Aided By Facebook Ads, Wantable Carves Out Niche in Online Fashion

Xconomy Wisconsin — 

When it comes to advertising on the Web, Google remains king. But second-place Facebook has rapidly been narrowing the gap.

From 2012 to 2017, Facebook’s (NASDAQ: FB) ad revenues increased 833 percent, to $39.9 billion, according to Statista.com. That’s compared with a 118 percent growth rate in Google’s (NASDAQ: GOOGL) online ad sales over the same period.

Lots of companies that sell direct-to-consumer products advertise on both Google and Facebook. One example is Wantable, a venture capital-backed startup headquartered in Milwaukee that ships customers curated boxes of goods each month containing clothing and fashion accessories, such as handbags and jewelry.

Jalem Getz, who founded Wantable in 2012 and continues to lead the startup as its president, says Facebook is the single biggest place where members of Wantable’s mostly young, female customer base first hear about the service.

“Facebook—and when I say Facebook, I’m casting a wider net to include Instagram—is the platform du jour right now,” Getz says. “It doesn’t matter if you’re Ford Motor Company, Stitch Fix, Wantable, or somebody selling sneakers. Anybody who is spending a lot on digital [marketing], Facebook probably captures the biggest slice of that.”

Getz estimates that more than 80 percent of the people who sign up for Wantable after hearing about the service on Facebook or Instagram engage with a paid advertisement or sponsored post, rather than so-called organic posts from other users in one’s network.

The startup uses a combination of human stylists and software algorithms to pick out garments and other items for customers based on their fashion preferences.

Getz concedes that “at the end of the day, we are a niche player in a very large category.” Nevertheless, he says, through a combination of Wantable’s proprietary technology, its stylists’ expertise, and widely used tools like online ad campaigns, the startup is seeking to woo users away from competing services such as Stitch Fix (NASDAQ: SFIX) and Trunk Club.

To support those efforts, Wantable has raised more than $6.5 million in outside investment. Its latest capital infusion was a $1.4 million round of equity funding that Wantable raised earlier this month. Participants in the funding round included the BrightStar Wisconsin Foundation and Northwestern Mutual’s Cream City Venture Capital fund, which the Milwaukee-based financial services giant launched last year to support local startups, Getz says.

Wantable will use the new money to fund its day-to-day operations, he says.

“We’re anticipating our growth will continue,” Getz says, adding that the company now has more than 110 employees, about 20 of whom work as personal stylists.

Over the years, Wantable has expanded its service in a bid to court new customers. It began shipping fitness apparel in 2014, and two years later started a new program for men, as well as one for women who wear plus sizes.

Some services, like New York-based Rent the Runway, ship customers clothes they can exchange for new ones when they want to sport a new look.

Getz says he loves rental services and has “a tremendous amount of respect” for the leaders of Rent the Runway, but he expects Wantable to stick with its model of sending people items that they purchase and keep (provided they fit and are to the customer’s liking—Wantable doesn’t charge for returned items, he says). Still, Getz says he has personally flirted with the rental concept in the past.

“When I’m sitting around with nothing to do, I often come up with ideas like that, which my team is rightfully very quick to shoot down,” he says. “We’re a retailer, not a rental service.”