While many companies are doing what they can to abandon the brick and mortar shopping experience in favor of an online e-commerce route, a new company exiting its stealth mode Monday is leveraging the Web to enhance the offline shopping experience.
With in-person shopping accounting for roughly 90% of all retail sales, Swirl Networks is launching a free iOS app to help people find the best fashion deals closest to them, direct them to physical stores to make purchases, and then share that experience with others.
The brand, spanking new service is launching with 220 deals in place including several from Macy’s, Nordstrom, and Old Navy. Swirl's first round of funding was $6 million from Softbank, General Catalyst, Longworth Venture Partners and the founders of GSI Commerce. The company was founded less than a year ago.
Swirl debuts with data covering 100,000 fashion items spanning over 30,000 store locations across the US and uses the visual sues from fashion magazine, the connection possibilities of a social network, the organizational capabilities of a personal assistant to put itself into the must-watch tech fashion category. What will be key moving forward is just how savvy the brand managers are in keeping great sales and styles following on the Web service and app.
The Boston-based service is targeting Millennials who love shopping but and those that want to buy items on the spot and try them on at home rather than spend the day searching for the stores with the must have items.
Founder and CEO Hilmi Ozguc is a serial entrepreneur with a communications background, looking to really shake up the $400 billion fashion industry.
"In the past 15 years, e-commerce and mobile commerce have dramatically advanced, yet they account for less than 10 percent of all retail sales," said Ozguc, in a statement. "Our goal is to reinvent the consumer shopping experience where the vast majority of transactions still take place - in the physical retail store."
With many curated shopping experiences online, Swirl is working to separate itself from the email flash sales services like Haute Look, Gilt and others.
While this app is directed to help you reduce the time you spend searching for the physical store with your style, Swirl plans to also add a mobile commerce element to it so that people can purchase the item using the app -- perhaps in the store.
"Over 50% of US adults now own a smartphone, which means that shoppers already have immediate access to an incredibly powerful device, no matter where they are. We are leveraging that capability to make the entire shopping experience, from discovery and planning to in-store purchase, even more rewarding," said Ozguc.
Recent fashion tech
One subscription company, ShoeDazzle has seen its shoe and accessory service membership base grow by one million subscribers in a single month (July). That's a pretty busy summer for spenders.
ShoeDazzle now boasts 13 million members for its e-commerce solution which raised $76 million last month.
The monthly subscription service that brings the latest in show and accessory fashion to women with various styles, also saw the number of items it offers rise 17% over the previous quarter.
ShoeDazzle has been growing steadily over the last 16 months as it dropped the "mandatory" mark on its subscription and started allowing people to pay a slightly more premium price for each item, similar to a competitor, JustFab.
Fab.com is also rolling in the dough now since they confirmed closing a $105 million round of funding in July. This was the third major round of the funding that the design-focused flash-sales site has secured. This latest round was backed by Atomico Ventures.
Just last December, Fab raised $40 million from Andreessen Horowitz for a site that took a while to really find its sweet spot in highly-curated, design-centric items.
CEO and founder Jason Goldberg expressed in a blog that the new round of helps give the company a "special opportunity to create one of the world’s next great brands." Goldberg went on to remark that they are "building a franchise based on a consistent, thoughtful experience that puts customers first, not profits. We’re focused more on ensuring the long term success of that franchise than we are with near term gains."
Fab has plans to put this new funding into warehouses and inventory to shorten shipping times to "just a few days." The Fab team also wants to increase the number of products to exceed the 10,000 per day it has now, and continue expanding into markets outside the U.S. Fab is currently in the U.S., Canada, and 18 European countries.
Just this April, Fab expanded its brand to include beauty products and partnered with Glamour Magazine to offer its users top-shelf beauty products at big box store prices.