Courtesy of Easy Social Shop.A Q&A with Easy Social Shop co-founder and CEO Nissim Lehyani. The Tel Aviv-based startup, which offers a social commerce platform for small- and medium-sized businesses, announced earlier this month that it has raised $1.1 million in Seed funding from lool ventures. It was founded in 2011 by Lehyani and Ofir Tahor, and previously raised Angel and Seed funding rounds totaling $800,000.

SUB: Please describe Easy Social Shop and your primary innovation.

Lehyani: Easy Social Shop is a social commerce solution that helps businesses utilize social media to grow their brand and sales. It imports an ecommerce site to a Facebook shop, where their merchandise can be fully displayed. The shop is optimized for social media and allows shoppers to easily share items and spark discussion on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

When someone clicks on a link shared via a merchant’s Easy Social Shop store on Facebook, they are referred to the merchant’s original ecommerce website, where the purchase can be finalized immediately. With this unique way of addressing social commerce, Easy Social Shop has prompted an average 10-to-18 percent spike in revenue for its merchants, keeping shoppers engaged and businesses happy.

Courtesy of Easy Social Shop.SUB: Who are your target markets and users?

Lehyani: Our target audience is comprised of small-and-medium businesses. Social media levels the playing field for SMBs, who often don’t have the capital or the reach that big brands have, especially in online marketing. The effectiveness of social media as a commercial mechanism depends largely on the ability to engage with shoppers and generate word-of-mouth discussion about products. Small businesses can easily do both of these things if they optimize their presence for social media. We believe we are able to provide an amazing product because we really speak the language of social media.

SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition, and what differentiates Easy Social Shop from the competition?

Lehyani: There are companies that we compete with, but we believe that our method is superior due to its ease-of-use and its emphasis on cross-platform engagement. We combine the benefits of social media and ecommerce with the simplest and most effective functionality available. It literally takes only three clicks to set up an online store and open your shop to an entirely new stream of customers. Additionally, we automatically update your social media store as changes take place on your original shop. Easy Social Shop displays merchandise on social media, boosting views, sales, and profits, making it the best tool that people can use to unlock the potential of social commerce. Our success stems from the understanding that Facebook commerce is not just about setting up a store, but encouraging customers to share items that they like across multiple social media platforms to drive sales.

SUB: You just announced that you’ve raised $1.1 million in Seed funding. Why was this a particularly good time to raise more funding?

Lehyani: The timing was great because we are firmly grounded and have proven that our method gets results. With 80,000 shops opened and a steady 10-to-18 percent of revenue generated for our merchants, we felt comfortable fundraising to build on that success.

SUB: How do you plan to use the funds?       

Lehyani: The $1.1 million we raised will allow us to provide SMBs with new tools normally reserved for major retailers, such as advanced audience discovery and the analysis necessary to turn social insights into sales. In addition, the funds will also help us expand our customer base and accelerate our success.

Courtesy of Easy Social Shop.SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Easy Social Shop? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?

Lehyani: I founded Easy Social Shop with Ofir Tahor in 2011. After finishing our degree together at the same university, we kept in touch. The idea for Easy Social Shop was born from observing the experiences of friends and family members who owned small businesses. They all were actively using social media to build their businesses, but struggled to translate that activity into sales. We realized that the problem wasn’t that social media couldn’t support ecommerce, but that social commerce strategies needed to be tailored to the particularities of social media. Traditional advertising and marketing are largely ineffective when attempting to harness the commercial power of social media, which is about interaction and engagement. At Easy Social Shop, we place these concepts at the core of our business in order to provide a tool that truly maximizes social media success for SMBs. We speak the language of social media, and get results.

SUB: What were the first steps you took in establishing the company?

Lehyani: The first thing we did was to focus on data. For every update or offering we create we first analyze tremendous amounts of data to make sure that they will provide significant benefits to our merchants. Early on, it’s very easy to overemphasize logic or your own convictions about what a merchant may want or need. We believe that one of the reasons we’ve had such success in such a short period is that we’ve been committed to a data-driven approach from day one.

SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story or meaning behind it?

Lehyani: We wanted our name to be simple and effective, just like our product. The same way that businesses can activate a shop within seconds using Easy Social Shop, we wanted to have a name that was self-explanatory, without any possibility of confusion. Our name says it all.

SUB: Do you have plans to seek additional outside funding in the near future?

Lehyani: Right now we’re focusing on putting our new funds to use to expand our company and deliver more tools to our merchants.

SUB: What have the most significant challenges been so far to building the company?

Lehyani: The hardest thing about entering this market was changing the perception about what can be achieved with social commerce. The industry had tremendous buzz a few years ago, but generally failed to match the hype. We are committed to truly unleashing the power of this platform, and proving that it can be a major benefit to SMBs.

SUB: How do you generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?

Lehyani: We utilize a freemium model that lets online businesses add more features as they become necessary. We believe very strongly in limiting the costs for our customers so that they can see for themselves that our platform is optimized for social media and grow to trust it. Our premium version has great features like advanced analytics, technology updates and more. As our merchants’ needs grow, so does the functionality they can find with our service.

Additionally, we also have revenue-sharing agreements with top marketplaces such as eBay.

SUB: What are your goals for Easy Social Shop over the next year or so?

Lehyani: We want to keep growing with our merchants, helping them tap into the potential of social commerce to make their business boom. On the heels of our new round of funding, we are gearing up for a great year with expanded services and exciting news.