Customized fabrics retailer Panólatras is hoping to grow its business via interacting with shoppers on their smartphones.
The Brazil-based web-only retailer launched in January 2017 selling print-on-demand fabrics. Panólatras uses a drop-ship model, so it does not hold any inventory.
While the retailer can produce a large amount of fabric, Panólatras’ value proposition is that it can make a small quantity of customized fabric, which few online retailers can do, says Tiago Tagnin, the retailer’s co-founder and e-commerce manager. The site has about 1,300 fabrics available created by more than 300 designers. When a purchase is made, the designer receives a 10% cut of the sale.
Sales so far have not grown as fast as Tagnin would like, increasing about 5%-10% month over month since the site’s launch. In September Panólatras.com.br generated roughly $11,000 (about R$35,000) in sales.
“It’s good, but it’s not great. We’re hoping it will grow faster,” Tagnin says. “2016 was a very hard year economically for Brazil, so we are hoping to get better next year.”
While sales may be smaller than expected, the retailer has the groundwork and a plan to boost shopper engagement.
To start, the fabric retailer has a sizable social media following —37,000 Instagram followers and 50,000 Facebook followers—that it has grown without advertisements. On average in Internet Retailer’s Latin America 500, merchants had 119,672 Instagram followers 746,526 Facebook likes.
Panólatras posts are about fabric and how to style it, and are not too focused on selling, Tagnin says. Tagnin attributes the retailer’s community of designers that share their fabrics and Panólatras’ non-selling approach to its decent social media following in only 10 months time. The retailer has one staff member dedicated to managing its social media accounts.
The retailer also is looking to boost interaction and sales out of its mobile audience, which represents about 50% of its traffic and 30% of sales. Panólatras’ desktop conversion rate is about 1.0%, however, its mobile conversion rate lags at 0.3%, Tagnin says.
Panólatras’ uses Shopify Inc.’s e-commerce platform, and noticed a new plugin from startup technology vendor Litefy that converts a retailer’s responsive design mobile site into a progressive web app. A progressive web app, or PWA, offers the look and customer engagement of an app, but in a mobile website. For example, PWAs allow retailers to send web push notifications to a shopper’s smartphone and typically load faster than traditional mobile websites.
Tagnin was attracted to the PWA to increase shoppers’ time browsing on the site and to keep the retailer top of mind. For example, the mobile site will ask the user if she wants to add a Panólatras icon to her home screen. This will allow a shopper to access the website in one tap and frequently see the icon on her smartphone home screen, without having to install an app. In the two months since the retailer added the PWA technology, about 100 consumers have added the retailer’s icon to their smartphone home screen, he says.
Because of a caching and service worker technology that fetches content in the background, mobile sites with progressive web app technology are typically faster than a retailer’s responsive web site. The same holds true for Panólatras, as the site now loads 40% faster, he says.
Litefy recently coded its plugin to allow retailers to send push notifications via the PWA, however, Panólatras has not used this feature yet. Tagnin is looking forward to using smartphone alerts to keep shoppers engaged.
“Push notifications are a very effective way to talk with customers because you can send direct, custom messages in the right time,” Tagnin says.
Overall, the PWA plugin was the right move for Panólatras, as it gives the retailer some of the benefits of the app without having the expense—$10,000 by Tagnin’s estimates—of building an app. The plugin costs the retailer $10 a month, he says.