Clare Walker, a 23-year-old in Brooklyn, has racked up about $700 worth of gift cards or, in her words, “free money,” by referring her contacts to Flip. “There were definitely some people who I haven’t really kept up with since high school, but I was like, ‘Hey, add me on Flip. Here’s a free 75 dollars, enjoy,’” Walker says. Her purchases on Flip include JBL wireless headphones, a variety of luxury skin-care products, and a live houseplant.
Noor Agha, CEO of Flip’s developer, Humans Inc, says his product’s sudden popularity renders Flip “one of the fastest things that ever happened in ecommerce,” although he declined to share even a ballpark estimate of the size of his user base. He claims to have made the first platform “built for brands only” and rejects the suggestion that cash-incentivized referrals are driving Flip’s rise or are essential to its survival.
Agha argues that by allowing anyone to monetize their reviews, while barring users from directly working with brands as influencers usually do, Flip should foster a more genuine community around commerce than can its established rivals.
“Everybody can earn. It is not by selection of somebody at Flip,” Agha says. He claims that his platform’s design is guided by the question “How do we bring honesty and authenticity to commerce?”
But his recipe for authenticity isn’t foolproof. The prohibition of brand-to-creator interactions may prove difficult to enforce, as brands are accustomed to working with influencers. After her in-app reviews began gaining traction, Collier Barksdale, a 25-year-old Flip user in New York City, was contacted by a beauty and lifestyle brand on Instagram. In a message seen by WIRED, the company offered to send product samples in exchange for Flip reviews. Barksdale did not accept.
And Sky Canaves, a senior analyst of retail and ecommerce at Insider Intelligence, a digital market research firm, questions whether Flip can hold on to the users it’s winning through the current giveaways. “The company is engaged in a very expensive customer acquisition strategy,” she says—one that may be necessary to lure people from platforms like Instagram and TikTok, both of which have added shopping features. “If Flip stops meeting expectations around these types of compensation, then there’s likely to be some pretty significant departure of users.”