START TODAY CO., LTD. is launching its new service “WEAR” on October 31st. Since news of the launch was tweeted in May by Yusaku Maezawa president of Start Today, the service has attracted attention as a new O2O (online to offline) venture that employs barcode scanning to facilitate access of both retail premises and online stores. The focus of the attention has since spread; from the apparel industry to large-scale commercial facilities and the EC market.

Start Today’s claim is that the barcode scanning function at the core of the service will provide users with a richer information source on which to base their shopping choices, leading to a reduction in sales opportunity losses for brands (retailers). The history of scanned items is kept under a “want” list inside the application and users can check inventories at premises and EC, also promising sales loss prevention. For companies implementing the integration of premise and EC data- UNITED ARROWS being an example- the platform definitely holds its “worth” for both customers and brands.

But what jolted the industry to attention was this new notion of a smartphone barcode-scanning “search behavior” among users. Retailing stores in particular worry that the prevalence of such behavior among customers might lead to less purchases on premises. Concerns of accelerated showrooming popped up everywhere. Before the October 17th news release of the service’s trial implementation in four PARCO stores from November 8th, the media’s main interest surrounding WEAR was the comment made by Lumine president Yoshiaki Arai that they “intended not to participate in WEAR” and the ensuing debate over the feasibility of a healthy partnership with major commercial facilities.

For all the skepticism, president Yusaku Maezawa’s confidence remains solid. “The barcode scan is just one of WEAR’s functions. My view is that even if the scanning procedure failed to spread in premises, other aspects of the application would still expand the user base. I think it unlikely that commercial facility developers would keep passing up the opportunity to take advantage of WEAR when user numbers reach the million mark, the ten million mark. It is the reason I’m not in a hurry over popularization of the barcode scanning part.”

The “application aspects” mentioned by Maezawa refer to the three major features unique to “WEAR”, namely the “Coordinate Recipe” (a fashion coordination search) and “My Closet” (a closet organization function), in addition to the barcode scan. These contents can be shared over SNS.

The Coordination Recipe is a search function featuring snaps posted by fashion leaders like WEAR official models and celebrities, and also by more accessible members like store staff and other general users. Snaps are categorized according to the wearer’s attributes, clothing data, and original tags (e.g. party, outdoors) to facilitate coordinate searches through keywords like colors and occasion. From a brand standpoint this means being able to share information like shipping statuses with customers alongside promotional content such as new item coordinate recipes proposed by brand personnel.

Maezawa speculates; “The appeal power of conventional fashion EC was limited to single items, whereas WEAR will capacitate sales of apparel in coordinated units.” For the record, ZOZOTOWN actually has a store staff coordinate search feature, only lacking a “follow” function to track a specific person. WEAR has adopted that vital function as a central feature of its service. For the time being the application will not be monetized in its aim to increase user numbers.

“We are basically targeting anyone who owns a smartphone. People want cooking recipes, they go on COOKPAD. For coordination recipes they go on WEAR. That’s how we want it to be.” (Maezawa) Add to this the groundbreaking My Closet feature, and the result is a method of compiling masses of apparel product information into a database. Any product with a registered barcode will be integrated into the database, and provided there is an online store, everyone is entitled to the service for free. If the user wishes to add his/her existing wardrobe to the “Closet”, they need only take a picture of their wardrobe and register it on the application.

The system is comparable to Apple’s iTunes. Tracks are bought and downloaded then kept in libraries alongside tracks copied from CDs. Similarly, items bought and delivered from EC are automatically recorded in your “Closet”, along with pictures of items purchased on premises. All retailers are welcome to register their lineups. Users post pictures of their own coordinates and boost follower numbers. We have already witnessed the fall of two somewhat similar predecessors “iTunes Ping” and “Google boutiques.com”, so how WEAR will fare as an SNS remains to be seen. One way or another, the vast volumes of ZOZOTOWN-generated apparel exclusive data are a potent strength for Start Today that will unmistakably appeal to its users. The distinction with iTunes is that WEAR is not a distributor.

“I see WEAR as the next level of ZOZOTOWN and our new EC mall LA BOO, and our KPI as the transcendence of all existing Start Today businesses by this new service. We eventually intend to expand overseas.” Maezawa’s Start Today philosophy is unwavering.