Company | 10 June, 2021
Style goes high-tech: 2 S'pore businesses innovate fashion retail
Adapted from the Straits Times , by Amanda Chai

Pixibo co-founder Rohit Kumar says his concept addresses the problem of "low conversion rates and high returns rates." Courtesy of The Straits Times: NG SOR LUAN
SINGAPORE - A handful of fashion entrepreneurs are helping to spark a digital revolution in the style industry. Fashion tech start-up Pixibo and online womenswear label Lily & Lou are two such brands using technology behind the scenes to innovate fashion retail.
Pixibo: buy first, pay later

Forget virtual "try before you buy". How would you like to shop online for free and pay only after you have tried on your loot and decided what you want to keep?

Sounds ludicrous, but that is the concept Pixibo is trying to sell to shoppers.

In February, the fashion tech company launched the Try Before You Buy (TBYB) service and the Pixibo Fit Centre.

Targeted to serve independent, online-only fashion brands, the service - which shows up as a button on the checkout page on the brands' own websites - allows customers to cart out items without paying first.

The items are sent to the Pixibo Fit Centre at The Centrepoint, where the customer can try them on before deciding if he or she wants to buy them. The customer is not obligated to make a purchase.

This addresses the problem of "low conversion rates and high returns rates" faced by many fashion retailers, says co-founder Rohit Kumar, 39, whose previous job at an ad tech company brought him in contact with fashion brands in the region.

"Uncertainty about size and fit is one of the major problems in online fashion, yet somehow for two decades, we've gotten used to paying upfront for products," adds the British citizen and Singapore permanent resident who is based here.

TBYB hence "combines the best of online and offline shopping" - the convenience of browsing online and the ability to try a product before paying.

There are benefits, too, for retailers - which pay a percentage of the transaction if the shopper ends up purchasing the items.

Small brands that lack resources get to tap Pixibo's warehouse service to hold their products and consolidate shipping and handling.
The customer is not obligated to make a purchase.
Pixibo's system also allows for "returns". Many growing fashion brands cannot afford a flexible return policy, which "becomes a growth hurdle", says Mr Kumar.

And often, retailers who can afford one cannot "control the return timeline and quality of the returned item", he adds, which leads to fashion waste if they cannot be resold.

Lastly, e-commerce brands reap the benefits of being stocked in a physical space at the Fit Centre.

Mr Kumar says the idea was inspired by Amazon Counter, a click-and-collect service in the United States where parcels are delivered to a network of pick-up points that tap local convenience stores. The service proved successful in creating new sales for the partnering stores, just from getting Amazon customers in the door.

Pixibo's physical fit centre.
"It helped us realise the role physical spaces play in accelerating e-commerce and discovering other brands," says Mr Kumar.

"What online fashion needs is physical space; what physical stores need is the footfall. We're just finding a way both can work together to find mutual benefit."

When phase two (heightened alert) kicked in last month, it created an unexpected opportunity to debut a new product, which was initially intended as a long-term goal to be developed later on.

Late last month, Pixibo launched its Try@Home service - a model similar to TBYB but which delivers the items to the customer's home instead for a fee of $3.99. The customer has 15 minutes to try on the items while the delivery partner waits outside.

If a purchase is made, the customer makes cashless payment on the spot.

"Retail is still open, but malls are like ghost towns. No one is leaving home to buy a dress," he says. "And where is the most comfortable place to try stuff on? Your home."

In five days, Pixibo built a payment gateway and infrastructure to support the Try@Home service, learnt route optimisation and hired delivery drivers. The company works with female freelance riders, who pick up orders at either the Fit Centre or Pixibo's warehouse at Ayer Rajah Crescent.

Pixibo co-founder Rohit Kumar with riders Huda binte Abdul Malik (left) and Faeeza binte Sallehuddin. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN
One of Pixibo's first retail partners, local activewear brand Fitty has seen an overall 10 to 15 per cent increase in sales since employing TBYB. Almost all are first-time customers, says founder Zen Lin.

"I decided to join because it fills the exact gap that local online start-ups like myself face - the lack of a bricks-and-mortar store for customers to try our gear before they purchase and the hassle of exchanging sizes after purchase, which also affects the customer service experience."

Customers have told her they "love the efficiency and convenience of being able to try the items at home as soon as the next working day", she adds, referring to Try@Home.

It is early days, but Pixibo's current sales conversion from try-ons is around 80 per cent - up from about 50 per cent before Try@Home was launched.

While the Fit Centre will remain a core feature of TBYB, its role will evolve to become a "discovery centre" that curates brands.

Pixibo plans to bring onboard 100 retailers - Mr Kumar would only say they are in the double digits now - by the end of the year and eventually enable shoppers to consolidate try-ons across multiple brands in a single time slot.

He adds: "We want shoppers to demand TBYB as a concept, to make it almost irrational to pay upfront for a product that is fundamentally experiential."

About Pixibo
Fashion tech start-up Pixibo launched the Find Your Fit service, an algorithm-powered size recommendation tool, in 2018. It is used by online fashion retailers including regional e-tailer Zalora and South Korean department store Shinsegae.
Co-founders Rohit Kumar, 39, and Karthik Srinavasan, 38, set up Pixibo in 2016 to use software, data and technology to help online fashion brands overcome challenges in size standardisation and fit.

In February 2021, the company launched a Try Before You Buy service, which it offers to fashion brands to allow their customers to cart out items without paying upfront. They then try out the items at a physical store before deciding if they want to purchase.