May 27, 2024


Unlimited Technology

As Pandemic Rages, Emerging Techs Debut, Others Gain Ground

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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 has seen increasing interest in its no-touch, 3-D foot-measuring tech since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. The eight-year-old company recently revealed that its platform just broke a new milestone, with the completion of 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 the number of 3-D foot scans at retail brands like New Balance, Fleet Feet, Bauer, and The Athlete’s Foot have recently skyrocketed.

Overall, during the week of July 4 to 10, the company saw scanning across North America jump 78 percent, compared to the last week before the lockdown in March. According to the company, Volumental’s scanning has also boosted in-store footwear tech as much as 20 percent and driven a 3.5 percent increase in average footwear sales prices and a 20 percent reduction in product returns.

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 tech undoubtedly offers a little peace of mind.

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