Generally, when we talk about point-of-sale (POS), we’re referring to the system or machine that allows a seller to complete a transaction with a buyer. We give a lot of attention to software and technology that make transactions happen with more speed and less paper.
But, as I spoke with Stacey Duffy of Hybrid Her last week, I realized that the POS encompasses much more than a mere iPad or cash register. It is also the location where a transaction takes place, and the transaction itself is often heavily dependent on the people involved at that POS.
Hybrid Her is an online platform that allows women to create their own boutiques from an array of products by female designers around the world. The women who build these online stores, the Hybrid Her mavens, sell the products through home trunk show parties or social media. Ultimately, women are “using a hybrid of their online and offline networks to build their businesses,” Duffy explained.
Duffy co-founded the company with Beth Smith after attending a friend’s home-hosted trunk show. “Both of us are passionate about female entrepreneurship,” Duffy said. “Our core mission is to help women achieve the life they want to live, and financial empowerment allows women to do that.”
Hybrid Her focuses on bringing women designers and their products into the living rooms and social networks of their mavens. This is where our high-tech idea of the POS is somewhat inverted. “The sale is personal,” Duffy said, “as a shopper, you work with someone you know and trust.”
Mavens purchase samples from designers whose style they like. Each maven ends up curating a unique identity. No two boutiques are alike, which is something that makes Hybrid Her different than many direct sales companies. “There are products from around the world,” Duffy explained. “And people feel really good about what they are supporting.”
Many of the designers sell their products in places they never would have been able to reach otherwise. For example, women designers from Uganda sell beaded jewelry through the mavens. “People really feel good about what they are supporting. Women feel better buying the products and selling them,” said Duffy.
The Hybrid Her founders have been blown away by the designers who have joined the network. “All of them have amazing stories,” Duffy said. Many are non-profit designers and some are heavily involved in social entrepreneurship. “The stories make these products even more special.”
By bringing people into their homes for trunk shows, the Hybrid Her mavens have a chance to tell the designers’ stories while showcasing their products. And while the trunk shows create a high degree of personal connection, the mavens also utilize their Hybrid Her online boutiques as well as social media to sell products.
Duffy and Smith partnered with a programmer to help them build proprietary technology for the Hybrid Her platform. Because they have a more complicated e-commerce structure, they wanted to build a system rather than purchase and customize one. “The technology piece will be evolving,” said Duffy. “We want to integrate better with social media, and eventually go mobile.”
This concept of home trunk shows isn’t new, but the idea of a hybrid point-of-sale (savvy use of technology coupled with a highly personal shopping experience) is different. So far, it has been working well for the HybridHer mavens and the designers they promote.
It will be interesting to if this trend emerges in more mainstream ways. At amazon.com, for example, I can spread the word about my purchases via Facebook. So, will companies that produce POS software and hardware work to better integrate with social media? The work that Smith and Duffy are doing suggests they will have to.
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