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Will the Zozosuit Revolutionize Online Shopping?
In my previous post, I discussed the effects of the so-called Galapagos Syndrome on Japanese innovation. In many cases, overly focusing on the idiosyncrasies of the local market meant Japanese companies were unable to scale globally and were sometimes overtaken by international competition.
As a follow-up, I thought it would be interesting to consider an innovative Japanese company that is about to launch a first-of-its-kind service. Start Today Co., Ltd. is the owner of Zozotown, the largest e-commerce retailer in Japan. The company is credited with pioneering online fashion shopping in Japan, a concept that most people thought wouldn't stick.
In November, they announced the release of the Zozosuit, a skin-tight elasticated bodysuit with 15,000 embedded sensors. These sensors record the user's body measurements and upload them via Bluetooth to a proprietary app. The measurements can then be used on Zozotown's shopping portal.
This technology was developed in partnership with New Zealand startup StretchSense, who plans to apply the smart tech in a number of ways. At present, the Zozosuit is being offered for free and is available for pre-order in Japan and various other countries.
The company also launched their own clothing brand called ZOZO, which can be fully tailored based on the user's Zozosuit specifications. The brand's line-up is minimal for now, consisting of only t-shirts and denim jeans.
If the company's endeavor is successful, it not only has a chance to revolutionize the industry but to scale itself internationally as well. The only problem with the latter is the question of how it plans to reach foreign customers. As of now, Zozotown's official website and app are still only available in Japanese.
Will Start Today be able to attract a global user base or will international competition overshadow this potential? It seems for the moment that the Zozosuit is in a league of its own, but for how long? Last year already saw rumors that Amazon had patented an automated clothing factory, which would give the company the ability to custom tailor their own clothing line.
However, if the current pace of progress set by Start Today is any indication of future success, my guess is that the company has a good grasp on how to tackle international expansion. For those interested in knowing more about Start Today, here is a list of their latest innovations:
- My Size Search: users of Zozotown's website and app can search for clothing that best matches their Zozosuit size specifications.
- Personal styling service: in this subscription-based service, fashion advisors assemble recommended outfits for users based on preferences such as patterns, colors, size, and budget.
- Deferred payment option: users can pay for an item 2 months after delivery.
- Choose your shipping fee: this was a brief campaign that the company used to set a new standard shipping fee. While the current cost of shipping is a flat rate of 200 yen, the company has promised to better its logistics with the aim of lowering the fee to 100 yen.
- Not long after making the above promise, the company announced the expansion of its logistics center Zozobase.
- Zozotown products can now be delivered to a Pudo Station. The Pudo Station is a set of package delivery lockers within public locations like train stations, supermarkets, and drugstores. Customers can specify which Pudo Station to have packages delivered to and can pick up the items in their own time and at their own convenience. The Pudo Station is a new service offered by Parkcity Japan.