Mobile Marketing Startup News

Mobile Fashion Startup “Swirl” Vies to Send Shoppers from App to Store

August 21, 2012

There’s a new app on the block that is defying convention when it comes to how retailers are leveraging technology to drive sales. Swirl’s mission: drive in-store purchases via a digital experience.

The model is familiar across the restaurant space. Apps like Scoutmob, BiteHunter and Jump Tonight help people scour the deals landscape to locate their next (cheap) meal. The strategy is simple: get new customers in the door, serve them an enjoyable experience, and then, keep them coming back for more. In theory, this same strategy applies to retail: get customers in the door, allow them to try (and fall in love with) your product, and then, entice them to want to wear more products.

Yet, for retail, the focus of digital couponing has largely been to keep the experience online, driving customers to e-commerce sites as opposed to store locations. While this approach makes sense, there are still reasons for people to walk through a retailer’s doors and peruse the racks, for example the desire to try something on in person or the immediacy that only an in-store purchase can offer. In fact, more than 90 percent of the fashion industry’s $400 billion sales are still made in-store, with only 3 percent online (and less on mobile), according to Hilmi Ozguc, Swirl’sFounder & CEO.

And that’s were Swirl finds its niche. The new iOS app and website is unique in that it’s not focused on online sales, but rather, offline shopping. Serving up current deals, redeemable at nearby stores, is what sets this service apart.

Swirl launched last week with 220 deals in place across more than 200 partner retailers with 30K locations nationwide in aggregate. Among the brands already embracing the platform are Nordstrom, Banana Republic and Club Monaco.

How does it work?

Swirl users can browse popular products, stores or fashion collections and clip clothing and accessories they love to curated shopping boards. Every catalogued photo includes product information (brand, price and description), current offers (if available) and store locations where that item can be purchased. A map-view tab makes browsing local deals even easier.

Over time, Swirl will learn what you like and what don’t, using data to serve more relevant product listings that are tailored to your taste. Members will be able to share their purchases with friends and collaborate on shopping lists via an integration with Facebook.

Where do brands fit in?

In a market crowded with mobile apps, websites and email marketing that all drive to e-commerce, Swirl provides a unique opportunity to reach people at local scale and incentivize in-store traffic. When vetting any new opportunity, we encourage marketers to consult the Startup Scorecard (part of 360iU’s Startup Outlook program), to determine which partnerships are right for their brand. Retailers will also want to keep in mind that given the app was released out of “stealth mode” a little over a week ago, its user base is likely small – for now.

For the right brands, here’s a glimpse at what Swirl has to offer:

  • Local targeting: Reach people in specific regions or markets with current sales or exclusive deals
  • Product elevation capabilities: With Swirl, marketers can feature new season products or clearance items to increase awareness and purchase behavior. The company also says future product extensions may include the ability for users to share their own product images within the app.
  • Sophisticated analytics (coming soon): While currently in development, Swirl says it plans to roll out a dashboard for brands to see how their promotions and products are resonating with consumers — particularly in-store.

With sites like Pinterest and The Fancy, shoppers have no shortage of digital platforms through which they can seek fashion inspiration and purchase items online. Swirl takes this concept to a new level by catering to the fact that most people buy fashion items not online, but in-store. Swirl’s mission incentivizes an already popular behavior via mobile technology and effectively turns deal-finding into a game. Will you play?