E-commerce platforms including Lyst, Spring and ShopStyle typically make money by receiving a commission of sales made on their sites from featured brands. However, fashion aggregator Modalist is now bringing customers into the equation by sharing a portion of its cut on sales of luxury styles directly with shoppers.

While the consumer cash-back model — in which shoppers receive money back on purchases made through affiliate links on third-party platforms — is a common practice for mass market products including electronics, The Modalist is the first in luxury to make it happen. Tina Fisher, CEO, said her aim was to create a unique identity for the company amid an already saturated e-commerce space.

“We wanted to differentiate from the other retailers, and we wanted members that were repeat shoppers,” she said. “We’re a multivendor marketplace of established retail brands, so it was important to us, once we aggregate, to have traction and return shoppers.”

While the commission percentage varies per brand, shoppers typically make four percent back on an item, which they receive in the form of PayPal transaction or a digital check sent to their email accounts. The consumer commission percentage usually amounts to under 50 percent of what the company takes, though Modalist did not share its exact percentage. Regardless, Fisher said the cash-back model is a particular draw for consumers seeking luxury products like, say, a Givenchy handbag, which may never go on sale. Using Modalist as the discovery tool at least allows them to get money back for their purchase.

Along with her husband, Bob, Fisher launched the site in November 2016 from their home in Columbus, Ohio and refers to it as a “fashion search engine” designed to incentivize shoppers for using the platform. The name was created by combining the Italian term for fashion, “moda,” with “list,” as a nod to online retail.

Modalist currently features more than 350 brands, and has contracts with companies including Kenzo, Diane von Furstenberg, Proenza Schouler and Chloé, as well as aggregated content from popular stores like Nordstrom and The Outnet. Ultimately the draw for luxury brands is the same as Modalist’s competitors, since the brands don’t lose any money through the consumer commission sharing process.

Modalist has since grown to include small digital marketing, development and social media teams. The site is modeled similarly to Ebates, the popular online shopping marketplace that gives users coupons and cash back from a number of retailers. The difference is that it exclusively caters to luxury fashion. When a user sees an item they like, they are directed to click the “buy now” button, where they are directed to a brand, department store or e-commerce marketplace, and provided a checkout code to use in order to receive money back from the purchase.

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A purchase page for a product on the Modalist site 


While Fisher declined to share membership or sales numbers, stating the site is still “early stage,” she said it is fast growing and has consumers from 66 countries around the globe. Modalist is also in the process of developing a mobile app. In the meantime, Fisher said Modalist is focused on optimizing personalization efforts on its desktop platform, allowing users to track brands and products and create wish lists.

“We saw an area to support retailers and become a sales channel for them. In bringing the cash-back model in play, we know we’ve been very impactful to the consumers, as well,” she said.