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Alexis Maybank first tried to change the way we shop when she launched Gilt Groupe in 2007. And Gilt was actually extremely successful—reaching a peak valuation of $1 billion at one point—but the app lost its momentum and was sold to Saks Fifth Avenue for a relatively paltry $250 million earlier this year. Now, Maybank is trying to upend the way we shop again with her new start-up Project September, Fast Company reports.
The new app, which you can download now, is heavy on the visuals and presents users with a mix of street style shots and editorials. Click on one of the photos and you can instantly shop the looks you see from a variety of highlighted points. The app has recruited retailers, like Matches Fashion, and influencers to post pictures in Tumbler-like fashion.
This all sounds great in theory: scrolling through pictures you'd find in street style galleries, blogs, and the aforementioned Tumbler, but with the added bonus of being able to buy whatever catches your eye. But history says that consumers aren't attracted to these photo-driven shopping apps. Just look at the deluge of so-called "Tinder-style" shopping apps. Search for this on Google and you see people trying to make these apps happen as far back as the summer of 2014. In my mind, the idea of easily swiping through clothes to save the jawnz and discard the rest seems pretty attractive. But it doesn't appear that this idea has translated to customers.
Have you ever bought something from—or even heard of—one of the apps using this strategy to sell clothes? Hit or Miss? WantList? How about Kwoller? While talking about the trend, app maker Ryan Matzner tells Digiday that what's really hurting these apps is a lack of search function.
“It’s a horrible fad," Matzner says. "Shopping is different from dating because a product cannot talk to you. Missing that dosage, these apps need to have additional utilities aside from discovery.”
What Project September lacks in a search function, though, it tries to make up for with photos of clothing from people you might actually care about. Plus, rather than letting customers scroll through flat product images, the app shows the clothes on actual people. Maybank was inspired to do this by people she noticed coming to Gilt from social media, presumably in search of something they had just seen there. And the influencers and retailers who do sell something on the app are in store to receive about eight to 15 percent of the sale. You too can upload photos and get the same chunk of change if anyone buys something because of your fitpic.
This all sounds enticing, but it's still going to be an uphill battle for Project September. A report from 2015 shows that 85% of consumers still prefer to shop in stores. If consumers can't even be convinced to buy clothes off their desktop—where product details and every angle imaginable is only a click away—are they really going to start shopping directly from a feed of pictures? Recent history says probably not.