Social Shopping Site Adds Former GSI Exec as CTO

22 hours ago OpenSky has snagged Michael Schnapf, former SVP of Product and Technology at GSI Commerce, as its CTO. That’s on top of adding Simon Black, formerly of Eddie Bauer and HSN, as its head of merchandizing last week.

The 10-month old e-commerce company has amassed 1.3 million users who buy half a million dollars worth of merchandize each week from 100 celebrity and guest “sellers.” This month OpenSky was named Fast Company’s 49th most innovative company.

OpenSky, based in New York, is up to 83 employees. It operates on what I think are some exciting tenets of social shopping.

For one, it’s set up so that browsers mimic a bricks-and-mortar store that personalizes itself to each user. Rather than look at items based on category (women’s/shoes/home), users follow celebrities and influencers who have individual shops filled with curated merchandize. They suggest items through a Twitter-like stream of content that includes editorial like video and how-to guides. It’s in line with the “content company with sales” definition Sarah has hit on with and Jetsetter.

It’s personalized and it aims to delight through discovery. The site doesn’t even have a search box, which Caplan says creates a more female-friendly experience that allows women discover new products tailored to their interests, rather than barreling into a store with a list of items and getting out as quickly as possible.

OpenSky’s social layer goes beyond that of Fab’s or Jetsetter’s. There’s the ability to connect with sellers like Martha Stewart or Bobby Flay–8.5 million connections have been made thus far. But there’s also Facebook connect, which 40% of members are using to communicate with friends within OpenSky’s site and in their Facebook feeds. There is a “love” function similar to Facebook’s “like” function, which acts as a wish list for users. CEO John Caplan says users that “love” more tend to shop more. In several weeks, the company will make users’ profiles public, so their “loves,” follows and other actions will be shown and shared.

It seems to be working–only 4% of OpenSky purchases have been returned and 85% of the company’s sales in the past six weeks have been from repeat customers. My only initial complaint about OpenSky was that the site’s emails from sellers were too frequent; Caplan said the company has switched its email management provider and has found a more suitable volume for users.

Schnapf will lead OpenSky’s efforts to implement more direct engagement tools for its sellers to push special promotions, content and merchandize within the OpenSky system.

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