Using a social app to prepare for a U.S. retail launch
Retailers often use social media to get the pulse of their industry and better understand their customers. But one Japanese apparel e-tailer has turned the process on its head, launching its social sharing app, called Wear, in the U.S. to lead the way for a possible e-commerce presence.
Wear is owned by Start Today Engineering, a Japanese company that also owns the e-tailer Zozotown, an “online fashion mall” that sells 3,900 brands on a commission basis, according to an article on Business of Fashion. While the Japanese version of the Wear app allows fashion enthusiasts to shop at Zozotown, the version that launched in the U.S. merely gives users an outlet to discover and discuss brands and new looks. The company is using Wear purely as a research tool to collect data on the U.S. fashion market to inform its next move.
Overseas apparel retailers have had some success with deliberately slow expansions in the U.S. Japanese fast-fashion retailer Uniqlo, for instance, opened a location in Manhattan’s Soho neighborhood in 2007 which remained its only brick-and-mortar outlet for years. The chain now has more than 30 U.S. stores. Uniqlo only began offering online sales in the U.S. 2012.
More recently, Ireland-based fast-fashion retailer Primark entered the U.S. market with only a handful of locations in major shopping malls and without an e-commerce presence.
Outside of apparel, there have been successful examples of retailers in the U.S. using data to drive store concept launches. GameStop, for instance, used data from its main brand loyalty program to launch ThinkGeek, an online store it got as part of an acquisition, as a standalone brick-and-mortar concept.
But in order for Start Today to use insight gleaned from Wear as the basis for an eventual e-commerce launch, it will first need to get stateside fashion fanatics using the app. The Google Play store lists the app as having between one million and five million installs and advertising materials boast of eight million downloads, but it is not clear how many are in the U.S. The app has a 3.6 star rating on the Google Play store with 7,155 reviews.
- The $7 Billion Japanese E-Tailer That’s Targeting the USA – Business of Fashion
- Uniqlo announces its first move into Canada – RetailWire
- Can Primark conquer America without selling online? – RetailWire
- WEAR Fashion Lookbook – Google Play Store
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Can gathering information with a social app give Start Today a head start in the U.S. fashion market? How might the data guide an eventual U.S. expansion? Should companies, foreign and domestic, consider launching social apps to gather information before making any moves into a new market?