Russian startups sell out-of-the-box solutions

Alexei and Nadezhda Bochkarev, founders of the Internet service Looksima. Source: Press Photo

Alexei and Nadezhda Bochkarev, founders of the Internet service Looksima. Source: Press Photo

E-commerce startups are appearing in Russia in increasing numbers. A new trend has updated the usual online shopping experience, offering an entire range of services attached to goods.

Alexei and Nadezhda Bochkarev, founders of the Internet store Lamoda, have created a service that sells bundles of 5–7 items chosen by professional stylists. Their brainchild — Looksima (short for “Looks I most adore”) — currently operates in U.S. and Russian markets. Over the next two years, plans call for localizing the site on several more markets, including Asia.

Looksima.ru has a target audience of women between the ages of 25 and 35. On the website, goods are grouped into “looks,” and fledgling and professional stylists help fashionable shoppers choose their image.

Russian startups sell out-of-the-box solutions

Looksima allows users to create "look" online. Source: Press Photo

Upon registering on the website, clients take a test that determines their individual style. The service then sends a batch of images crafted by designers, split into categories (casual, date, business, etc.). Any item from the “look” can be purchased on Looksima’s partners’ sites.

In total, the service’s U.S. and Russian venues boast over 100 stylists and access to collections from 50 stores. A percentage of each purchase goes not only to the actual service, but also to the stylist choosing the items.  

In addition, users may upload to Looksima three photographs featuring different outfits and ask stylists to evaluate their choices or answer specific questions in chat. The website monetizes this by offering clients a “look” to buy that is related to their question. Clients may also receive a “style-passport” — a 20-page document with personal style recommendations. 

Partner-stores see an obvious upside to this business-model — direct access to an audience that famously embraces online shopping. In addition, budding stylists gain the chance to stand out.

“In Russia, it is far more difficult for stylists to stand out than in the U.S. and Europe,” says Stanislav Zimin, one of the first designers to begin collaboration with the website. “Looksima gives fledgling stylists access to a broad audience: If your ‘looks’ receive ‘likes’ on the website, this already means that you’ve stood out.”

According to Alexei Bochkarev, Russia’s online fashion market doubles every year, and, in 2012, it surpassed the $2 billion mark (by comparison, annual market growth in the U.S. totals 16 percent).

Thus, entrepreneurs are betting on growth of Looksima’s Russian venue. Today, the project attracts clients through social networks and Internet advertising, while stylists and new partners join the portal “through the grapevine.”

Last November, the startup received 15 million rubles from the venture fund Vesna Investment. The entrepreneurs anticipate that Looksima will turn a profit by the end of the year. Under their estimates, by 2015, the company’s value could total between $40 million and $100 million in Russia and the CIS alone, while business profitability will reach 80 percent.

Bundles of goods by subscription are another recent novelty in online shopping. The format reached Russia from the U.S. and Canada. The children’s shop AistBox, headed by the two young mothers Anastasia Sizova and Natalya Yerokhina, adds some Russian know-how to the scheme. The two Russian women thought of selling boxes with attractive and helpful items for children and mothers.

Upon registering for a subscription at AistBox, parents indicate their child’s birthday, gender, name and favorite color: This way, the box’s contents can “mature” along with the child. Each new batch is devoted to a certain topic — for example, countryside trips or swimming goods — and contains 4-6 items, always including a book, a compliment for the mother and a toy for the child.

Each month, the box is issued in six series, from products for newborns to batches for seven-year-olds.

Subscribing to children’s boxes, including delivery services, cost shoppers 1,500 rubles (around $46) per month, or 15,000 rubles ($465) per year. According to Sizova, over its 1.5 years in existence, the service has amassed 1,500 continuous subscribers, largely thanks to product caliber.

The women keep a blog, where they talk about the principles of choosing goods for the boxes based on environmental safety and manufacturer certification. In the future, AistBox plans to open its own laboratory to conduct analysis.  

Based on materials from RBC Daily.

All rights reserved by Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

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