allows for location-based audio ads to play on public transit. We’ve been successful at growing this company, reaching 200-million riders in 10 US cities. What fascinated me about affiliate marketing, and to a greater extent, social media, was the ability to bring the customer to us. It was that interest, that led me to discover the benefits of affiliate marketing and came to appreciate this entire online world dedicated to earning commission through e-commerce, and thus my foray into affiliate marketing began.
Q: What expansion plans do you have and to what markets and when?
RG: Our biggest priority at this point is growing fast. Because our platform is so unique, our main goal is to gain new users, traction in the market, and ensure that our platform is ‘sticky’, i.e. users will keep coming back for more. We love ‘endo’ing’ and can’t wait for everyone else to get started too!
Q: What lies ahead for 2013/14?
RG: Our development team is constantly working on changing and improving the website based on feedback from our team and users. We want to make our platform as appealing and easy to understand for our users as possible.
Looking forward, we have a lot of big goals for ourselves. We would like to become ‘THE’ online ecosystem where friends are recommending their favourite products to one another, and also earning cashback for their influential recommendations. We have a lot of different ‘irons in the fire’ trying to reach these goals, some of which include reaching out to our retail partners and sharing with them the benefits of integrating our 'Endo This' button directly onto their e-commerce site. Our team is full of successful entrepreneurs who have drive, passion and the ability. Now, it’s just time to start Endo’ing!