Since the early days of ReplyYes, we knew we were onto something with the concept of message-based commerce. But what we didn’t know, was how much consumers and brands would latch onto it.
Fast-forward to today, we’re announcing $6.5 million in Series A funding and have made a big time dent in validating the market for e-commerce over mobile messaging. While we’re just at the beginning of our journey, we know we’re onto something that’s going to fundamentally transform e-commerce.
The idea for ReplyYes stemmed from the need to create frictionless commerce. In 2015 when we were building the platform in Madrona Venture Labs, e-commerce sales worldwide were on the up and up, while similarly, mobile and messaging app usage was eclipsing desktop for the first time. Artificial intelligence and chat bots soon started to gain traction. And through it all we kept with a very simple goal: help people easily discover and purchase things they love.
This created the premise behind our first store, The Edit, a text-based service that sends vinyl fans daily recommendations based on their musical preferences and allows them to instantly purchase and ship the record by simply replying ‘Yes.’
Why Vinyl records? We knew if messaging was our primary vehicles for engaging, the offer needed to have visual elements that can say 1,000 words. Music lovers everywhere appreciate the album art of vinyl record covers and it only takes a few words to elicit a ‘Like’, ‘Yes’, ‘No’, ‘Buy’, response. We also liked Vinyl because the vast catalog of albums was perfect for our recommendation engine to delight and surprise our users.
Shortly after launching The Edit, we spun out of Madrona Venture labs and secured $2.5 million in seed funding, which we used to further build out the platform. A short time after, we reached a company milestone – the Edit sold $1 million worth of vinyl records. Demand for this type of e-commerce was exceeding our expectations, spurring a flurry of new content ideas and offerings we wanted to explore. We launched Origin Bound, a comic book store, in May 2016 and began the process of configuring our platform to be white-labeled by other consumer-facing brands.
With this broader strategy, we were able to land Universal Music Group (UMG) as the first customer to white-label our platform. Using ReplyYes, UMG will enable its artists and labels to send personalized messages to fans with offers for merchandise, tickets, and albums/songs. What attracted UMG to our platform was the ability to maintain control over customer data, engagement sentiment and purchasing signals that are derived out of the messaging platform.
With this $6.5 million in Series A funding, we’ll be expanding our platform functionality to suit brand engagement and frictionless e-commerce needs across media, lifestyle brands, app and game discovery, events and tickets, wine and other consumables. Based on our rapid growth and demand for our platform, we expect e-commerce over mobile messaging to take off this year. Buckle up!