"Does this look good on me?" is the most common style conundrum, especially while shopping. Now the online/app-based advice platform Fashism is upping the ante on providing the kind of instant yay or nay shoppers want. Not quite two years old, Fashism is launching an upgrade that allows targeted sharing, tagging and augmented reality. Users will likely love the options. However, retailers may have to play catch up.
Fashism launched in 2009 and quickly garnered the interest and investments of such celebrities as Ashton Kutcher and his wife Demi Moore. Marie Claire magazine's fashion director Nina Garcia (also of Project Runway fame), Foursquare's chief Dennis Crowley and designer Steven Alan also threw capital into the first round of funding.
The startup certainly gets style points for attracting such high profile tastemakers, but Crowley's presence in the mix suggests the company was destined take advantage if location-based technology. Indeed, after the investment the founders told the NYT they were working on several deals with national retailers as a way to "target the social graph of the people who are actually in your store."
Originally, the community members uploaded photos of themselves wearing items for potential purchase or asking which way an outfit should be styled. Other members vote "love" or "hate" and add comments if they are so moved. In this way, the site amassed 58,000 members and receives nearly 1 million page views a month. Fashism's mobile app has been downloaded 80,000 times since launching in August.
As predicted, now Fashism is tapping Foursquare's open API so users can tag photos with store locations and brands featured. They can opt to text, e-mail, Facebook and Twitter to solicit advice. A "nearby" function allows members to see local retailers as well what others are trying on there. A mobile augmented reality feature means users can hold up their phones and see the highest-rated outfit in every surrounding store.
The location-based functionality will set Fashism apart from competitors such as Go Try It On. But there are a couple of potential pitfalls for retailers.
Thanks to the popularity of fashion bloggers and crowdsourced design (think style blogger The Glamourai wearing a Forever 21 dress making it sell out in days) merchandise managers need to stay on top of trends and inventory levels in a whole new way. Now add the potential of Foursquare. The service has certainly been responsible for significant upticks in sales and traffic for the businesses who offer "check-ins." Having the location and brand info out there for members increases the chance that cute clothes are going to sell out quickly.
The augmented reality function is a bit trickier. It's hard to tell from Fashism's site which retailers will be collaborating on this effort and how they'll handle the back end architecture. If Macy's (M) recent foray into QR coded clothing tags is any indication, larger chains are still struggling to find what mobile applications work and how best to leverage the technology.
Fashism may be the wave of the future for fashionistas of all stripes, forcing the retailers to keep up or lose out.
Image via Fashism