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Four Big Problems With Online Retail -- And The Startups Hoping To Solve Them(Forbes)

The article first appeared on the Forbes.

The worlds of fashion and retail exist in a perpetual paradox. On one hand, they are dynamic and ever-changing—built around the idea that neither consumers nor their preferences sit still. But on the other, these industries are old school to a fault, and often set in their ways and surprisingly slow to adopt new ideas and technologies.

In other words: While there's an almost universal sense that big changes could be just around the corner in how customers discover and purchase the items they wear, there's still a lot of work to do in terms of actually integrating new technologies and trends into the way brands and retailers do business.

To see where the fashion and retail industries could be headed in the future, I reached out to my friends at the New York Fashion Tech Lab (NYFTL): A unique non-profit that pairs early-stage, female-led startups in the fashion and tech spaces with major brands and retailers (companies like Macy's, LVMH, Kohl's, and Foot Locker) in a sort of incubator-meets-mentorship program. (Note: A company I used to work with participated in this program some years back. I have no current involvement with the program nor any of its cohort companies.)

The idea is symbiotic: Large brands get early access to slate of vetted startups and their ideas and technologies; while early-stage companies get the chance to work with the sorts of companies that can help them make a name for themselves.

"For large mono brands and multi-brand retailers, the value in connecting with these startups is that it allows them to explore and potentially pilot with emerging technology solutions," says Jackie Trebilcock, the NYFTL's managing director. "The ability to test, iterate and improve in a real-world environment with some of the best retailers and brands proving real-time feedback is key to accelerating growth for the start-up Lab companies."

To see what problems are currently front and center in this space, I spoke to four startups in the NYFTL's just-announced 2019 cohort about the problems they see in the world of online retail and how they hope their companies can help solve them.

And be sure to check back in a few days, when I'll turn the spotlight towards a series of companies hoping to disrupt the in-store retail experience.

Company: Fuse.It (Los Angles/Tel Aviv)

The Pitch: "Turn existing branded video to user generated content, with augmented reality."

Trend: User-generated content/Augmented Reality

What problem are you trying to solve?

"Digital ad spending continues to beat TV, and marketing budgets are increasing dramatically—reaching $350 billion by 2022. However, what is really happening to the reach of retail and fashion industries? In the past few years, we have witnessed the retail and fashion industries continue to increase their spending on social media and digital campaigns as one of their major marketing strategies. Despite this, changes to algorithms on social platforms have actually decreased their organic reach.

If you shift your attention to the consumer and explore what they are engaged with and where there conversion is, it becomes even more complicated. 90 percent of the branded content that is being consumed is being produced by the consumer, and their content is being watched 10 times more than expensive branded content. This has created an interesting dynamic, brands are spending more but actually reaching fewer consumers."

What are you doing to solve this?

" enables brands to reach users organically. Using state-of-the-art augmented reality technology that is based on Artificial Intelligence, we take already produced videos of all sizes and automatically convert them into AR experiences.

By utilizing pre-existing TV or video content that the fashion company has already paid for, we repurpose it and offer it out the their consumers.

We take a passive experience and convert it into an active memorable experience that is worth sharing. Now, instead of watching a celebrity or fashion models performing, consumers can perform with the celebrity in their own environment and share the experience with their friends. Instead of passively watching a famous singer promoting a new pair of jeans, you can act in the jingle and appear beside the singer."

-Liat Sade-Sternberg, Founder & CEO

Read the full article on the Forbes.

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