New app SOLD is testing its users’ patience, but not in the way you might expect. The gamified shopping experience sees how long its target audience of millennial moms can hold out before clicking ‘buy’ on a one-and-done item that’s decreasing in price with every second that ticks by.
It’s been a true, bootstrapped, multiple iterations, entrepreneurial kind of journey for Founder Drew Lehman to see SOLD in the app store. With a mechanical engineering degree from OSU, Lehman was introduced to entrepreneurship through a friend while in college.
“As soon as I realized what it was, I fell in love with it,” he says.
He even turned down a post-graduation job with Microsoft to instead work for Rich Langdale and DoMedia. It gave him the experience of seeing the venture capital and startup world from the inside. Experience also came in the form of a side-hustle e-commerce business selling wine accessories. When the market got saturated and sales started to diminish, Lehman realized, “It’s really hard to capture people’s attention today.”
Millennials are all too quick to scroll past an ad in a social media feed.
“I think a lot of people find it intrusive and don’t want to see it at all,” Lehman says. “I needed to figure out a way to capture people’s attention in a way that is valuable to them.”
Then The Button happened on Reddit. The social experiment tested how long Redditors could wait to push the button on a timer ticking down from 60 seconds. The idea that a user could only click the button one time ever turned it into a viral phenomenon. As Lehman saw the buzz around the seemingly inconsequential action, he realized, “This ticking down timer was very powerful for capturing people’s attention.”
From there he asked what would happen if he put the products he was trying to sell on a timer?
He figured the attention-grabbing sense of urgency would appeal to Millennials, but a whole generation is an overwhelmingly large target audience. Lehman looked through demographics and drew inspiration from businesses excelling in the e-commerce space, like Zulily. Looking at Zulily’s customer base he found a mostly mom audience – which actually provided the perfect fit for his budding shopping platform. Mom normally holds the purse strings for the household budget and is buying for the whole family, meaning a broad range of products.
“It’s a good opportunity for brands to get in front of a potentially new lifetime customer,” Lehman says. And if mom loves that product? “They are going to be an advocate for that product through social media, and that’s a really powerful recommendation channel,” Lehman continues.
To reach its Millennial moms, since March of 2016 SOLD has gone through three stages of development to arrive at its app. As a bootstrapped operation they didn’t have the capital to hire a developer, nor the technical expertise to build the app themselves, so SOLD had to get creative to test its concept.
“We figured out we could kind of hack Instagram in order to deliver on our whole value proposition,” Lehman says.
SOLD posted on Instagram twice a day, showing a product and a timer ticking down. Every five minutes, the price would drop and the first to comment ‘sold’ was the winner.
“For us that was a huge moment because we could now validate people really like this and they’re engaged with it and they enjoy it,” Lehman says.
SOLD’s next step was a web app. A website was cheaper to build than a mobile app, while also expanding their distribution. While the website worked, SOLD still wanted to build the app to be able to control the user experience.
After partnering with developers, Lehman set a launch date for SOLD to be in the app store: March 30, 2017 – a date that ultimately came and went.
“It always takes longer than you think,” Lehman says.
Learning how to manage developers and set and manage deadlines proved to be a huge learning curve. Instead of here’s the deadlines, here’s the requirements, Lehman says he should have set several incremental deadlines along the way.
Learning curve conquered, SOLD’s app is now live and has had 60 paying customers with over 600 moms participating and watching events. The app shows a lineup of sales for the day with the ability for users to receive reminder texts when the big event is about to begin. Uses can also learn about the products through images, descriptions and video content of moms who have used the goods.
Once a sales event starts, “It will go from retail to $0 in 60 seconds,” Lehman says.
The first person to hit buy wins the product at the discounted price. (And yes, things have gone down to $0.) The value proposition of a captive audience to market their product to has garnered several donated goods for SOLD’s events. Moving forward, the intention after the competitive, nail-biting portion of the event is over is to offer the same product to the sales audience at a discount.
Those last-chance sales will provide a revenue stream for SOLD in the form of commission. The app also generates dollars through the marketing value that they offer to brands.
For more information, visit soldapp.us.