Posts from Wanelo

Cool Stores

I’m inspired by the stores I’ve been finding lately. I’ve written about cool independent stores before, but the frequency of my encounters with them has increased dramatically and the stores have been getting more international. Most of them I find through Wanelo; a few via Instagram. I’m unsure how people discover cool stores elsewhere on the internet currently, other than the occasional Google search and clicks within the walls of marketplaces.

Nine products from nine of these cool stores:

· Laikingland sells finely crafted kinetic objects, and creepy ones like these disembodied drumming fingers.

· CKIE, pronounced “seeky,” is the ecommerce extension of Yanko Design web magazine (blog). It’s named after Ruth Noller’s symbolic equation for creativity, C=f(K,I,E), which holds that creativity (C) is a function of knowledge (K), imagination (I) and evaluation (E). They sell the kind of eye-catching things people like to share on the internet.

· More & Co. is a bright, designy shop and creative studio in Portland, Maine. Well aware of the importance of visuals in this game, their product photos are huge.

· Portland, Maine also happens to be the homebase of another favorite coolstore: Wary Meyers. Their blog is as interesting as their store (almost one and the same, as with a lot of these stores), and has so far led me to track down and watch at least three movies almost solely for the furniture: Play It Again, Sam (Woody Allen in San Francisco!), Emmanuelle (more stylish than I remembered it from Showtime in the ’80s) and Model Couple (1977), which really resonates these days:

· Generalgood is “an online store that stocks a diverse range of products from around the world, designed for life, crafted with care and built to last.” These include 1960s-style digital radios and hermetic bottle resealers. Sort of on their way to becoming a British Best Made Company.

· See also Labour and Wait, who “believe in a simple, honest approach to design, where quality and utility are intrinsic.” Think giant aluminum dustpans, bright tool bags and Stanley steel pocket flasks.

· Everyday Needs is yet another store “for people who want to make informed decisions in their consumption, ensuring that what they get is not only good-looking, but is carefully manufactured and with a quality that will last the test of time.” They sell many beautiful, useful objects out of New Zealand.

· And The Minimalist out of Sydney is “all about beauty, quality and style with a handmade touch.” They can make you want to buy paper weights and magnetic towers.

· LN-CC stands for “LATE NIGHT CHAMELEON CAFE” in all caps and is a far-out-looking store space (see below) in London with a mystical library, clothes and records you can peruse in person by appointment.

At first glance, the LN-CC site looks like many high-end fashion stores, but they grabbed hold of my attention with their excellent book selection which includes at least one category close to my heart (1970s utopian living classics OMG).

· Flatspot is another legit store in England (Devon) selling some hard-to-find kicks.

· Marchandise of Montreal sells “carefully picked objects of desire,” photographed against bright backgrounds that stand out around the internet.


· Papa Foxtrot is a toy company dedicated to the modern marvels of infrastructure, teaching the world about satellites and container ships. Their toys are now stocked in Paul Smith stores, among other places around the planet.

GEOTAIL by Papa Foxtrot

Incidentally, a Paul Smith store in London is also hosting an exhibition featuring another coolstore all-time fave: das programm.

· Finally, MODULE R is a highly likeable store out of Brooklyn specializing in “customizable, interactive and modular” objects.

These stores are like blogs or editorial operations that sell things, and sometimes pay rent. Shopping online is finally starting to feel like the entertainment it is in the real world.

So You Want to Sell Products On the Internet

Great! It’s getting dramatically easier to do so every few months, and the playing field keeps getting leveled.

There’s also a rapidly evolving set of best practices worth paying attention to, whether you’re a small independent seller or giant global retail organization.

First off, accept that the products you post online are going to be reposted, saved, shared, commented on and recontextualized by people using a variety of services and devices, if you’re successful. They’ll be stripped of the context of your store, as people are increasingly taking control of their content, including products found online. The products of yours that get reposted will become beacons leading new customers to your store, and you don’t have to pay anyone to get them there. (How often do you click on ads?) You just have to sell products that people think are worth sharing. And people really like to share.

Here’s what I would be sure to do if I was opening a new store online right now (and I just might):

1. Make a nice About page

People want to get some idea of who they’re buying from; it’s only natural. Include pictures of your face or team members’ faces and note your physical location in the world. Offer contact information and a real email address, not just a set of form fields. Pictures of your workspace, storefront or office are great. So is a full address. So is a paragraph or two about why you’re selling these things. Here’s a recent favorite About page.

All about MODULE-R, Brooklyn, NY

2. Take compelling photos of your products, and do not underestimate their importance

Photos are everything, almost, in this increasingly visual internet world. Make your product photos interesting and the kind of thing people will want to share and collect. Buying will happen in the midst of all that sharing and collecting. Photograph your product with a hand holding it. Here’s a classic Etsy blog post on the subject.

It’s worth spending time on this.

Remember cameras?

3. Write your copy with people in mind, not search engines

You want your products to be shared by people, which will help with search engines, but people will not share things that are written for robots. Be conversational, direct, detailed and vivid. Write the kind of copy people will want to copy and paste when they share your product because it strikes them as humorous, surprising or fascinating.

(I didn't write this copy.)

4. Make your shipping and return policy simple and prominent

Try to anticipate the questions people will have. Write these policies directly, like you’re talking to a friend. Keep them as brief as possible. Link to them from your product pages.

5. Juice up your product pages with metadata

You want Google, Facebook, Wanelo, Twitter and other platforms to know that your products are products, so that they can present them as products. I would use Facebook Open Graph tags and/or Wanelo tags. tags (supported by Google) and Twitter cards are also worth your while. Here’s a good article about this with easy-to-use templates.

How to Build Your Own Living Structures

For example, if I were selling a collectible copy of Ken Isaacs’ How to Build Your Own Living Structures (1974) (I just bought one after years of searching, so I won’t be, but for the sake of argument), I would include all this in the <head> of my product page’s HTML:

<meta property="og:title" content="How to Build Your Own Living Structures by Ken Isaacs (1974)" />
<meta property="og:description" content="A very collectible vintage instructional book from the 1970s."/>
<meta property="og:type" content="product"/>
<meta property="og:url" content=""/>
<meta property="og:site_name" content="Cool New Store"/>
<meta property="og:price:amount" content="75.00"/>
<meta property="og:price:currency" content="USD"/>
<meta property="og:availability" content="instock"/>

<meta property="wanelo:product:name" content="How to Build Your Own Living Structures by Ken Isaacs (1974)"/>
<meta property="wanelo:product:price" content="75.00"/>
<meta property="wanelo:product:price:currency" content="USD"/>
<meta property="wanelo:product:availability" content="InStock"/>
<meta property="wanelo:product:url" content=""/>

<meta name="twitter:card" value="product"/>
<meta name="twitter:domain" value=""/>
<meta name="twitter:title" value="How to Build Your Own Living Structures by Ken Isaacs (1974)"/>
<meta name="twitter:description" value="A very collectible vintage instructional book from the 1970s."/>
<meta name="twitter:image" content=""/>
<meta name="twitter:url" value="">
<meta name="twitter:data1" value="$75.00"/>
<meta name="twitter:label1" value="USD"/>
<meta name="twitter:data2" value="0"/>
<meta name="twitter:label2" value="Available"/>

And these tags in the HTML body of my product page:

<div itemscope itemtype="">
<meta itemprop="name" content="How to Build Your Own Living Structures by Ken Isaacs (1974)"/>
<meta itemprop="url" content=""/>
<span itemprop="description">A very collectible vintage instructional book from the 1970s.</span>

<div itemprop="offers" itemscope itemtype="">
<span itemprop="price">$75.00</span>
<meta itemprop="priceCurrency" content="USD" />
<meta itemprop="availability" itemtype="" content=""/>

6. Just say yes to canonical URLs

Canonical URLs on your product pages will ensure that your products get indexed efficiently. They’re Good for Google, Good for Wanelo, Good for Business ™. They’re good for any new platforms that emerge in the future. These platforms all want a single, primary URL to link to your product, even if many different permutations of your URL can get people there, because they don’t want to create duplicate links to your products and waste everyone’s time.

How does it work? Just include a line like this with the simplest version of your product’s URL in the <head> of your product pages’ HTML:

<link rel="canonical" href="" />

Then, if your website is one that creates different URLs for pages based on how people navigate to them, or if you append various parameters to your URLs for tracking purposes, external platforms will still be able to point to your products effectively.

7. Treat visitors on mobile devices differently than visitors on desktop computers, and vice versa

This doesn’t mean use different URLs for these two cases (in fact, do not do that if you want to be successful). Just detect the customer’s browser user agent and optimize the experience for the kind of device they’re on.

You may end up with a lot of people posting and sharing your products from their phones. Those posts will be consumed by people on desktop computers. Don’t send those desktop users sitting there with their wallets handy to the mobile version of your website—it will feel broken to them and they won’t buy your product. Instead, try and use a single website that adapts intelligently to the different devices visitors use to view your content.

8. Keep your product pages up, forever

After all this, when your products sell out because they’re so incredibly shareable, note that they’re sold but don’t give up on the interested visitors who keep landing there thanks to the links you acquired. Give them options. If possible, give them a way to tell you that they are interested in the product—it feels productive for them and will be valuable for you. Then you can alert them when the product becomes available again. Best Made Company and ModCloth are both doing this well.

Or, show them lots of related products to check out, as on these new intensive sold-out Etsy listing pages:

A new sold-out view on Etsy

Of course, there’s a whole lot more to selling online, but these are some of the things I often see missing out there in the wide, diverse world of ecommerce websites.

The Discovery of Fascinating Objects

The Flickr iPhone app is the most addictive app on my phone at the moment after Wanelo. The kind of app I’ll start using and then blissfully ignore text messages and the outside world until I get my fill.

It’s not because of the great photos my friends continue to upload there (Instagram owns that part of my brain now and isn’t giving it back), but because of all the things collectors of vintage design, furniture, calculators, magazines, advertising, architecture, artwork, matchbooks, postcards, book covers, product packaging, candy and toys are sharing there. I don’t use it to look at photos per se but objects. It’s like the difference between inspirational images and products you can buy. An “upload-only Tumblr for collectors” was how I first thought to describe it (there’s no reblogging). Now I’m realizing how similar the mobile experience is to Wanelo.

Because it’s all that content plus the intense scrollability of the app, which is so important on mobile and currently lacking on the Flickr website. You can see a lot of stuff quickly on the profile and favorites views, where I spend most of my energy, using it like I first used Etsy and now use Wanelo: tracing back the people behind the things I like and seeing what else they like, then continuing on into infinity.

Flickr faves of the moment