This is my third and last entry of the Fashion Tech Week 2014 (FTW14), which was held from Monday, 2/24 to Sunday, 3/2. The two other FTW14 events I went to were the first-ever SF Fashion Pitch competition and the Wearable Tech Demo. On the last day of the FTW14, executives and entrepreneurs in retail tech industry gathered at General Assembly – Hattery, 414 Brannan St. for Retail Tech Summit event.
The event took a while to get started on a languid Sunday afternoon. However, once it started, it went relatively smoothly. The attendees got to listen to and learn more about retail tech start-ups like TruMaker, Fashion Finder, Elephanti, Quickeecam, and Fitiquette (recently acquired by Myntra, India’s largest fashion retail). They did company presentations and/or participated in the “Future Shopping” panel, which focused on survival prospects of physical retail stores and innovations to stay competitive and unique.
Trumaker’s VP of e-Commerce Adam Sidney started the event off with his presentation. Trumaker is a startup of menswear brand that’s focused on build-to-fit men’s shirts. The company is passionate about its customers and offers a highly branded experience of choosing from 50 – 60 shirt options with 5 color options. The shirts are highly designed without unnecessary bells and whistles. Trumaker shirts are classic, comfortable, of high quality; you are glorified as a customer and cannot look ridiculous in it, Adam emphasized.
A big takeaway from Adam’s presentation was about the Trumaker’s sales contractors or oufitters, who are mostly women. After all, most men are not looking to shop; 2/3 men are still influenced by women to give them guidance to make purchases. In addition to create a great brand experience, the company is set on modernizing direct sales by empowering people who are passionate about what they’re doing. TruMaker provides product training, tools technology (measurements and what the fit’s going to be), whereas the outfitters get customers mostly through their own networks and word of mouth.
First-time customers make an appointment with oufitters, get theirs style preferences taken, and then get their orders taken via a mobile app. It takes 2 weeks to get products delivered to customers.
Outfitters earn commission from sales and subsequent sales; products upselling can continue after appointments are over (ex.: you may also like these T-shirts / ties / belt / bags based on your purchase of those 5 shirts).
There is this macro-economic shift that encourages entrepreneurial traits, according to Adam. Sales force earn additional income in additional to their own full-time job (not unlike Uber, Lyft), but they can also be working as an outfitter full-time. Either way, Trumaker builds a community of fashion as well as being capital efficient by owning its own distribution channel (instead of relying on online / retail stores).
Trumaker’s main goal is focus is empowering outfitters through the mobile app; constantly improving fit and make more lucrative opportunity for the outfitters. The company create online presence to continue the conversation and support direct selling. It has been in San Francisco for 14 months, now it will continue expanding to 15 cities this year, including Chicago, Denver, and Los Angeles. Do you have Trumaker shirts?
Henrik Jeberg from Fashion Finder was next to take the stage. The app was born in Copenhagen, it is a “shopping guide for smartphones that allow fashion shoppers to find nearby and relevant fashion shops on the go, based on individual preferences for brands, styles, or recommendations from bloggers”. Its goal is to be the preferred mobile fashion platform that bridges shoppers, stores, and fashion brands.
Fashion Finder don’t sell anything online; it wants to enable medium to high-end shops and brands to reach out to new customers, generate traffic in stores, and provide personal shopping experience. With the female apparel market share set to grow 16 – 20% within the next three years (in 2013, the market share was $172B, of which 8% transacted online), local brick and mortar shops need to do something to remain competitive and strive. For example: with Fashion Finder, they can hold in-store events to attract store traffic.
The business brand is based on monthly subscription to enable brands and stores to talk with customers. Currently, 270+ stores are paying customers, 78% customers renew subscription after one year. There are 1800+ brands in the Fashion Finder app, including Christian Louboutin, Stella McCartney, Marc Jacobs, among others. On the next update, there will be 14,000 fashion brands.
Eventually, Fashion Finder wants to expand so it’s easy to use for people who want to find fashion in different cities. However, as of now Fashion Finder is looking for more users to stay competitive. There are 20,000+ downloads for Fashion Finder right now, so check it out!
After a short break, Lisa Brewer from Elephanti (Silver Sponsor of the FTW14) did a short presentation. The name Elephanti was inspired by elephants, social animals who don’t forget anything. Launched in San Francisco, it first started as a fashion app, however it evolves as a go-to app for shoppers to find things they love in retail stores around them. It is designed to help a merchant to know his customers. After 15 years of existence, Elephanti has 100K users and 2B products listed.
Elephanti app works by knowing where you are and syncing with your shopping list with what’s available in stores around you, so you have a chance to visit stores to buy things in your list as you go down the street (pretty nifty, if you ask me). It also learns to understand your spending pattern.
It is privately funded and freely available for both merchants and consumers. Go get the app, and if you’re around Geary and Powell St., stop by at Elephanti office to say hi to Lisa!
Eric Lau lead Quickeecam’s 3-people core team for an exciting product demo. Quickeecam is a real time photo-sharing booth that’s able to upload and share photos instantly. If you’re an event organizer or a brand, you can also watermark / brand it as you share the pictures instantly.
Addressing how Quickeecam is relevant in retail industry, Eric gives a usage example at a retail store. Shopping at your favorite store & taking picture of the outfit you’re trying on via Quickeecam allows you to instantly share the picture with friends and get their recommendations or feedback whether to buy the product. It can be a new platform for social shopping!
The finale of the Retail Tech Summit event is the Future Shopping panel, in which Adam Sidney, Andy Pandharikar (founder and CEO of Fitiquette, a virtual fitting room technology that’s recently acquired by Myntra), Henrik Jeberg participated. The panel was moderated by Robert Burns Nixon.
The first thing the panel made clear was the role of physical retail stores in the future. Adam believes that retail stores will survive and be enhanced by technology. e-Commerce space is very crowded, however 85% of sales still come from offline channels. Many of e-commerce business right now are still just noise. Henrik added that shopping is a personal experience with a personal relation and thus cannot be replicated online. Andy summed it up best with this sentiment: if in-store shopping experience get better, then it doesn’t matter if products are bought in-store or online.
The next topic was how will brands and retailers continue to differentiate themselves, as we are seemingly marching forward to achieve the ability to have anything, anywhere, anytime. Adam stated that brands need to be more down-to-earth and have sustainable cost, in addition to highly curated offerings instead of showing all the options possible. Making the important thing about the fit, having multi-channels, and focus on learning more about customers and knowing what they like or enjoy can help brands and retailers stay ahead.
Andy added that separate channels need to be combined (even inventory) because buying isn’t a linear process; it’s all about the brand. Later on, while describing an ideal consumer retail experience, Henrik mentioned that application of big data, which is becoming even more accurate with the amount of data available and accessible via phones, web, and others can give personalization at a whole new level.
Other highlight from the Future Shopping panel was the perception of “Made in San Francisco” brand and what it represents. Sharing technology and start-up mentality is very SF. For Adam who just moved to the city a year ago, the brand reminds him a lot like New York’s save garment center movement. He views San Francisco style as rugged, refined, “very Levy’s”, adding that there’s a weird relationship between tech & retail in this city :) Henrik said that the city has a casual but particular feel; someone may wear a t-shirt, but it’s a t-shirt with a very specific quality and feel.
It’s quite rare to have an all-male participants for a retail tech panel. However, it does give a certain POV about the future of shopping. As for menswear, I think Henrik said it best. It is still a novel concept in the US (esp. cities in the middle of US) that men’s clothes should fit well.
So what do you think about the Retail Tech Summit or Fashion Tech Week in San Francisco?
If you want to see more pictures from this event, feel free to browse the album below.
Thank you for reading, until next time,