Online retail is still growing at an unprecedented rate and the recent success of Cyber Monday only serves to further that argument. But as hard as it tries, online retail still can’t recreate some of the in-store experience. Virtusize is one of the businesses trying to change that – its virtual changing room technology is used by an increasing amount of big retailers to give customers a better idea of how clothes will fit them. It is good for shoppers and importantly, it helps retailers to reduce returns – one of the most pressing issues facing ecommerce businesses. We caught up with the startup to see if it has had any challenges when working with big companies like ASOS and Monsoon.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
It was whilst shopping at eBay that we noticed experienced sellers taking a different approach to size and fit. eBay sellers often provided detailed measurements of their clothes allowing shoppers to compare clothes they wanted to buy with ones they already owned. We tried and tested this and whist the comparison method worked well it was time consuming and not very intuitive. We realised that if we used the same concept and made it visual, we could be on to something. So, we took that principle, built technology that was easy for retailers to install and for shoppers to use and Virtusize was born.
So you were essentially born out of what another large business was starting to do. Has it taken off?
Now, two years later, Virtusize has been proven to reduce size-related returns, increase customer conversion and improve the shopping experience for online retailers who use the service. We are live with 30 online retailers across Europe and Asia, including well-known stores such as ASOS, Monsoon, Magaseek and Nelly.
Was there much opportunity to learn from the businesses around you when you started?
When we started out we met with a lot of people. We wanted to learn as much possible on how to start and maintain a successful business. Luckily, the start-up space in Stockholm is friendly and a great place to get advice from talented people, exchange valuable information. Spotify and Klarna are two companies, in particular, that we learnt a lot from.
Are there any larger businesses you particularly admire?
Virtusize’s goal is to become the global standard for size and fit online. We want to achieve for size and fit what PayPal has for payments. Paypal is also an application for retailers and has been extremely successful in their niche. We have studied their journey and learnt a lot. We believe solving a real problem for both online consumers and businesses is the key to success.
How did your first collaboration with a larger business come about?
Our first client was Nelly.com, which is the largest online retailer in Scandinavia. Nelly.com saw potential in our product and implemented Virtusize to help its customers understand which size to buy thereby preventing fit-related returns. Nelly has been a client since Virtusize started in 2011.
Collaborating with large online retailers such as Asos, Nelly, Monsoon and Magaseek has enabled us to learn fast. Our clients constantly help us to develop our product as they know their customers best and sit on invaluable insights. We have found that our relationship with large retailers becomes more of a partnership, which is great.
What particular challenges have you come across when working with larger companies?
For us, a challenge has been educating the market about how big the problem of returns is and explaining how Virtusize works. Large corporations spend lots of time evaluating new solutions, which can be time consuming and require a dedicated team. On the other hand the longer lead-time also works to our advantage since every step in the process is thoroughly executed.
Another challenge when working with big businesses is the major traffic streams they have. It’s extremely important that we are able to offer a stable and reliable service to our clients. Having retailers with over 20 million monthly unique visitors means we have to make sure we have the best infrastructure possible.
Is there anything in particular you think could smooth these challenges?
These challenges allow us to learn and grow. A young business does not always have all the answers, but will constantly face obstacles. Challenges are a valuable way to re-think and improve your product. And of course, there are always ways to educate the market regarding returns; it is a big problem for retailers today. We want to highlight this issue.
One thing that has really helped us is the amount of time our key clients have dedicated to Virtusize. Their feedback has been invaluable. Big players can help smaller businesses by sharing their knowledge and experience.
How do you approach big businesses now?
Our first interaction is usually by phone or email. The next step is to set up a meeting face-to-face. It’s important to meet the people you’re going to work closely with in person so you can establish a trustworthy relationship with them – something that’s important to us.
How do you intend to grow your business in 2014?
Our next step is to grow our development team. In order to expand we need to continuously work on our product and add new features. We have a lot of ideas on how to further improve the size and fit experience. To make these ideas reality we need a lot of talented people to help us build it.
Well best of luck Pedar, thanks for talking to us.
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