Omni-channel, multi-channel, cross channel sales…the Zoomdle app now opens up yet another path. But what innovative features does e-commerce really need?

M-Commerce Breathing New Life into Traditional Print Media?

Interview, during a broadcast from L’Atelier numérique (L’Atelier Digital) on the BFM Business channel, with Axel Canus, CEO of Zoomdle, an e-commerce app, and Olivier Sauvage, e-commerce consultant and author of the ‘Capitaine Commerce’ blog.

Online shopping is still growing. According to the latest figures from the French e-commerce and remote selling federation, FEVAD, e-commerce turnover in France posted an 11% increase year-on-year in the first quarter of 2014, reaching €13.4 billion. A number of specific trends stand out in this healthy market, especially m-commerce, a segment which made the most notable progress during the first three months of the year, with online purchases from mobile devices up 76% on last year. Despite this success however online merchants cannot afford to rest on their laurels, since innovations continue to arrive thick and fast, making mobile selling a central plank of e-commerce strategy. One of these innovations is the Zoomdle app.

L'Atelier: Zoomdle could be described as the Shazam for fashion, but how exactly does the app work?

Axel Canus: Women who read magazines can use their smartphones to snap a photo of a product they like. Once they’ve downloaded the app they can buy it online any time, anywhere they happen to be.

From any magazine whatsoever?

Axel Canus: At the moment, just three: Biba, Grazia, and Vital.

Does the app automatically recognise an item shown in one of the magazines?

Axel Canus: Yes, exactly. The technology isn’t based on a QR code, as that would detract from the graphic quality of the magazine. A system of visual recognition enables you to pull up the item you want. It’s not a QR code.

But you have to tag or at least process the photo upstream so that the app recognises the product snapped by your female reader. Longer term, might the app be able to detect items without any prior tagging? In the street, for example?

Axel Canus: Well, the image needs to be stored on a server, a bit like Shazam in the music field. As regards the visual recognition technology, it will already allow you compare one item with another. If you take a photo of a shirt, the app can suggest a similar one – in terms of colour, shape and pattern.

Does the app direct the reader to the site of the brand which makes the item? Or does Zoomdle actually serve as the channel?

Axel Canus: As an e-commerce company – an m-commerce company to be more precise – we have no affiliation. We actually buy upstream those products which have already been sourced, after taking the selections of the magazine editors we work with. Then we take care of the delivery, we manage any returns, and we handle customer relations, which is a very important aspect for us.

At the moment, you’re concentrating on women’s fashion. Are you looking to widen your scope to interior decoration or other types of products?

Axel Canus: We can work with all types of media. As you know, interior decoration magazines are laid out in the same way as women’s and men’s fashion mags. So, yes, that’s right, in the longer term, you’ll be able to take a snap from any advertising medium anywhere – from posters in a metro station or a bus shelter and so on.

Olivier Sauvage: With the Internet, just about anything is possible. But in the short term I think that the scope of the app could be widened to a lot of other print media, the regional press, for example, plus there’s a great deal that can be done with geolocation. We could very easily offer services and products displayed in free publications. We know that a lot of people read the free papers on urban transport, so it would seem a good idea to capture the reader’s attention span there. Commuters would be a prime target for this type of app. And its scope could be expanded to other areas. Take for example the B2B world, where fat printed catalogues are still being distributed and the order process is still very  heavy and cumbersome.

How is this type of app changing consumer habits? Is it having a real impact on sales?

Axel Canus: Well, yes, this is effectively an entirely new retail channel. It’s far easier and less frustrating than taking a photo of an item you’re interested in and then trying to find it via an Internet search. Our app enables you to order the goods you like immediately and have them delivered to your home.

Olivier, do you think this new form of retail is really what’s needed?

Olivier Sauvage: Oh, I’m a great fan of this solution. I already knew about this kind of approach from the ‘Net-a-porter’ fashion site and its ‘magalogue’ – a combination of a catalogue and a magazine. There too, there’s an app which lets you take photos of articles and order them directly on the Net-a-porter site. I think that’s very useful. This approach is well-suited to print magazines, especially women’s magazines, because most of those magazines are basically little more than sales catalogues. The system also really suits people who are used to catalogue shopping, as ordering online is just easier. However, this sort of app needs to be straightforward and easy to use if it’s going to be a key success factor for selling via print media.

With Zoomdle, you’re focussing on an omni-channel approach. Why are you prioritising this method? Is this the trend for the future? What about the other current trends – cross-channel and multi-channel?

Axel Canus: Well, we started off with the idea of snapping and ordering items from magazines, given that there are a huge number of women who read these magazines and like to be able to get hold of a product easily. We’re responding to this need. But it’s true that people like to buy ‘cross-channel’ as well as omni-channel. Nowadays we talk about ‘click and collect’. Our aim is to be able to help them buy from their chosen medium, whatever that is. So we could easily expand our concept to the digital version of the magazine. In other words, you click on an item when you’re reading the digital version of the magazine on your tablet and can then find your chosen product directly on the magazine website.

Olivier Sauvage: This is all about creating a new ordering channel, or perhaps we should rather say it’s going back to an old-fashioned ordering system – paper! Anyway, print media still has many advantages when it comes to online sales. It really is a very seductive and attractive medium – unlike screens. The problem is that ordering from paper media is unwieldy. Integrating the purchasing act into the process of leafing through a magazine is a smart way of making buying a lot more straightforward, which is the basic goal of any merchant. This complements the marketplace of all the merchants, brands, and everyone selling on the Internet.

Apps, connected objects, augmented reality… are these trends here to stay in e-commerce?

Olivier Sauvage: The connected objects that I’ve seen up and running have most notably been in the health sector, with French manufacturers such as Withings way ahead in the market. Other sectors will however also draw benefit from this type of innovation, especially the automobile sector with e-advertising in cars in the form of advice and information sent to the driver while s/he’s on the road. Such information as what’s the best restaurant within 10 kilometers, and so on. So yes, there are long term trends here.

What’s the next step for Zoomdle?

Axel Canus: At the moment we’re trying to take advantage of all the knowhow built up by smartphone manufacturers but focussing on our field, i.e. m-commerce. We’re going to continue to develop our technology on the smartphone and, in the longer term, ensure that people can snap-and-buy a product from any advertising medium in any location whatsoever.

By Virginie de Kerautem