AMSTERDAM, Netherlands — "Sex and The City." "Mad Men." "Gossip Girl." Top television shows can be major drivers of purchasing intent for fashion items that appear on screen. As a result, many brands pay handsomely to get their products into the best performing shows. Netflix’s Emmy-winning "House of Cards" is strewn with cameos from Burberry, Fendi, Ralph, IWC, Moschino, Under Armour and numerous other brands. But the path from inspiration to actual transaction is fragmented and full of friction. Items that appear on screen can be hard to identify and track down.
Recognising the commercial opportunity in removing these barriers, Amsterdam-based start-up LookLive aims to make the clothes consumers see on their favourite television shows, easy to both identify and buy. Founded in 2013 by Christopher Archer and Gerbert Kaandorp, LookLive lets consumers buy the clothes that appear in popular shows, including "House of Cards," "Modern Family," "Scandal," "New Girl," "The Big Bang Theory," "Glee" and "Empire."
Using artificial intelligence software, LookLive is able to identify the products that appear in major shows, scene by scene, and serve up links to online retailers like Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s and Mr Porter, among others, where they can be bought. The site also makes suggestions for lower-priced alternatives that look similar. Recently, LookLive has featured clothing worn in music videos by artists such as Taylor Swift and Bruno Mars.
BoF spoke to LookLive co-founder and chief executive Chris Archer to find out more.
BoF: How would you describe LookLive?
Chris Archer: LookLive allows you to ‘Shop What You Watch’, by indexing all the clothing from popular TV shows, celebrities and music videos using an algorithm. We’ve sent web-crawlers all over different brand’s websites, so now we have their past and present products in our back-end. Using that machine-learning artificial intelligence, we tell the computer to make a prediction on what the character might be wearing. The computer will scroll through a database of possible brands the character could be wearing and offers a selection to a human being, who double-checks the algorithm’s selections visually, to make sure that the correct items are identified. By using LookLive, people will be able to find and buy all the items featured "House of Cards," as well as many other shows. Whether it’s Kim Kardashian’s coat or Ryan Gosling’s t-shirt, both the original item and bargain alternatives will be identified on the site.
BoF: What problem or inefficiency does LookLive solve?
CA: If someone sees a product in a celebrity photo or in a TV show, there’s no real source on the internet where they can find out exactly what that product is, how much that product costs and if it’s still for sale. We also offer bargain options so the user can find out what the actual product is, which appears in the image or TV show, but can decide to buy something that looks very similar at a lower price. There is also a similar problem on the business side: 9 times out of 10, the brand has no idea that their product is being worn by a celebrity or that it has appeared in a television show. We were sitting with the marketing team of an international brand in New York last week and we showed them where their brand was appearing in TV shows. Not only can brands leverage this new information, new demographic markets are being exposed to these TV show characters or celebrities wearing brand product.
BoF: What is the long-term vision? Where do you see LookLive in three to five years?
CA: The problem LookLive is solving is an international problem. We’ve built the back-end to be as automated as it can be, so we can scale the product internationally; we built the core algorithms to work internationally from the beginning. In three to five years, LookLive will be covering international television shows and celebrities. If a user is watching "The Big Bang Theory" in China, we will show that user in China how to buy Sheldon’s t-shirt. If you’re watching your favourite Argentinian show in Spain, we will show the user where in Spain to find the dress they see on the screen.
BoF: How does LookLive make money?
CA: We make money out of traditional affiliate linking but it's not our primary revenue stream. We've created new information on the relationship between broadcasters, characters, brands and retailers. The key is that we have all the products identified with accuracy and all companies within the value chain can leverage this rich meta-data commercially. LookLive licenses this data via our smart APIs (application program interface) in a variety of formats to broadcasters, producers, media agencies, brands and retailers for them to use for both brand promotion and market research.
BoF: What have the results been so far?
CA: We don’t share core financial data, but success measurement for us has to do with user growth and product sales. They’re the only two numbers that matter. Our current user base is returning an average of 30 percent of the time weekly and 60 percent returning monthly. It is clear our users are spending more on LookLive than the e-commerce average. Our average order value is $200 to $300 and we're earning almost $1 per visit in product sales.
BoF: Why should brands embrace this platform?
CA: We’ve outlined four key reasons. First of all, we build continuous awareness for brands by providing a constant stream of data information and users. Second, LookLive enhances user perception; we inform both the brands and the brand’s fans which characters and celebrities are wearing the brand, which enriches the brand beyond paid media and endorsement. Third, LookLive is able to give organic product placement insights. We report our understanding on how a brand is being featured in popular media. As we provide this data for the brand, we can also provide the same data about brand’s competitors. And, finally, there is attributed sales. We make a direct link from our images of celebrities and characters to the products that are worn. We also track the amount of a brand’s product sales, which can be attributed to that celebrity or character wearing the brand.
Expectations? In recent years, we’ve seen an explosion of algorithmic image recognition apps aiming to be the ‘Shazam of fashion,’ promising to identify clothing and accessories seen on screen or in the physical world. Yet, to date, most of these solutions faces issues with accuracy. While it’s theoretically much easier to identify items in a pre-filmed TV show than clothing worn by people on the street, LookLive does not have any partnerships with shows or broadcasting companies and uses an algorithmic solution to identify the items of clothing. How accurate could it be?
If the company used human beings to identify items, one would predict the success rate would be high, but the process would be inefficient, manual and time-consuming. If the process is a technology-based method, such as LookLive’s is, given other failures in the space, how effective could it really be?
First impressions? Upon visiting the site, the first thing that appears are looped, high resolution clips of scenes from select TV shows and music videos, grouped under the headline ‘Shop What You Watch.’ As each clip plays, it is accompanied by the details of the fashion items it contains: Bruno Mars, "Uptown Funk," wearing blazer by After Six, $84.95. Taylor Swift, "Blank Space," black lace bustier by La Perla, $1,188. Frank Underwood, "House of Cards," suit by Burberry, $1,315. Searchable by television programmes, actors, brands and characters, the site covers the most popular shows and music videos. It requires no login and is straightforward to navigate. Clicking on an item of clothing takes you directly to a product page or website where the item can be found. The site saves you the hassle of having to search things like ‘Kanye white shirt Grammys,’ which can often result in frustration. It’s also entertaining to simply explore what your favourite characters are wearing.
Most potential? The potential audience for a product like LookLive is huge. “House of Cards” was Netflix’s biggest original show last year. (According to broadband data company Procera, 16 percent of the almost 60 million Netflix subscribers watched at least one “House of Cards” episode in the first 24 hours it went live). Manwhile, in 2014, “The Big Bang Theory” pulled in almost 25 million viewers per episode in the US alone. In fact, the total number of viewers watching the content LookLive covers dwarfs the reach of traditional fashion publications. What’s more, as well as driving sales, LookLive has the potential to gather valuable data on consumer response to the celebrities, brands and products that appear on television.
What's missing? There is no LookLive mobile app, nor has the site been optimized for mobile viewing. Yet, today, a large percentage of television viewers use a ‘second screen’ — often a smartphone or tablet — when watching their favorite shows. Indeed, a report by research consultancy TNS, which surveyed 55,000 people, revealed that 56 percent of Americans engage in another digital activity during their television sessions.
Secondly, the total volume of content on LookLive remains limited. Devotees to a particular show might be disappointed to find that past seasons of certain programmes may not have been covered. LookLive identifies what "House of Cards" characters are wearing in season two and season three of the show, but not season one. "Revenge," for example, is only covered in season four.