Dean Fankhauser of Nuji

For this week’s Fashion Tech Insiders interview we’re talking to Dean Fankhauser, co-founder of Nuji, a leading social commerce platform based in London. Prior to Nuji he worked in strategy, UX / IA at Yahoo and a number of leading digital / ad agencies in London and abroad.

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We caught up with Dean and asked him all about the inspiration behind the company, what Nuji can do for retailers, and why the infrastructure of the fashion industry needs updating.

What inspired you to start up Nuji?

I wanted to create a more beautiful lifestyle and fashion focused Amazon with social built at its core.

When I say social, I mean conversations such as comments / chat and the ability to follow others with similar taste to be inspired by them. I find discovery through social technology to be more interesting and effective than just algorithms.

Amazon has had social discovery for more than a decade. On all of their product pages they had ‘people who bought this, also bought this’. I always found that feature an incredibly powerful discovery tool. I wanted to take that feature and make it the front and centre of a new ecommerce platform.

Amazon, eBay and Google are great once you know exactly what you want. There’s been a big gap in the step before which is discovery. I’m trying to fill that gap.

What have you found to be the biggest challenges in mixing fashion and technology?

The fashion industry has been one of the most slow adopting industries when it comes to the Internet. There’s some genuinely interesting things popping up now but the technical infrastructure of the fashion industry isn’t close to others.

When we started, we were a mobile first company. We built an app that allowed people to scan the barcodes of products to get information, compare prices and save it to your wish list. It worked really well for electronics and books as there is a pretty sophisticated database to identify items through barcodes. The fashion industry however was a complete mess as there isn’t a central database of product information and their related barcodes.

This significantly hinders the ability to innovate as there underlying technical infrastructure of the fashion industry is essentially broken. We contemplated trying to fix it but it was too high risk and an epic job we weren’t sure we could be successful in fixing.

I sincerely hope someone does figure this out. Once it’s in place, the innovation that will be built on top of it will be mind boggling.

Do you think that social recommendation tools like Nuji are vital for retailers who want to sell more clothing online?

A retailer without social integration can hopefully be discovered on Google and if a visitor is interested they have one option and that is to buy or not buy and forget about the item and store forever.

If a retailer on Nuji has genuinely interesting products, they can spread like wild fire. It doesn’t matter what their marketing budget is or how well known their products are. If someone likes the look of your store / products, a retailer can create a lot of viral buzz in a short amount of time.

I’ve seen it happen to both large and small retailers / brands. It’s incredible.

The great thing about platforms like Nuji is that one product can be shared between thousands of people very quickly. Our users also discuss products, providing incredibly valuable data / feedback.

I think you’d have to be pretty crazy as a retailer not to see the potential of platforms like Nuji to help spread your brand, website and products.

What % of your website visitors come from mobile devices? Have you seen that number change over the last few years?

At the moment, it’s about 20%. We’ve got a lot more work to do on Mobile but keep an eye on this space.

Which online marketing channels have you found most useful for Nuji?

Google / search is still the most effective channel for us.

What’s next for Nuji?

We’ve got a lot of product updates on its way over the next few months. We’re hiring a bunch of people at the moment so things should be moving a lot faster.

There’s a lot of opportunities to do so many things but at the moment we’re focused on adding a minimum of new features and making our existing product simpler, faster and more useful in every way.

Thanks so much to Dean for answering our questions – check out the Nuji website here, or follow them on Twitter here.