With today’s top retail trends ranging across sustainability, inclusivity, personalization, fit technology, livestream shopping, 3D and even NFTs, technology providers are in a position to capitalize on the digital-centric environment, particularly in fashion. Two demo days recently highlighted where today’s top fashion players have yet to fill gaps in the consumer experience.
At the 2021 Tech Runway Digital Demo Day hosted by The New York Fashion Tech Lab on June 23, execs at six emerging technology companies made their pitch on how their solutions stand in today’s fashion and retail ecosystem, and how they can give retailers an edge.
The Lab is a non-profit program that focuses on women-led, B2B, fashion and retail tech solutions. The program runs once per week for 12 weeks, with the Demo Day serving as the culmination for the eighth consecutive year, with graduates including StyleSage, Zeekit, Linc and Obsess. The Lab is part of the non-profit venture catalyst Springboard Enterprises.
Meanwhile, XRC Labs hosted its biannual Demo Day for its Cohort 11 participants on July 13, where nine brands across apparel, beauty, consumer goods, food and beverage and even telemedicine shared how their platforms are solving growing problems in their sectors. The startups highlighted at Demo Day were participants in the retail and CPG accelerator’s 14-week Cohort program. Startups accepted into the program receive an initial $135,000 in capital, operational strategy and mentorships, and access to a network of corporate executives, entrepreneurs, investors, industry leaders and conferences.
Lisa co-founding CEO Sophie Fréres kicked off the NYFTL demo day by showcasing some of the examples of companies the live shopping assistant has collaborated with, including Charlotte Tilbury, Avon USA and Depop. Charlotte Tilbury is already using Lisa’s API to host up to 12 live shows per week, Fréres said, generating as much as 35 percent conversion rates on products displayed, as well as up to 90 percent engagement rates.
And Avon USA used the company’s native solution to power two virtual shopping conferences across 30 hours, generating sales of $1.3 million across two weekends and selling out of almost every product. The success has led the beauty brand to regularly use the solution for smaller events.
The livestream commerce site most recently went live with Depop to launch a live shopping trial for select sellers, giving them access to their own live shopping studios, where they can plan their own events and stream directly through the fashion reseller’s app.
“Once multi-brand e-retailers or marketplaces have successfully launched their own live shopping channels, we find that they have a desire to multiply these accounts out to, for example, the brands on their platform, the multiple content creators that they’re working with or even their sales staff,” Fréres said.
Save Your Wardrobe
The Save Your Wardrobe app leverages AI to streamline sustainable living by creating a “digital wardrobe” based on photographing past purchases and generating order confirmation receipts, according to founding CEO Hasna Kourda.
App features highlight a user’s sustainability rating based on clothes purchased and can showcase product information such as material composition, as well as suggested aftercare services such as cleaning, alterations, repairs or donations.
Brands and retailers can integrate the platform within their own e-commerce site, so shoppers can further get insights into the clothing they intend to buy, Kourda said.
“Integrating the wardrobe in the post-purchasing journey increases engagement with your brand, and enables [consumers] to see their impact that they are driving on the planet,” she added.
Since the consumer-facing app’s launch in 2020, Save Your Wardrobe has collected 4 million data points on consumption behaviors, and has access to the most-worn outfits and top brand outfit combinations, as well as likelihood of rental or sale, and the number of aftercare services used.
VNTANA helps brands and retailers bring 3D products to their e-commerce site, and enables built-in augmented reality (AR) experiences, too. Cofounding CEO Ashley Crowder highlighted the company’s 3D Web Viewer as a simple drag-and-drop feature than enables users to immediately promote their own 3D files on their website, both as a standalone product or within an AR experience.
The software automatically optimizes the 3D files to meet standards of social platforms such as Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram.
In particular, Crowder said the software aims to eliminate the costs and time (which averages one week) needed to prep 3D models for different platforms, with outlay running at $2,000 or more.
VNTANA algorithm-driven automation requires less than 30 seconds per product and costs less than $20 per asset, Crowder said.
“We have smart 3D compression, so you can take a huge manufacturing file and shrink it up to 99 percent, but it still looks the same,” Crowder said. “Your website is still going to load fast and it can meet all the social media standards.
Within one week of partnering with high-end women’s apparel and footwear brand Staud, VTNANA uploaded the brand’s limited-edition sneaker collaboration with New Balance on its website.
At design studio 3D Robe, digital fashion is the name of the game. The company helps fashion brands create hyper-realistic 3D renders of their merchandise to be used internally for product development or whittling speed to market down to two weeks.
Externally, brands can use the renders for marketing campaigns, or on e-commerce sites so consumers can experience products in AR and VR.
But with the non-fungible token (NFT) market booming, 3D Robe co-founder Natalie Johnson said the company saw the opportunity to sell these renders. After first partnering with the popular NFT marketplace NBA Top Shot, 3D Robe launched a marketplace of its own called Neuno so that brands could sell digital garments as NFTs, but also enable sellers to upload visual assets as well.
Digital fashion assets themselves can be wearables, and “not just collectors’ items,” Johnson said. Neuno already has partnered with Snapchat to allow users to wear NFTs as social media filters, and is working with five luxury fashion brands that are going live with the marketplace in the next few months.
Xesto aims to go beyond size tech competitors by fully recreating body scans in 3D entirely out of selfies, according to founder and CEO Sophie Howe. More importantly, Xesto isn’t designed for an app, as it is accessible directly from any online product page.
Howe said the company analyzes “hundreds of thousands” of data points from previous scans and requires no reference information such as shoe size.
When users click “Xesto Fit” on a product page for the first time, a QR code appears that the shopper can scan with their phone to open the experience. A second QR code will then pop up, which can then be scanned to link the accounts. The shopper can then complete their hand or foot scan and automatically receive a personalized size recommendation on the product page using their dimensions and the dimensions of the item.
Once the scan is complete, the user’s “perfect size” is automatically generated for the items on the current website, and is applied to any other Xesto partner website going forward.
“At the end of the day, we really focus on customer loyalty,” Howe said. “A shopper that knows their size and is confident in the item that they’re buying is most likely to return.”
Xesto currently scans for the sizing of footwear, watches, rings and glasses, but the company will soon expand into apparel scanning.
When Tope Mitchell co-founded the ReflektMe product discovery and recommendation technology, she realized she had an opportunity to create personalized digital shopping experiences that reach 100 percent of e-commerce shoppers instead of 30 percent.
“Seventy percent of women globally do not feel represented by media images,” the CEO said. “This is because only 3 percent of models are 50-plus, a mere 2 percent are plus-size and 80 percent of models in fashion adverts are white.”
The ReflektMe platform helps retailers and brands showcase more representation in the models wearing their products and ultimately drive true e-commerce personalization. The approach can be applied to size, measurements, skin tone and even hair texture.
Using the company’s API, brands can place a customizable button on their retail site that connects online shoppers to relevant photos, videos and tips. Within a client portal, users can send personalized emails, diverse ads and promotions at scale.
Brands also can supplement their own user-generated content with ReflektMe’s diverse content creator network to fill any gaps that they may have when it comes to age, style, race, ethnicity, ability or height.
Bobblehaus is going after multiple growing segments with its sustainable, genderless streetwear brand “built by and for Gen Z.” Cofounding CEO Ophelia Chen said that the brand was founded on the fact that genderless clothes are simply overlooked and limited, leaving consumers to choose from “cookie-cutter, eco-friendly styles” or “wasteful fashion-forward trends.”
The Manhattan-based brand is designed specifically for consumers who don’t want to sacrifice sustainability for personality, and vice versa, Chen said, citing that 65 percent of Gen Z has shopped outside of designated gender categories.
“We bridge East and West by bringing together global Gen Z perspectives on fashion, music, art, design and technology,” Chen said. “We have gathered more than 20 Asian creative contributors to share their voices across three continents. By offering limited-edition designs through collaboration with our customer to our sticky community, Bobblehaus is working toward a zero-inventory model.”
Bobblehaus uses leftover and compostable fabric, with the majority of the fabric coming from Tencel fibers. A standard production cycle is four weeks, against a typical six-month order standard, and with no minimum order quantities.
Chen said return rates come in at just 2 percent. Bobblehaus typically generates many of its sales early on through pre-order periods, which capture as much as 50 percent of sales.
Later this year, the brand will expand into underwear including genderless boxers, and will launch a new e-commerce presence featuring livestreaming and gamification features.
Currently pivoting from a rental marketplace to a rental platform-as-a-service model for retailers, Joymode is seeking to cater to an environment where “consumerism is unstable,” according to interim CEO Al Sambar.
Sambar, also a general partner at XRC Labs, which acquired Joymode at the end of 2020, said the idea was to make rental as ubiquitous as commerce across categories, whether it be apparel and jewelry, health, gaming or even outdoor adventuring. He highlighted Rent the Runway’s business model, illustrating that for $2,300 per year, annual members could have access to as much as $115,000 worth of products in that same period.
For any category to work for Joymode, brands just have to prove that their product is high quality, durable and can be cleaned and put back to good use. Shoppers can simply select the rental bundle they want on the site, select where they want to pick up and return the item, and enjoy their rental.
Brands using Joymode can leverage the XRC partnership network to deploy different aspects of the service to their liking, whether they want to host physical popup shops and enable rent online, pickup in-store, or build out rental logistics via nationwide fulfillment or circular shopping bags. They can then integrate rental with re-commerce capabilities powered by Recurate.
“Customers already see it as a win. Joymode already operated for three years before we acquired them,” Sambar said. “We already know customers are passionate and loyal and once they ‘get’ rental in a category and figure it out, they think it’s dumber to do anything else. We call this the rental lifestyle.”
All the talk about re-commerce and sustainability in apparel leaves room for businesses that want to keep garments clean for as long as possible. Pristeem, which calls itself “the re-wear company,” is built for shoppers who want to re-wear their clothes, but think dry cleaning is too expensive or laundry is too time-consuming.
Pristeem operates a kiosk that can deodorize, de-wrinkle and disinfect clothing in 10 minutes for $10 per month. The kiosk is geared toward the 80 percent of clothing that typically just needs freshening up in a “dirty pile,” as opposed to the 20 percent that need a thorough cleaning.
“Suddenly, George can now pick his favorite outfit from a pile that can be re-worn after a quick refresh, instead of being limited to the few clean clothes he doesn’t like in his closet,” said cofounding CEO Naren Inukoti. “This allows him to always dress his best for any occasion.”
Additionally, Inukoti said that the process extends the life of apparel by approximately nine months, enabling shoppers to wait to buy new clothes and reduce carbon, waste and water emissions by as much as 30 percent.
Shoppers can access the 24/7 service via mobile app to find the closet kiosk. Pristeem kiosks are placed in multi-family apartments, hotels, laundromats and offices.
The five trial locations for Pristeem average an 87 Net Promoter Score and a 70 percent 30-day retention rate. The 155 mobile active users across all locations in May represent a 30 percent increase over the 110 using the kiosks in April, and more than double the 73 in March.
Within the next three months, Pristeem is growing its kiosk footprint 7X in New York City, Inukoti said.
Qatch wants to be the mobile personal stylist for shoppers who still find the online apparel shopping experience overwhelming. Offering styles from more than 100 brands, the SMS-based solution enables shoppers to take a style quiz highlighting their favorite brands and share their Instagram so the platform can deliver more accurate personal recommendations via text.
Upon receiving texts from Qatch, users can give feedback with a tap with a heart, thumbs up or thumbs down, and the platform leverages machine learning to continuously improve its recommendation algorithm for each individual over time. Upon clicking through a product, they will get taken right to the brand’s product page.
Nicole Phillips, co-founder and CEO of Qatch, said that 67 percent of users engage with Qatch on a weekly basis, with 95 percent returning every month.
“Of the 250,000 recommendations we’ve made, we get 2.5X more positive reactions than negative ones,” Phillips said. “One tap gives us over 200 data points to help us learn your personal preferences resulting in better recommendations. From demographic info to patterns, colors, fits and even subjective classifications, all of our complex tags lead to an almost 2X higher likelihood of purchase of a user’s next batch of recommendations.”
Although the platform is currently online-exclusive, Phillips wants to tie Qatch’s machine learning prowess into the in-store experience in the future. In this scenario, shoppers would scan a QR code in store and be shown various pieces in that location based on past data collected.
Aside from the fashion-related businesses at the XRC Labs event, brands that showcased their demos include premium drink mixer seller Avec, skincare personalization platform Mxt, beauty brand creation marketplace Creator Nova, esports development league ESDL and telemedicine solution MD Integrations.
Since inception, XRC Labs has funded 98 companies, 33 percent of which are run by women while 30 percent are founded by people of color.