First-Of-Its-Kind Retail Tool Tote Eyes Beauty Expansion
Tote is closing the gap between offline and online experiences as retailers prioritize omnichannel strategies.
Launched in June 2022, the service, which is expanding to beauty stores, allows shoppers to set aside items they want to try on in person as they peruse a retailer’s website. To secure a time slot for in-store try-on, shoppers hit a Try On In Store button on an individual product detail page and provide their name, email address and phone number along with the date and time they want to come to the store to try the product. Shoppers and store managers then receive email confirmations, calendar invites and text messages.
It’s a concept that’s unchallenged in the market, according to Tote founder Daniel Nickel. “We have no competition, zero,” he says. “No one else does what we do.”
Retailers can integrate Tote into their Shopify stores by installing an app. With integration, they can access a dashboard to track customer appointments and embed a questionnaire to learn more about their customers. Shoppers don’t have to download an app to use Tote.
“If a customer is looking for that get in, get out experience in store, they can get it. If they have more time, they can ask the associate about other items in the store,” explains Nickel. “On the retail side, the store associate doesn’t have to guess who’s coming in. They’re ready for the customer. They know who they are, they know what they want and they can give them a much more relevant experience.” He continues, “It’s win-win. That customer ends up buying because they got the experience they wanted and the store gets a purchase.”
So far, the software is yielding serious results for clients in the women’s apparel and footwear categories. Per Nickel, shoppers that use the Tote feature convert in store about 96% of the time with basket sizes that are 2X to 3X larger than those who don’t employ the service. Returns on Tote-assisted purchases are less than 3%. Nickel says sales associates report that it’s shortening the time it takes to convert a customer in store.
Tote has about 40 fashion boutique accounts and has its sights set on beauty. At beauty retailers, shoppers could set aside specific items and shades to test in store. Tote is in discussions to onboard its first beauty retailer. For now, it’s targeting small- and mid-sized retailers with under 50 physical stores. Nickel aims to nab 100 accounts between fashion and beauty by the end of the year.
Tote currently has three pricing tiers: Boutique Plan, Growth Plan and Enterprise Plan. The Boutique Plan costs $60 a month or $57 a year for up to three licenses or store locations. The Growth Plan costs $100 a month or $95 a year for between four to 10 store locations. The Enterprise Plan allows for 10-plus store locations. Pricing for the plan is available upon request.
A former manager at Endeavor, Nickel was inspired to start Tote while heading up the global investment bank and advisory firm’s retail and consumer technology division prior to the pandemic. “No one could quite put their finger on what an immersive in-store experience and hyper-personalization were for any one particular shopper. This was between 2016 and 2019 approximately,” he says. “Every time I’ve ever walked into a retail store, whether it’s beauty, sportswear, leisure wear or fashion, they don’t know who I am, what I’m coming in for or what experience I want when I walk through the door.”
“Every single mom-and-pop shop should be on it. Tote connects their online and offline channels in an affordable and very seamless way that also works for the shopper.”
Nickel hired three engineers to build Tote’s initial software following the completion of a small friends and family raise in 2021. Participation in an SaaS accelerator at Forum Ventures late last year further padded the company’s coffers and hone its go-to-market tactics. Nickel plans to raise more funds in the fourth quarter of this year after securing what he hopes will be Tote’s tentpole accounts in fashion and beauty. Additional funds will be put toward lifting the company’s profile.
He says, “I haven’t been getting out to the trade shows yet. I haven’t done any paid promotions or anything like that. I’m very purposely staying under the radar as I sign more clients. I think the next 10 brands that I sign on are going to make the next 100 very easy.” Eventually, he envisions Tote having its own pop-up stores to showcase brands.
Similar to how the hospitality platform Resy connects restaurants with diners, Nickel aims for Tote to be a retail discovery platform where shoppers in any city can quickly scan stores to find items to try on. For small retailers that struggle with omnichannel competence, be believes the platform could be particularly valuable.
“I think every single boutique and every single mom-and-pop shop should be on it,” says Nickel. “Tote connects their online and offline channels in an affordable and very seamless way that also works for the shopper. Shoppers love shopping at the mom-and-pop shops. They just don’t know about them.”
This article was modified on July 25 to acknowledge that the name of the company is Tote and not Book With Tote.