So, you want to know a little more about us…
Serial entrepreneurs Madeline Parra and John Talbot founded Purple Dot in August of 2019. This is our second start-up, and amazingly, we’re not sick each of each other yet.
Our first start-up was Twizoo, sold to Skyscanner in 2017.
Why did we get involved in another start-up?
Actually, it was a no-brainer. We love building and shipping new products and experiences. In fact, we’re addicted to it – it’s really fun to imagine something brand new, launch it out into the world, and see how people like you respond.
So, thank you for giving us the opportunity to explore something new once more. We’re glad you’re here… 😊
Why Purple Dot?
We started Purple Dot to change how things are bought and sold.
We began with our own frustrations as both sellers and consumers because we’re just like you in most respects. We wanted to create something different and better for merchants and shoppers, and we wanted to contribute somehow to the overall sustainability of consumerism.
Where to start?
We began by looking at current retail issues in a different way.
We thought about the sustainability of retail and the forces working against it today, right now.
We thought about the impact of economic fragility and the troubles of the financial system on retailers and consumers alike. We thought about all the advancements in technology for online retailers and buyers, and all the recent improvements in software-based inventory control, pricing, logistics, and transaction management.
We decided that the improvements weren’t enough to offset market volatility, help retailers choking on unsold inventory, and encourage worried consumers struggling to control their own finances.
There were some obvious universal pain points: the problems of unsold inventory and eroding margins were (and still are) getting worse rather than better.
This was despite exploding consumer spending across the board. What, we wondered, was going on? Common sense, which sometimes has little do with economic reality, suggested that these problems were mostly self-inflicted and that perhaps we could help merchants to deal with them.
Surely, we thought, it should be possible to develop a near-perfect supply-demand model for selling products.
Back to First Principles
We started by rethinking first principles of selling and buying.
Today, when you’re shopping, there’s one price for an item – you either pay the price given to you and get the item, or you walk. It’s very binary.
And very few people complain about it because we’ve all been conditioned to think there’s no alternative.
We knew that it hadn’t always been so.
In fact, retail transactions are culturally and historically rooted in thousands of years of bartering and haggling over price or terms. Between buyers and sellers, the context in the moment always allowed some wiggle room, but the truth is that the seller was always in control:
Given what I know in the circumstances, do I want to sell at this price, at this time, to this person, or not?
Whatever wiggle room there was gave the seller the power to make the best decision possible after weighing critical factors:
Do I need this money now?
Do I have too many of this item, and do I want to get rid of some instead of holding onto them?
Is the item in high demand, and will I be able to sell it for a higher price to the next buyer who walks in?
Do I think the buyer in front of me will pay more than I’m asking, or less?
Will the buyer exercise the only control he or she has by actually walking away? Is the buyer bluffing about this as a negotiating tactic?
Sellers always considered these factors, but they also knew that their best chance to sell was always immediately, with buyers standing in front of them. Skilled sellers learned to optimize the circumstances in deciding whether to sell, and at what price.
Not surprisingly, times have changed.
The old, traditional approach to haggling hasn’t scaled well in the modern technology-driven retail environment, mostly because consistency and control at scale outweigh the complexity and fluidity of ‘in-the-moment’ pricing flexibility. Consistency and control have become increasingly important, especially where operations and brand protection are concerned.
We recognized this – it seemed obvious. We also knew that the advent of online shopping had heightened the importance of consistency and control.
From our own research and experience, we knew there were other approaches to the problems. “Dynamic pricing” – a strategy by which businesses offer flexible prices that can change with consumer demand – is one of them. Unfortunately, attractive though it looks, dynamic pricing isn’t really a solution.
It still forces sellers to stick with one uniform price at the moment of sale. It’s one price for one outcome – and you sell, or you don’t.
Think for a moment about what retail was like a couple of generations ago, when our parents were young.
If you were a canny mall shopper who wasn’t driven by impulse, you might find discretionary items you liked – stuff you wanted but didn’t actually need. You could approach a sales clerk to ask that you be called if the item went on sale.
Most retailers were accommodating about this – someone would pull out a spiral notebook and take your name, your phone number, and the item details. They’d actually follow up and call you if the item went on sale, and you’d typically rush over to the store to make the purchase.
And you’d love it, because sale discounts not only allowed you to buy more “want” items, but also allowed you to feel better about your purchases.
Because in each case, you got a deal.
We became fascinated with the underlying psychology. We realized that people were willing to wait, willing to risk missing out, willing to take a chance – and all in exchange for a discount. We saw that there are always two generic mindsets in play when shoppers are thinking about buying something:
I really need this. I gotta have it, and I’m unlikely to walk away due to price… AND
Well…hmmmm…I like it, but I’m undecided and reluctant. Maybe a discount would justify the purchase for me. I’d love a discount…
This psychology is still present in shoppers, despite all the changes in retail and in society.
We can all see it because we’ve all shopped online. We’ve seen something we liked, and we’ve thought to ourselves, “I’d buy this right now if it were just a bit cheaper…maybe I’ll leave it in my basket in case there’s a sale soon…”
Of course, many of us forget about these items and never return to the retailer’s site to track them down. Life moves too quickly, and we’ve all hostage to the desire for instant gratification.
We’re also sure that in the world of information/email/notification overload, a call from a retailer would be ineffective, assuming you could actually find a retailer willing to phone you about a sale.
Instead, the retail site misses out on selling you a product without ever really knowing of your interest, and you never get around to declaring your interest to them: I would buy this now if it were a bit cheaper. Let me know, but if not, no worries!
You simply don’t see markdowns exactly when you want them, and that’s not surprising. Retailers aren’t going to contact you to sell you an item at a discount if they’re trying not to miss out on selling to other customers who are still willing to pay full price. Retailers defer their markdowns until “later” in the hope that you’ll come back.
We were horrified to realize what should have been obvious all along: this approach has becoming self-defeating, despite the fact that it’s what most industries do. They sell at full price as the only price, and then mark prices down through sales and promos. Again, the marked sale price is the only price, and the intent is to accelerate sales.
This fixed one-price mentality destroys any possibility of resurrecting the price flexibility conversation with shoppers that used to exist in one form or another.
The result, as we saw it: retailers with this mentality were (and are) constantly losing shoppers who bought something on sale but would have paid more, and those who didn’t buy at all but would have done so for a slight price discount. In current circumstances, this has become a weird sort of gamble for sellers, who lose on sale opportunities and leave money on the table by virtue of their inflexibility.
As a result, they have serious control problems with unsold inventory, and they often have to eat the loss or even destroy the inventory.
“Worth the Wait” Shopping is Born
So, we decided that “worth the wait” shopping was the way to go.
We realized a potential solution might be staring us in the face. We wondered what might happen if we could match or somehow combine the two natural shopper mindsets.
What if, instead of just one price at a time for an item, there were a full price AND a discounted “worth-the-wait” price?
If you, as a shopper, were willing to pay full price, you could have the item immediately. After all, the desire for instant gratification is still powerful. On the other hand, if you wanted the discount, you could offer payment on that basis and then wait to see if your offer was accepted – almost like a bid.
Boom! We began to get excited about the possibilities…
We could let shoppers choose between the two prices based on their sense of urgency about a purchase. No more begging for a call-back from a sales clerk or adding an item to an online wishlist in hopes of a future discount. Instead, shoppers would be able to request a discount on a “nice to have” item when the desire to buy would be at its strongest.
We quickly mastered the obvious: we were looking at a win-win.
Sellers could start creating waitlists for discounted prices sooner, and the list would always be available and ready when they wanted to access it. Shoppers, simply by being willing to endure a brief wait, could get discounts on items they wouldn’t otherwise have bought.
It was inspired, even if we do say so ourselves.
There would be less unsold inventory for vendors, who would have the control to convert at different price points at the same time. There would be a greater sense of participation and satisfaction for buyers who could feel as though they’d successfully negotiated a good discount for themselves.
And that’s how we arrived at “worth the wait” shopping.
The original idea was similar to eBay’s choice for consumers: Buy It Now or pay the auction price. But “worth the wait” shopping offers greater certainty because eBay buyers just don’t know in advance what the final auction price for an item will be.
Purple Dot is more refined and friendlier, and offers more security to the parties. If you’re a buyer and you just “gotta have it,” you pay the full (Buy It Now) price. If you want the discount and don’t mind waiting, you make your offer at the discounted price (like a pre-set auction bid).
You just have to look for the Purple Dot price.
So What Happens Next?
If you’ve looked around our site, you’ll already know that our story is far from over. You’ll also have learned a bit about the directions we’re taking to fulfil our goals and serve our users.
Purple Dot’s mission is simple: we want to change the way the world shops, so that customers and merchants get more for what they have.
We want Purple Dot to be nothing less than the champion provider of the best retail discounting solution for retailers and consumers alike.
This is a tall order, but we’re up for the challenge. We’re already up and running successfully, and there are some aspects of Purple Dot as a company that will help shape the coming chapters in our ongoing tale.
And we’re going to want your feedback at every step of the way. We want you to tell us how we’re doing, and how we can better meet your needs. In that way, you’ll get to help us shape the unfolding Purple Dot story.
Want to give “worth the wait” shopping a try?
We have a showroom of products with Purple Dot prices you can try. Or find us integrated with the most exciting and innovative retailers. If you'd like to see Purple Dot Prices offered by your favourite retailer, just email us and we’ll see what we can do.
Thanks for your support! We love being on this journey with you.
We’ll be in touch… 😊
John, Madeline and Team Purple Dot