Company Spotlight: Snap Fashion.

Our latest blog post heralds the arrival of a new feature on the Tenshi grants blog, the Company Spotlight. We would like to thank writer Ben Cardew for giving us a great insight into Snap Fashion.

“Has mobile penetration plateaued?” So ran the headline from online retail association the IMRG in August as it released the latest figures for shopping via mobile devices, which showed that 42% of UK online sales were via mobile and tablet devices in Q2 2015-16, a figure unchanged from Q1.

These figures do not, of course, tell the full story. Tina Spooner, chief information officer at IMRG, explains that sales via mobile phones are actually still growing, but this has been offset by the slowing tablet market. “It may be that the next mobile growth spurt will be purely driven by increasing consumer confidence in using smartphones for online shopping,” she adds.

For this to come true, though, mobile retail is going to have to pull its socks up. We may use our mobile phones for almost everything these days but shopping by them remains a pretty horrible experience, all tiny screens, titchy boxes and 1,001 conflicting apps.

Into this field comes Snap Fashion, a fashion retail app that was developed by 27-year old Computer Science graduate Jenny Griffiths after attracting Innovate UK funding and matching private investment in a Launchpad competition. Leading magazine publisher Time Inc – home to Marie Claire, InStyle and Look – has since invested in the company.

The company’s aim, essentially, is to make shopping for clothes online a great deal easier, more natural and fun, whether it be by smartphone app or via your browser.  “We want to put the fun back into online shopping, making it fast, fulfilling, and the best way of discovering new brands,” the company says.

It does this by allowing users to upload (or “snap”) pictures of clothes they love to Snap Fashion, which will then search for similar clothes on sale via 250 high-street and online retailers.

If you find something that takes your fancy you can view it in more detail, add it to you Wishlist, share it with friends, “re-snap” it and search for a new set of similar results or – crucially – buy it in just a couple of clicks.

The company’s iOS app goes even further, building “a unique colour palette” based on an individual snap. “We don’t just find similar items… we make putting together the perfect outfit a breeze, for men and for women,” Snap Fashion explains. “Take a photo of a colour or pattern that you love, and you can decide whether to match it, clash it or complement it from our Snap Colour Palette; a world first.”

Other features include sales alerts, which let you know when items on your Wishlist drop in price, and “browse” and “trending” pages on the Snap Fashion website, which let you browse clothes in a more traditional manner and check out the most loved items on Snap Fashion, giving a social media tinge to the company’s offer.

Snap Fashion is nothing if not bold. “Snap Fashion is changing the way that the world shops online,” the company claims – slightly prematurely – on its website. And yet this is undoubtedly a very clever product, one that aims to solve the eternal problem of matching the outfit you have in your head with retail reality.

It is hard to argue, in fact, with the logic of Snap Fashion’s mission: “Snap Fashion believe that men and women create their own styles, select their own looks and shop their wardrobes, based on the things they see and like,” it says. “It seemed obvious to us that if people are shopping in the real world using their eyes, we should really be shopping online using pictures.”

The reaction among media has been warm too. The Sunday Times said that “Snap Fashion will change the way we shop”, while Cosmopolitan reckoned, “It’s so good you’re probably downloading it as we speak.”

More importantly, fashion retailers have been quick to get on board. In total, Snap Fashion has more than 250 retail partners, including high-street chains such as French Connection, Gap, Topshop, Topman and Uniqlo, online retailers including Net-A-Porter and Mr Porter, and department stores such as Debenhams, House of Fraser, John Lewis and Selfridges.

These partnerships have helped to bring the number of products in the Snap Fashion catalogue to “hundreds of thousands”. But herein lies the company’s main difficulty: hundreds of thousands of items is impressive. But compared to the hundreds of millions of different items of clothing that are out there in the world, it is still peanuts.

What’s more, as Snap Fashion acknowledges, “Visual search is a strange beast, and it’s not 100% accurate all of the time”. So users may be faced with the odd strange search result, particularly if the photo they have uploaded is taken at a strange angle or in difficult lighting.  As you might imagine, in the irascible world of the internet this has got some people quite annoyed.

Generally, though, the reaction from users has been positive. Helen Watt, commenting on the Snap Fashion app’s Google Play listing – admittedly not the most reliable place for reviews – says, “Really cool app. Very stylish and easy to use. Have found some great buys already.”  Luke Francis, writing in the same place, claims to have used the app to find “the perfect birthday present for my girlfriend… a dress to match her favorite bag.”

Get its offer right and Snap Fashion could be onto something very lucrative indeed. eMarketer claims that global commerce was worth $1.3 trillion in 2014 – 5.9% of the total retail market worldwide – led by China and the US. Meanwhile, online fashion sales in the UK were said to have reached £10.7bn last year, up 14.5% on 2013, according to Mintel.

If Snap Fashion can improve the experience of shopping online – and in particular on the ever-present smartphone – then it could claim an important part of this booming industry and re-pay Time Inc’s investment in spades.

Add to this Snap Fashion’s own designs on the high street – it was recently awarded a  £1m contract under Innovate UK’s ‘re-imagining the High Street’ SBRI programme, which will fund development of Snap InStore, a search tool for use in physical fitting rooms – and you have a company well worth keeping a fashionable eye on.


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