As the world’s fashion houses reevaluate their business models, and the act of fashion shopping increasingly goes digital, tech tools and platforms featuring emerging technologies shift ever more into the spotlight.
The latest debuted on Monday, courtesy of Australia-based cofounders Doron and Cayley Ostrin. The husband-and-wife duo behind fashion search engine The Urge introduced their latest initiative, a visual search tech called Shnap.
Available globally as an app on iPhones and Android devices, as well as a Chrome web browser extension, the tool allows users to upload an image to quickly shop the product for the best prices. This snap-and-shop proposition has the cofounders describing the service as a “Shazam for Shopping.”
Shnap’s system relies on artificial intelligence, applying computer vision and image recognition to pinpoint styles, patterns, colors and other characteristics to identify visually similar items. The tool looks for the exact item as a priority, but also ranks results for visually similar products.
“Due to the rise of brand collaborations and limited-edition drops that sell out instantly, finding the products you’ve seen on Instagram, or on influencers has become a daunting and often frustrating task,” Ostrin told WWD. “By including all the resale and pre-owned marketplaces — such as Poshmark and Tradesy — along with the broader retail market all in one place, one search on Shnap helps you find a product instantly or at least something very similar.”
Visual search has been a key priority for tech giants such as Google and Pinterest, not to mention Amazon, which debuted a similar StyleSnap feature in its app last year.
But the difference is in the details: Amazon’s search tools draw results from its own marketplace alone, naturally. As for Google and Pinterest, Shnap distinguishes that there’s no real product curation there, as opposed to its own retail partnerships, which are thoroughly reviewed to ensure legitimate and branded products. That’s key, considering more than 25 percent of the products available through Shnap are listed as pre-owned or sustainable.
Early beta testing for the app showed skyrocketing usage over the past month, with users “shnapping” as many as three to five images a week. That makes sense, given how the coronavirus has turned in-person clothes shopping into a nerve-racking scenario.
Shnap debuts with a focus on fashion, but the start-up plans to expand to other verticals like baby and homewares soon.
Meanwhile, Stockholm-based Volumental just broke a new milestone with its no-touch, 3-D foot-measuring tech: The eight-year-old company recently completed its 6 millionth foot scan.
Although the tech was established long before the coronavirus emerged, the tool looks tailor-made for the pandemic.
“Volumental’s scanners are active in more than 1,800 stores today globally,” a spokeswoman told WWD, adding that 3-D foot scans can be found at places like New Balance, Fleet Feet, Bauer and The Athlete’s Foot.
Despite rates of scanning across North America dropping during the pandemic, almost down to zero at some points, the system has been bouncing back. During the first week of July, scans reached 78 percent of its pre-pandemic level, just before the lockdown in March. And where the tech did take hold, it has managed to boost in-store footwear sales as much as 20 percent, according to the company’s figures. It also drove a 3.5 percent increase in average footwear sales prices and a 20 percent reduction in product returns.
As for where it goes next, obviously a lot hinges on whether stores will have to shutter again, in light of resurgent cases in multiple states. But for shoe stores that are able to remain open, such touchless technology may offer some peace of mind.