OWJO is a Dublin-based startup which launched late last year, and makes it easy for anyone to sell goods online, without needing a dedicated online store or payment facility. Once a user has signed up for free, they can place a portable interface, called an owjo, into any online presence which they may have, whether it is a dedicated website, a Facebook profile, a MySpace page, or a blog.
David Johnston, is the founder of OWJO. He describes OWJO as a, “a channel directly to your fans or supporters for your brand or your product”.
“If you’re a sports personality or if you have a brand, and you have followers on Facebook, or any of the other social networks, or blogs, or your own website, of course, and you want to monetize those digital presences that you’ve built up, what you can do is you can create an owjo.
“An owjo really, is a portable, online store that you can place on any web property that you have. It allows you to put physical and digital goods in, or a mixture. For example, in the music industry they do a lot of bundling, they call it, where they might sell a t-shirt with a digital track. OWJO allows you to do all that sort of stuff. You put that together and you place it on your web property.”
Issues such as data being passed on to third parties on Facebook has left many people skeptical about clicking on commercial links away from the page they are viewing. This has left Facebook with, perhaps, a lower level of commercial activity than would be expected for a network of its size. One of OWJO’s key features is that at all stages of a transaction, the user remains on the initial page they are viewing, on Facebook or elsewhere.
David feels that Facebook is a relatively un-mined commercial landscape. “Even the way Facebook is set up, with pages to isolate people towards businesses, everything is going the way of commercialisation of Facebook from what I can see. The thing is, Facebook has, in the past, suffered with private data being lost and data being made available to other applications that shouldn’t get it.”
However, the stage is set, according to David, for rapid growth in the commercialisation of Facebook. With OWJO’s ability to carry out a transaction without leaving Facebook, it is already benefiting from that growth.
“We have a lot of stores now on Facebook. Some of the stores are selling exclusively on Facebook, for example Jim Fitzpatrick, an artist who created the Che Guevara image, is selling exclusively on Facebook at the moment. The cool thing about Facebook is that it has all those tools available for you to create a targeted marketing campaign for very little money at the moment.
“All the mechanics are there for you to sell very successfully on Facebook. It’s just that it’s not common at the moment. Everything points to the fact that it will be the place, or the platform for people to do commerce on.”
OWJO’s growth is not just attributed to the popularity Facebook. The technology behind the site is “five or six years,” in development, and David has noticed that the site is now benefiting from, “the viral effect kind of kicking in for us now,” and ever more diverse requests for owjo’s are coming in from around the world. “We even had somebody requesting to sell their religious sermons on OWJO, so that’s no problem for us!”
Although the site might have more obvious advantages for the small business or for an individual with limited resources, larger companies can also make use of OWJO.
“Certainly, either for an individual or a small business, what OWJO gives them is the ability to be able to create a store, and to accept payment through a system called OWJO Payments that we worked on with Elavon, that allows us to approve people to accept credit or debit cards on OWJO stores.
“That means that they eliminate the time that they would have to wait to put together an Internet merchant account, and the cost, because with OWJO Payments we don’t charge a setup cost or a monthly cost, so anybody can really get in and run an OWJO store that accepts credit cards.
David has blogged, about the importance of, “engaged brand advocates,” in the sphere of social commerce. This means that instead of spending time and resources trying to reach as many people as possible, you allow those who you already to reach to advocate your brand for you. “Basically, it’s not just all about likes,” he explains, “What you really need to strive for, is you need to be able to have people who are advocates of your brand.”
OWJO’s Partner Fee functionality achieves this by allowing you to place your owjo onto a third party site, for a pre-arranged division of sales revenue, all of which is handled by the owjo. This can take the form of a small business approaching a well-trafficked website and paying for an owjo to be placed there, or by incentivizing advocates to promote the product on your behalf.
“Let’s say you’re a book publisher. Let’s say you have somebody blogging about your book. You say, “Listen, I really appreciate you blogging about the book, how about you put an owjo store up there, put my book in it, and you can make a commission?” That’s basically what OWJO can do, the brand advocates can actually benefit, and help you extend the reach of your products.”