Aggregator sites introduce technology into the consumer’s product discovery process, offering recommendations from across many different retailers based on their own preferences and those of other consumers. It’s a different way for customers to discover new items in a product category they’ve shown an interest in.
Aggregator shopping can help tackle the feeling of being overwhelmed by the huge range of retail options online, and help consumers make a choice.
From a fashion perspective, it’s also easier for customers to put together an outfit from a range of brands without leaving the aggregator site. Aggregator platforms tend to aim for a simplified shopping experience taking all the hassle out of buying.
Some aggregators source products from many hundreds of retailers but others offer a more limited range. This method of commerce takes power from the retailer and puts it in the hands of the aggregator platform, making it a disruptive force for the industry.
It’s a style of shopping that seems to be gaining popularity. Aggregators are certainly attracting plenty of capital investment – with major injections of private equity cash happening over the last 3-4 years. Last year Zigzag, a South Korean women’s fashion aggregator, received investment of over $6m to drive a push outside its home market.
This year luxury fashion group LVMH invested in London-based Lyst, with the aim of expanding and improving technology.
Some aggregators like Thread.com offer to take all the guesswork out of buying an outfit. Simply enter your details, such as your colouring and measurements, and it’ll pick out a range of clothes for an occasion you specify. You’ll also get emails with product suggestions based on your preference and past purchases.
Other aggregators are designed for customers to play a more active role in product selection. Stylight lets customers in 8 European countries create their own style mood board. Customers can upload photos of their own style, linking to products where other customers can buy the same items.
Polyvore also lets customers curate and share their own product collections for improved discovery – each month 3 million outfit ideas are created,
Most of the prominent aggregator sites use a combination of AI and human stylists to source recommendations for individual consumers. There’s talk of machine learning being applied in this area but it’s not as straightforward as that might seem.
Although customers that buy white shirts might also buy white t-shirts, that information isn’t necessarily all that useful for sourcing better options for them.
It also takes human input to assess the best combinations of products – such as the tie that might work best with a suit you’re viewing. The aggregator model is humans working with AI; not the feared model of AI replacing humans.
What aggregator sites do tend to excel at is crowdsourcing opinions on products based on customers with similar tastes and needs as your own. If people of your body shape give good feedback on a particular item, it’s more likely to be displayed to you and more prominently featured. Essentially aggregators take a lot of the guesswork out of shopping.
A disruptive force
Aggregators are disruptors because they diminish the significance of brands. These sites are different because they offer consumers the ability to directly compare similar items from different designers, judging them on their merits within that product category.
Customers don’t have to pick a specific store or website to visit, based on what beliefs they have about that brand’s ability to deliver what they need. Instead, they can pick a product category and explore similar products from a wide range of retailers, or just have an entire wardrobe picked out for them with minimal effort on the customer’s part.
Branding won’t be disappearing as a fashion marketing concept anytime soon. Individual aggregator sites are trying to position themselves in specific niches. Lyst’s keen to focus on style and offering the most recent fashion from top designers.
Stylight offers to help you be inspired by new ideas. Thread.com just wants to simplify the shopping experience and take away the pain of choosing clothes. ShopStyle also emphasises the fact it offers a streamlined experience. In India aggregators such as MySmartPrice and Price Baba have each found their own niches.
All these sites seem to have the ambition to expand, either into new product categories or across new markets – and they certainly seem to be attracting the investment funds to do so. It’s a retailing truism that consumers value convenience above all else.
Whilst there may be some customers that want to put together mood boards and curate their own product collections, there are many more that just want their fashion buying experience to be as fuss-free as possible.
Time and again retailers find that what customers are most interested in is convenience, which is why the convenient aggregator model is tipped to thrive.