The Fashion Retailer A few words with Vadim Rogovskiy, 3DLOOK CEO
Vadim Rogovskiy is CEO and co-founder of 3DLOOK, the global leader in AI-first mobile body measuring and fit solutions. Vadim is an angel investor and partner at Geek Ventures, an advisor and mentor at 500 Startups, and a Forbes “30 Under 30” alumni.
I discovered 3DLOOK when writing about the fashion technology ecosystem. Then, in 2019, I wrote an article about them (Body Scanning in Fashion) when they received the LVMW Innovation Award.
Vadim is from Ukraine and he answered to TFR questions a couple of weeks ago, when the current situation in his country was still unexpected and unimaginable. 3DLook team is spread across US and Europe. I really hope this war is going to be over soon and Ukraine remains a free country. Freedom and democracy will win #standwithukraine
TFR: What is 3DLOOK?
At 3DLOOK, we create solutions that inspire innovation in the fashion industry. Our flagship solution, YourFit, is the first tool to completely recreate the full convenience of buying clothes offline in the digital world. It brings together personalized size recommendations with virtual try-on in one platform, powered by our mobile body scanning technology. YourFit offers brands the tools to thrive as e-commerce explodes and meet the demands for convenience, personalization and sustainability.
A number of big-name brands rely on our solutions, and the results we’ve achieved together have been really quite incredible. Our partners are seeing conversion rates up to 4x higher than before, as well as reduced product returns and waste.
TFR: What is the entrepreneur story that inspired the launch of the company?
There’s no single story that inspired 3DLOOK’s creation, but rather a shared mindset that led our team to success. At 3DLOOK, my partners and I wanted to create a solution to provide reliable body measurements from nothing more than smartphone photos, as we saw huge opportunities for such technology across industries.
We put together a team of top engineers, specialists in AI (Artificial Intelligence), ML (Machine Learning) and CV (Computer Vision) technologies, and gave them the freedom to experiment. It took a year — and a lot of positive thinking to stop us from giving up — but we got there eventually and created what is now the backbone of our body measuring solutions.
TFR: Is 3DLOOK your first entrepreneurial experience? What are the lessons learned from this or previous experiences?
I’ve been building my own businesses from the age of 18. Previously, I ran a web design studio and a gaming company before I found my way into adtech.
I founded AdCenter, which was acquired by VertaMedia, and Clickburner (later Clickky), which offers mobile monetization tools for advertisers, and was partially acquired by a private equity fund. I wanted a fresh challenge away from adtech and decided to dive into the exciting retail tech space, an archaic industry really, which was desperate for a shakeup.
The main lesson that I learned is that each and every person who chooses the path of an entrepreneur must have passion and persistence. Building 3DLOOK was by no means easy. For the first year, we worked solely on the core tech, testing one approach after another, only to see all of them fail until we were finally able to create a technology that would accurately measure the human body using nothing but a smartphone camera. Giving up would have been so easy — and many of our predecessors have quit — but not us. Creating products that offer value to businesses and people is not easy, but it pays to be persistent and continue working towards your goal.
TFR: Online apparel sales represented around 5% before COVID-19, and brick-and-mortar stores were essential to display clothes. Customers visited stores to see, touch and try on clothing. From a business perspective, stores were managed like “warehouses,” and stock availability was a key metric. In this scenario, fitting rooms have an active role as the shopping decision will be influenced there.
Lockdowns and store closures due to Covid-19 restrictions accelerated digital transformation, from a retailer but also customer perspective. No physical shopping means “no fitting rooms” and, therefore, return rates skyrocketed during the pandemic. Last year, companies like Zara sold 30% of their total revenue online while many fashion brands are launching special collections to be sold online-only.
But what about returns? What is the cost of reverse logistics? Nearly half of all U.S. shoppers were buying multiple sizes of a product online with the intention of returning some of them, according to “The State of Online Returns in 2019: A Global Study.” As well, what is the environmental cost?
What is your opinion about sizing concerns when shopping online, including the cost of managing inventory and environmental externalities? How is 3DLook helping fashion customers in that sense?
COVID-19 has had a huge impact on both online apparel sales and return rates, and not only when physical fitting rooms were closed. Fashion’s high return rates aren’t a pandemic problem and will continue to grow as more and more consumers move online.
Of course, this is a problem for businesses, but really, those who suffer most are the customers and our planet. Most returned goods aren’t resold and, even if they are, it’s usually at a discount. Brands have a lot of data to work with, and they have a good sense of how much they are likely to lose. Rather than eating those losses, they pass them on to the consumer through inflated prices. The more we return, the more prices will rise.
Then there’s the environmental factor. Reverse logistics helps to regain value from unwanted products, but it also creates unnecessary emissions. Brands have made returns free and easier than ever, but rather than focusing on how to make returns more efficient, we need to focus on why customers return apparel and eliminate these issues. Sizing is a big part of the problem, and 3DLOOK helps to solve this by providing shoppers with a fitting room through their smartphone. The solution shows them how an item will look on their body before they purchase it and tells them what size would fit them best, so they don’t have to guess.
In most cases, this means customers only buy the items that fit them well, that they know they’re going to love and keep. The tool has had a huge impact on those brands that have implemented it, which have seen returns dramatically decrease.
TFR: In AR and VR for fashion, I commented that omnichannel shopping requires a different approach from retailers. The role of the store has changed, from a place to stock clothes to a place to deliver brand experiences. Technology supports all processes: product presentation and display; product recommendation; staff communications and training; inventory accuracy and stock traceability; customer service; etc.
Digitalization is everything, and data is everywhere in a retail business. Information around sizing patterns can improve the way designers plan their next collections (note that many companies are also implementing 3D Design capabilities), and suppliers will be able to adjust and improve product development-manufacturing accuracy. Gathering information related to sizing would improve allocations and store clustering too.
What business area or process is 3DLOOK enhancing across the value chain?
Our solutions provide benefits throughout the business. Of course, improving the customer experience is a key part of what we offer. Customers are able to visualize how clothing will look on their body from anywhere and feel confident in their purchase, which has a significant impact on business performance by increasing conversions and sales.
But businesses also benefit from the customer data the tool creates. The brands we work with have used this to look more closely at their customer base, helping design teams to develop products that better match the body shapes and preferences of their customers.
Likewise, marketing teams can use this body data to retarget potential customers with products that actually fit their bodies. There are also opportunities to tailor production and inventory planning to manufacture products in quantities that are likely to sell and distribute them accordingly.
All in all, 3DLOOK helps fashion businesses to better understand their customers, and this is beneficial throughout the value chain.
What is your opinion about brands opening stores in the metaverse? Do you think 3DLOOK could support the customization of avatars in order to facilitate shopping? (No more sizing complexity or uncertainty).
Definitely. When we founded 3DLOOK, our vision was to create a digital passport that would store body data for a range of uses, including creating personalized avatars in video games. As the metaverse grows, there is certainly a use case for body scanning technology, but for now, our primary focus is on providing personalization in the real world.
What this trend tells us is that consumers desire exciting, new and unique experiences, personalized to them — that’s what the metaverse promises, but we first want to bring this level of personalization to the real world.
TFR: Data analytics and technology are playing an increasingly important role in the retail industry. Do you feel as though fashion is becoming more science than art?
Fashion is really a combination of the two. The clothing you buy today was likely designed years ago. Businesses forecast what will sell years in advance, and they have a great idea of how many will sell, where they will sell, and who they will sell to. Of course, data analytics makes that far easier to predict.
However, typically these calculations are made using historical data, and this fails to provide the full picture. Say they discover some styles were selling below expectations or were returned more often. Was it due to the style? Was it distributed to the wrong locations or because they didn’t fit right? It’s often the latter, and that’s why body data is so important.
Our solutions collect anonymized data from real customers which is then used in our advanced analytics. The analytics provide brands with a deeper understanding of their customers’ body shapes at a very deep level. It’s invaluable insight for brands to have, helping them create garments that fit and look great on their customers and supporting effective distribution across geographies.
Essentially, we take care of the science so that our brand partners can focus on the art.
TFR: I see you are located in California while maintaining some of your offices in Ukraine. COVID-19 has changed the way we work, but headquarters are still very connected to business and talent ecosystems or hubs. What is your opinion around remote work and how easy is it to find digital talent today?
3DLOOK is spread across the world, with team members working across more than 10 cities throughout Europe, North America and further afield. We feel this helps to provide diversity, with a variety of backgrounds contributing to our company culture.
Like any business, the pandemic presented us with challenges, but our teams continued to work hard and stay motivated when working from home. Much of the team worked remotely prior to the pandemic and it has never been an issue. Now, many of our employees are continuing with hybrid working and split their time between their home and the office.
We organize ‘family’ lunches each week where the whole team comes together for a meal, as well as other activities. These have really helped maintain relationships in the workplace and grow team spirit.
Digital skills are in such high demand and, with vacancies at an all-time high, workers have so much choice. Thankfully we’re a mission-driven company, and many share our passion for sustainability, which has helped us avoid the staffing shortages many are facing. We have seen huge growth during the pandemic, and we’re pleased to have added some incredibly talented individuals to the team.
TFR: Where do you see your company in 5 years? According to Crunchbase, 3DLOOK has raised a total of $14.7M in funding over 5 rounds (the latest funding was raised in 2021 from a Series A round).
We will continue partnering with the world’s largest and most innovative brands to solve challenges that the industry has struggled with for decades. In five years, we want our results to speak for themselves and show we have truly made a difference.
Currently, 3DLOOK is the go-to for apparel businesses looking to innovate fit and increase personalization. However, we feel many industries could benefit from our technologies and plan to expand beyond fashion, with a number of exciting partnership announcements coming up.
Our goal has always been to change a lot of top industries, and that will require us to go beyond the fashion sector. Health and fitness, furniture design, gaming… There are so many industries that would benefit from increased personalization, and we intend to support them all eventually.