We bring you a series of interviews with the 10 companies accepted into Startupbootcamp’s Sports & EventTech cohort.
In this edition we talked to the co-founder of Trendii Aaron Woolf.
What frustration inspired the genesis of Trendii? And how you’re wanting to change the way people shop.
Aaron Woolf: “There are really two parts of frustration that Trendii aims to solve. For the first part, consumers are inspired all day, every day by things they see everywhere. Be it magazines, internet, television, social media they see images and content that inspires them, and then invariably they switch off from inspiration and then switch to searching.
“What happens is they struggle to find what they’re looking for, they struggle to find the price point they’re happy with, they struggle to find a good offer, a deal. They have to basically put all of those pieces together themselves. The question I had was, ‘why isn’t there a solution that enables you to get all of that, at the point of inspiration?’
“I started doing some research into it looking into ways that consumers are currently doing that kind of thing and there’s a lot of hacks, a lot ways that people are doing it by hacking it. They’ll take the image from the website, they’ll upload it into Pinterest, they’ll then get similar images, which they’ll then take to Google, do a Google reverse image search and it will bring up some retailers. They’ll go to the retailer and they’ll find a product image, they’ll take that image and go to another retailer and do an image search. That ends up getting a very similar outcome to what Trendii is able to do on the fly. So that was the pain point for consumers.”
On the other side then?
AW: “For retailers, while they’re struggling to compete against the likes of Amazon, brands are going to find it increasingly more difficult to acquire customers. What Trendii aims to do is to help them attract higher value customers who are shopping by inspiration rather than by price. The way the market is at the moment is consumers are very much reacting to offers, deals, sales events, discounts and various other things. They will only spend when there’s a deal. They aren’t worth as much in terms of lifetime value for the brand that they were looking for and they have absolutely no brand loyalty.
“Brands paying to acquire these consumers now, the return on investment is now pushed out 12, 18, sometimes 24 months. What we want to do is help brands attract consumers because they want to buy the products they want rather than buy because they’re given an offer to transact with them over transacting with one of their competitors.
“There is enough people now we believe that is shopping through frustration and not very helpful visual search mechanisms that warrant us to build something that solves that problem, for the fashion niche.”
The problem is that there isn’t any stickiness or brand loyalty. So discovery of the unknown brands and products is a big driver for Trendii?
AW: “We’re brand agnostic so it’s about helping you discover products you want from brands that you perhaps didn’t know. What we want to try and do is help people buy from brands that are focussing on creating better quality products that consumers want rather than focussing on poorly manufactured, highly discounted deals. We’re sort of trying to try to shift behaviour a bit but there’s certainly a lot of movement towards sustainable fashion which is where we feel will be able to really stretch our legs in the coming years.”
One of the interesting challenges with artificial intelligence is to make it smarter and scalable, you’ve got to keep feeding it as much data as you can to train your models. Right now is that, because we’re shopping less and not going out as much, is it harder to train your AI models! That’s a short-term challenge. Longer term, is that you’ve got to keep training your models to become smarter and smarter. So we look at we’re talking about short term and long term challenges of AI model training.
AW: “You’re right it’s an iterative process. So it’s almost like when you start the AI model, you create a child, that child has the ability to learn as you go based on experiences. So if you teach a child 1000 times a day, that what you see in a picture is a handbag, eventually, the child will just know similar images that look similar to that image are also handbags. And then it will be able to identify handbags without having to tell it.
“Now, the way AI works from our perspective is we’re effectively teaching the model to learn and improve all the time. So the more data goes in, the better the model gets. The more users we have, the more products we have, the better the product and model gets better as well.”
I bet you get asked a lot about influencers. Do they have value? If so, what could influencers bring internally to Trendii or be a point of reference for people that use the app?
AW: “Influencers is a really interesting question. If you take a step back, I’m 37 years old, so I’ve seen so much change in the digital marketing world from the beginnings of Google, in fact the beginnings of the internet to where we are now with influencers, Instagram and all these other things. Influence, when I started in marketing, was guys like David Beckham who would wear a pair of sunglasses and be a brand ambassador, his image would be in the newspaper and then everyone would buy those sunglasses and that was influence. What’s happened over the last few years it’s become easier for more people to have a platform where they can get huge amounts of reach, get lots of exposure and then effectively become an influencer and monetise it.
“I think what’s happened is it just needs a little bit of rebalancing. There is absolutely influential people. There’s no doubt about it. From our perspective, our product very much relies on a consumer shopping from influential content. As far as we’re concerned, the influential content drives the consumer behaviour but where that influential content comes from doesn’t necessarily need to be an influencer, it could be from a magazine.
“There is absolutely a place for influencers within what we’re trying to do. In the sports world, everybody wants to buy what Lionel Messi is wearing on his feet or Cristiano Ronaldo’s boots.”
Trendii transcends just the sports vertical. The application across so many fashion, retail verticals , but we are talking about a sports and events accelerator program right now so what potential so you see in the sports fashion, sports apparel, footwear verticals?
AW: “Apparel is our bread and butter. Sports apparel is a no brainer when it comes to us effectively adding more products and more brands. The fact that we work with a Nike, adidas, Lululemon and many other athleisure brands already, enables consumers to shop from those brands through inspirational content that might contain similar products. That’s already a feature. From a sports perspective, the reality is you can see a picture of Mohammed Salah, running down the wing scoring goals for Liverpool, you can buy his shirt, you can buy his boots, perhaps buy tickets to a Liverpool match? What we’re trying to do is ‘retailify’ image and video content so that when you’re inspired by your favourite influencers, celebrities or sports stars, you’re able to then transact when you’re inspired. That’s hugely powerful for brands and consumers.”
Is there opportunities through Trendii to leverage limited editions, limited edition drops of apparel and clothing?
AW: “Absolutely. We’re talking to a few limited edition sneaker companies about doing digital treasure hunts. So the idea being that you would activate Trendii to discover limited edition products within images rather than doing a waitlist. You can attract a more engaged audience, which does lend itself heaps of really interesting ideas and collaborations.”
In my notes it was about the limited edition and collaboration potential. That feeling of ‘oh shit, I want to get onto that as well.’ In essence that’s the feeling you want people to have.
AW: “It’s all about discovery right? It’s a tool you’ll use to discover things within content. If you can discover something and then, ‘wow you discovered a pair of limited edition Air Force Ones that Pharell’s wearing on a magazine website’ that’s pretty awesome. How cool is that? Those experiences are what we aim for.”
How does Trendii earn revenue?
AW: “We’re a B2B2C platform and product offers two things to retailers; we will be offering advertising opportunities and we offer commission based cost-per-sale opportunities. So brands effectively give us their product databases, we upload those into Trendii and then when relevant we show those products to consumers, if someone makes a purchase we get paid by the retailer a commission. There’s a huge amount of opportunity with the data that’s garnered from the users and how we can then use that to further benefit the consumer and provide even more value through the experience. Our advertising play is soon to be released which will be partnering with some digital publishers and providing in-context advertising such as featured products and taggable images so consumers can shop on the website and publishers get revenue and we help drive traffic to the retailers.
“It is a walled garden product, we aren’t going to sell user data. It’s not a product that will just say, ‘hey, we’ve got a heap of data, you want to buy it from us and use it for yourselves.’ What we want to do is enable brands to leverage that data within Trendii but it’s all about using that data within the platform to help brands get higher value customers and help consumers get the products they want faster.”
How has the app been received right now in its early stages?
AW: “We haven’t launched. We had a plan to launch in March but you might have noticed what happened…
“That kind of stopped us in our tracks a little bit, but it also gave us a chance to go back to the drawing board, make sure that we were absolutely on the money with what we wanted to release. We spoke to a lot of users and people, we did a lot of research and looked at what we were building. We were able to develop our platform, make changes and even cuts based on the added feedback and advice from our users and testers.
“There’s some educational stuff we’ve put in, we’ve industrialised the back end, we’ve put a lot more work into the models to ensure better accuracy. We’ve added more retailers and products. So essentially, the last two months of hiatus that we’ve sort of been on has given us an opportunity to improve the product that we would have released in March. So now the plan is to release and we’ve got a strategy to do that over the course of the next few months. From there I’m sure there’ll be iterations and a couple more pivots. We’re very confident that something like Trendii will become the normal way for consumers to shop.”