With images pulled directly from retailer sites, Pinterest seems made for e-commerce, but a digital agency is gambling that Tumblr users also have a hankering to buy the artfully photographed vintage raincoats and tubs of gourmet ice cream they see there.
Portland, Ore.-based Coexist Digital has developed a commerce platform for Tumblr that enables users to buy products without ever leaving the page they're on, with transactions enabled by the payments startup Stripe. While individual Tumblr "stores" like Made By Nike have cropped up before -- starting with the November 2010 launch of fashion retailer Of A Kind's Tumblr blog, which is powered by Shopify's shopping-cart technology -- Coexist's commerce platform is the first to aspire to power the back end for a cross-section of brands on Tumblr.
"We just landed on the idea of Tumblr commerce, and the idea of being able to buy from a Tumblr blog was wildly exciting," said Coexist's principal Dan Coe, whose agency is focused on shopping experiences for brands like Bath & Body Works and C.O. Bigelow.
Mr. Coe says the agency's Tumblr commerce platform has two service levels: one designed for small businesses and the other for brands. For the former, Coexist and Stripe would take a roughly 6% cut of sales transacted through the platform, but the service would be free to use. In the case of brands, he's envisioning something more custom where Coexist might develop a Tumblr blog for an event like Fashion Week and then power a pop-up store where Tumblr followers could buy limited-edition goods that had been unveiled that week.
The service's first taker is Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, which has 10 stores in Ohio and Tennessee and sells to wholesalers like Dean & Deluca and Whole Foods but shipped more than $1 million of product through its website last year. Its Tumblr account launched last week, and items for sale are marked with a yellow dot, including a $32 ice-cream-sandwich collection.
"We're thinking of it as an outlet to do some smaller sales and sell some [limited-edition] products that we wouldn't put on our website," said Jeni's community manager Ryan Morgan, who noted that his team is thinking of Tumblr as a virtual pop-up shop, though it's too early to say whether product is moving.
Tumblr has taken its first steps toward developing a revenue model, announcing in April that its "Radar" post on the user dashboard would become available as an ad unit. It launched its first major brand campaign with Adidas, focused on the now-underway 2012 UEFA European Championship, earlier this month.
Meanwhile, the company is encouraging third parties to innovate in e-commerce on the platform, but shows no signs of wanting to enter that space itself.
"We are constantly amazed and delighted by the creative ways that third parties leverage the Tumblr platform and have put a tremendous amount of care into making our API as functional and flexible as possible," said Tumblr's VP-product Derek Gottfrid in an emailed statement to Ad Age .