The fashion and retail industries are taking a page from the technology world, making startups in that field some of the hottest properties around. Technology has made it possible for young brands to connect to their consumers, skip the middleman, and produce a quality product without massive overheads. Naturally, investors pay attention. These companies sport fantastic margins, can perfect market opportunities and have the ability to scale a brand online with as little money as possible.
The real challenge for these startups is finding a way to stand out among the thousands of brands that exist online today and making consumers care. It seems like an obvious issue, but today brings different challenges, and to succeed you have to apply technology in the right place.
The value fashion startups are selling is the product – beautifully designed men’s apparel, bras or high-fashion gowns. They’re not selling technology, yet technology has allowed startups to enhance their value by helping customers make smart buying decisions, providing fit-tech options and offering engaging purchasing experiences.
Use technology to wow shoppers
In order to rise above the rest, you need to provide value that goes above and beyond the products you’re selling. It can’t be some value, but an absurd amount of value through an unbelievable user experience or giving consumers a no-brainer path to purchase. The value of purchasing from your brand needs to be so absurd that your consumers fall in love with your products and your company too. So where does technology come in?
Brands like Warby Parker use technology to sync with your prescription provider and create your glasses at light-speed. Bow and Drape, a new custom women’s clothing startup, provides one-of-a-kind styles at a quarter of the cost by using their form of supply chain and outfit builder. Both are facilitated through technology and both are examples of absurd value – making their product the ultimate smart purchase for consumers.
Take a risk on the future of fit-tech
Having the foresight on fit-tech is an absolute must. The approach however, is something that a lot of young companies get stuck on. There are resources for a quick fix, but what matters most is the relationship between the product creator and the end user.
This relationship is so important because at the end of the day, the idea of “fit” is subjective. Something that is nice and snug on one user may be too tight to the other. What gets the users’ attention is the idea of a helpful tool that was built specifically for the end user and that brand. Every brand has a different fit, letting your user know that right up front is not only transparent, but downright helpful.
Fit-tech is not new in this space, but it’s seen a surge of importance as brands transition online. The danger in fit-tech is making it overly-engineered. Clothing, in particular, has attributes that aren’t shown in number form. Because fit is subjective, even if you scan the entire body, the person wearing the clothes may not agree with your recommendation.
The key is creating a relationship with your end user via technology. Many online shops have created short questionnaires to gauge a better idea of their customers’ idea of a perfect fit. This creates an experience that makes your consumers comfortable and informed so that they’re confident in their buying decision.
Fit-tech is in its infancy, but is a trend that will revolutionize online shopping. Expect to see more innovation as companies make this a priority.
Recreate offline experiences online
Another way technology is enhancing product value is bringing offline experiences online.
One great example is Poshmark’s “Posh Parties.” Poshmark created the fashion-tech version of a Tupperware party on its iOS app, allowing users to buy and sell clothing during themed, hosted parties. This goes beyond the norm and is a unique way of giving the consumer a fully encompassed brand experience.
Various e-commerce startups are also providing customers with the ability to live chat with stylists in order to make the perfect purchase. Others have created communities via online forums or Facebook pages than encourage an unprecedented amount of social engagement. Brands can recreate the social aspects of an offline shopping experience by providing tools that shoppers can use to share products with their friends and get feedback.
As a brand, you need to know your customers. Know what they eat, drink or do for fun. Know their needs, and fulfill them. Then bring real experiences to them online. Be a part of their social experience and you’ll gain a customer for life.
Success in fashion-tech is about getting consumers to fall in love with your story, company, and of course your product – forever delivering absurd amounts of value and experiences through always-evolving technology.
Scott Raio is co-founder and CTO at Combat Gent