Lockerz rewards young people for doing what they love

| FROM THE PRINT EDITION |
 
 

When it comes to making decisions, whether it’s choosing what movie to watch or which handbag to buy, young people tend to look for advice from influential peers. Kathy Savitt founded her company, Lockerz.com, with the goal of taking advantage of these young arbiters of taste to build a shopping empire targeted at high-spending, fashion-prone people aged 13 to 35.

Members active on the site, whether by posting photos of a great evening with friends or recommending new music, receive points they can cash in for discounts on clothing or other goods. Those incentives have helped make Savitt's “social commerce” site a leading destination, attracting more than 40 million unique visitors each month—traffic that makes advertisers take notice.

Savitt, a retail powerhouse formerly at Amazon.com and American Eagle Outfitters, founded Lockerz in 2009 after noticing that Generation Z—the group encompassing consumers born after 1992—was making shopping “into a giant iPod.” No longer were teenagers in certain social niches dressing head to toe in one particular brand; instead, members of Gen Z were “curating” their consumption, selecting individual pieces from a brand’s collections the way their older siblings chose individual tracks from record albums.

In addition, Savitt, who ran the marketing communications firm MWW Savitt in the 1990s, noticed that these members of what she calls “Generation Share” were relying less on traditional television advertising and more on the influence of their peers to make purchasing decisions.

Combining curatorial consumption with emerging social media, Lockerz rewards both consumers and brands, whose appearances in members’ profiles have more impact than they would in a banner ad.

The site works by rewarding members with points (“PTZ”) and badges (“Decalz”) each time they perform an action on the site, such as watching videos, listening to music or buying stuff. Members can trade in their points for discounts on brand-name retail items sold through the site or for daily deals in their area.

Lockerz, which moved to Seattle from Pittsburgh in 2010, has spent the past year acquiring companies to support its functions. Those include photo-sharing host Plixi, which is responsible for about a third of the photos on Twitter; Vodpod, a video-sharing platform, and Seattle-based travel auction site Off & Away. Lockerz has significant financial backing, having raised $36 million in Series C funding from several investors, including Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers.

The company is currently split between web and mobile users, but Savitt anticipates moving to 70 percent mobile usership within the next year. She hopes the Lockerz app will prove indispensable, eventually becoming a homepage for digital media users. “We want to be the world’s most rewarding social platform,” she says.