All posts in “retail”

Sneaker and streetwear reseller Stadium Goods just launched their first app

Stadium Goods, the online (and brick and mortar) marketplace for highly sought after sneakers and streetwear, is launching its first app.

Live today to coincide with the startup’s two year anniversary, the first iteration of the app is basically just a mobile marketplace.

But Stadium Goods plans to eventually build out this functionality and take advantage of location services and push notifications to get creative with its marketing strategy, the startup explained to TechCrunch. They also plan on giving app customers early access to specific product launches, which is a tactic that’s proven successful with other streetwear retailers.

While the sneaker resale market is crowded with big venture-backed startups like StockX and Goat, Stadium Goods is the only one wasn’t launched around a mobile app. It’s also the only one with a brick and mortar strategy. The startup has two locations in New York, which account for about 10% of the company’s total sales, with the other 90% happening online.

And Stadium Goods explained that out of this 90% of transactions occurring online, the “majority of them” are already happening via mobile. This should translate into a strong adaptation rate as customer migrate from shopping on the mobile web to their native app.

Stadium Goods has raised about $5.6M since launching two years ago. To coincide with their app launch they’re also running a 20% off sale on all purchases today.

You can check out their app on iOS here and on Android here.

Microsoft confirms plans for a new flagship store in Regent Street opposite Apple

Shopping may be turning into an increasingly virtual experience, with people buying goods online and through apps, but there is no denying the power of a physical in-store experience — a lesson that Microsoft is taking to heart. Today the company announced that it would be opening a new flagship store in London in Regent Street near Oxford Circus — just a stone’s (or an iPhone’s) throw from the Apple flagship store that saw a huge revamp a year ago.

The area around Oxford Circus, which is at the intersection of Oxford Street and Regent Street, is one of the most high-profile shopping precincts in the world, so having a presence there underscores Microsoft’s strategy to double down on retail.

“We couldn’t be happier to be opening a flagship store in the heart of central London at Oxford Circus, where two of the world’s most iconic shopping streets meet,” said Cindy Rose, head of Microsoft in the U.K. “We know our customers and fans, whether they are from London, the broader U.K. or just visiting, will love our bold plans for the space. This will be so much more than just a great place to experience all that is possible with Microsoft, but a real hub for the community where we’ll be bringing to life our passion for helping people explore their creativity through an ambitious program of workshops and training along with moments that work to unite the community.”

The announcement comes after a day of speculation about the new store, but also after what has seemed like years of stops and starts for Microsoft and its retail plans in London.

Back in 2012, it was reported that Microsoft planned to open a retail store in the city in March 2013, after it emerged that the company had registered a separate company in the UK to handle a retail business. But it seems that the March 2013 launch never happened.

Then in 2015, yet more reports emerged, this time noting that the company might have abandoned its plans for a store after all, after the dissolution of that 2012 entity.

But the story didn’t end there. Later in 2015, yet more rumors emerged of a retail plan for Microsoft in London. But once more nothing materialised.

And in a way, the starts and stops are not too surprising. The company’s mobile efforts, which had been seen as a major part of its consumer business, were floundering, and while Apple has been nailing retail for years, others that tried to replicate the success had failed. Notably, Samsung retreated from its own physical store efforts in London, which had been located in a mall, not in the Regent Street area.

Now, it may be third time lucky for the Xbox and Windows maker. Notably, today’s announcement seems to be the first time that the company has officially confirmed any plans directly.

There is no timescale noted on Microsoft’s announcement. What is more obvious is that this is as much about creating a showcase for Microsoft products — in a symbolic location right near Apple’s store — as it is about creating a space where people can buy those Microsoft products.

“The  United Kingdom is home to some of our most passionate fans,” David Porter, head of Microsoft Stores, writes in his blog post announcing the news. “We already enjoy connecting through our partners and in our digital stores, and look forward to bringing a physical store to the region as another great choice for customers to experience the best technology from Microsoft.”

There are currently 75 Microsoft Stores globally, with two flagships, in New York (pictured above, also very close to Apple’s ‘cube’ store) and Sydney.

While it’s not clear how much Microsoft makes from its retail stores today, the gold standard shows that it can clearly be a lucrative business: Apple today is the world’s most lucrative retailer, according to research from CoStar, which said that the Mac and iPhone company made $5,546 per square foot in the last year. As a point of comparison, though, the average was a mere $325 per square foot.

Goodbye, photo studios. Hello, colormass virtual photoshoots

IKEA is a leader among those that have pushed the limits when it comes to using digital imaging to take product marketing to the next level. When you look at an IKEA catalog or its website, you might think you are looking at rooms full of Swedish sofas, coffee tables and stylish lamps, but you’re actually looking at highly realistic, but digitally manipulated 3D facsimiles — the same facsimiles that are now being used to build the next generation of retail: AR apps that let you select and place pieces in your own rooms to help figure out what to buy.

All this is pretty cool, but also potentially frustrating if you are a manufacturer, retailer or anyone else who is manufacturing or selling a tangible product: not everyone has the resources of an IKEA to create digital inventory like this. Until now.

Berlin-based colormass, one of the startups presenting today at TechCrunch Disrupt as part of the Battlefield, has developed a platform that lets you recreate an IKEA-style experience for your own merchandise.

A furniture company (or another business in the area of manufacturing) supplies its own production files, which are already created as part of a company’s manufacturing process; and it also supplies information regarding textures, colors and other variables related to the pieces. Then colormass uses computer vision algorithms to convert these images into lifelike, but fabricated, 3D files that can be altered with different textures and colors and subsequently embedded in different (equally virtual, not real) scenes, like this:

and this:

The resulting service is a fraction of what it would cost for a business either to create a system like the one used by, say, IKEA, or to build the various physical products and settings to shoot them in the more traditional way.

“Companies like IKEA use very sophisticated software to do this,” said Balint Barli, who co-founded colormass with Tas Solti and Benjamin Foldi. “We want to enable everyone to be able to do this without knowing anything about 3D. If you want to do what IKEA does, you used to need specialized hardware, expensive software and a lot of experience and training in 3D to be able to do it. Now you don’t.”

A lot of the computer vision developments that we’ve seen hit the market of late have been squarely focused on consumer apps: filters that give us faces like cute animals, or a new color of hair, or help place us into the thick of the action in video games.

Video games and consumer apps, in fact, were where colormass’s founders first got their start. Barli and Solti’s early work was in the area of 3D reconstruction technology, essentially recreating people’s faces so they could be used in video games and in other applications, like hair coloring.

That market is both crowded and, in a sense, becoming more commoditized, though, so they began to think of other places where the same computer vision technology could be applied.

The pair then teamed up with Foldi, whose experience was specifically in 3D imaging. “We quickly realized that the tech could go into a different direction, essentially in helping to make better and less expensive, but still high quality, marketing images and product design,” Barli said.

Barli said that colormass started working with furniture manufacturers in 2016, with current customers usually of the medium-sized variety with $100 million or more in revenue.

He said that customers (at least for now) do not like to be named. “Since these images look exactly like photos, they would like to keep the impression that they are actual images of the real objects.”

Colormass is interesting because it is addressing a clear gap in the enterprise market, helping to digitize “any kind of tangible product,” in the words of Barli. The idea will be to continue to augment this, for example with the ability to manipulate multiple products or images in a 3D room. But he also says that its B2B service for the design and home-goods communities is “only the mid-term goal.”

“The long-term goal is to aggregate all the digitized products to become one of the largest repositories of 3D assets, a library that can be used for product marketing, but also games and other VR and AR applications,” he said. “3D content is a big problem, because there just isn’t that much.” The company has already started building this, signing agreements with their customers to be able to keep certain images in colormass’s own database.

This opens some interesting doors for the company, making it either a competitive rival (or interesting complementary acquisition) not just for the Autodesks and Adobes of this world, but massive photo agencies like the Gettys, as well.

Reach Robotics closes $7.5M Series A for its augmented reality bots

After years of research and development, Reach Robotics has closed a $7.5 million Series A, co-led by Korea Investment Partners (KiP) and IGlobe, to bring its augmented reality bots to market in a big way. The Bristol-based startup is looking to expand into the U.S., and the team is exploring opportunities for growth into other European and Asian markets.

Reach Robotics’ first product, MekaMon, launched last fall. Today’s round comes after the company produced and sold an initial run of 500 of its four-legged, crab-like, bots. MekaMon fits into an emerging category of smartphone-enabled augmented reality toys like Anki.

Silas Adekunle, CEO of Reach Robotics, tells me the influx of capital will be used to make some strategic hires and increase brand recognition through marketing. This is the first time the startup has announced a funding round. Adekunle tells me his experience raising capital wasn’t easy; as they say, hardware is hard.

“It was hard to pitch in our early days because people didn’t believe,” explained Adekunle.

MekaMon sits somewhere between toy and full-fledged robot. Unlike the radio-controlled RadioShack robots of yesteryear, MekaMon costs a hefty $329. At first glance this can be hard to swallow, but Adekunle remains adamant that he is building a platform and not a line of toys — think PS4 instead of an expensive, single-use robot collecting dust on a shelf.

Outside of retail sales, another avenue for the company to make money is through partnerships within the entertainment industry. Adekunle says that Reach would never go out of its way to deliver a specific product for a client, but he always keeps an eye out for overlap where a partnership could occur with minimal operational changes.

“People are taken aback that something could be this realistic,” asserts Adekunle. “If you strip back the product and lose that, then you don’t have an innovative company.”

Because Reach is selling software-enabled hardware, it has the opportunity to collect all sorts of interesting data that it can use to fine-tune its products. The startup is able to track retention in aggregate and look at how people actually use their robots. Moreover, if MekaMon suffers leg failure, Reach can analyze indicators like temperature readings and torque.

Adekunle insists on keeping the Reach Robotics team interdisciplinary — one employee helped shape the way robots move in the Transformers movie series. This same team is focused on empowering the next group of developers who will build on the MekaMon platform and create new use cases, beyond the company’s initial vision for the product.

Online thrift store ThredUP is opening physical retail locations

ThredUP, the online secondhand clothing store that has raised over $130M in funding is going old school.

The startup has announced they will be opening at least five brick and mortar retail stores by the end of the year, with the first one soft-opening today in San Marcos, Texas.

Why San Marcos, a small town of ~60,000 located somewhere between the cities of San Antonio and Austin? Because that’s where the shoppers are, of course.

The thesis behind ThredUP’s new foray into physical retail stores is that the startup has a ton of customer data that it can use to improve the old-school shopping experience. And, what’s a better data point when deciding where to open a store than the locations of your existing customer? ThredUP is opening stores in the cities where it has a particularly high density of existing customers – with one of those places being San Marcos.

And this is just one way that the startup plans to use data to beat other old-school retailers. They are also going to be able to basically guarantee that their customers like the styles they are putting in stores – because they’ll only stock stores with styles that customers in the area have been recently purchasing and looking at online.

Essentially they are removing all of the merchandising risk that other brick and mortar retail stores are faced with, which the startup says will give them a much better chance at succeeding in the physical world.

Another cool feature – if you find an item you like in stores that isn’t in your size, you can use an iPad provided by the startup to take a photo of the item, and you’ll be shown similar items in your size from across the startup’s entire online inventory, which now is growing by about 1,000 items every hour.

ThredUP says 50% of their online customers have never shopped secondhand before – which is a big reason they wanted to open a physical space. While the startup has grown tremendously, on track to sell 10 million items this year alone, in order to continue to grow their core online business they need to expand to new users who may shy away from thrift stores, by showing them that there is a safe side to secondhand goods.