Online shopping is a double-edged sword. Variety is its strong advantage, but it has its drawbacks. Getting the wrong size is rather frequent, and more often than not the pieces we saw in the pics online do not match our rosiest expectations. Also shopping in Milan has its drawbacks. Milan should be the temple of shopping, but finding the boutique that fits your tastes with such a variety can be a deleterious job, and you make do with Zara and H&M. Last week I met Alberto Lo Bue, who explained me how he intends to surmount those obstacles with his new app: Papèm.
Papèm is the ultimate shopping mate. The app proposes a selection of shops in your surroundings and all their offerings. If you like something, you can “lock it”, and go to the physical shop within the next 24 hours to touch and try. Afterwards you can decide whether to buy it or to change it. Thanks to Papèm I discovered some boutiques next to my place I didn’t even know, making it easier to choose in the midst of Milan’s exaggerated number of shops. Moreover, it allows me to see what’s in the shops without leaving my sofa. Not bad, isn’t it?
Alberto Lo Bue, the CEO of Papèm, explained that 95% of people still prefers buying in the shops rather than online, and that up to 50% of the articles bought online are brought back. But omni-channel is the way. More and more people research and get informed online before buying, and brands are struggling to create an omni-channel experience for the consumers, i.e. a new way of doing shopping merging traditional brick-and-mortar stores and the online world. This is nowadays essential for engaging the client, and an app is vital for that purpose. Nevertheless, the apps that single brands create are downloaded and erased almost immediately, and Papèm’s founders are convinced that their app can fill this gap.
They launched it on the 7th December, and they already have partnerships with more than 120 shops in Palermo and Milan including also big brands such as Timberland, Max Mara and Ralph Lauren, and they are expanding their offering daily. Mr Lo Bue told me that dealing with retailers is not always easy, but as soon as they have the possibility to talk to them they understand the value of their app, and they want to be part of it. For retailers, Papèm represents an innovative marketing tool. It can be a great and cheap way of advertising their products and their name other than the classical methods, but that’s just the beginning. The new version of the app will contain iBeacon: a new Bluetooth technology inserted in shops in order to help and study the consumer. Every client entering a shop with their Bluetooth on will then be able to receive tailored offers and discounts.
What’s next? Papèm’s team is full of ideas. The next steps will be creating a blog to give room to retailers, and going international. The next cities included in the project may be London and Berlin. The former for its traffic, and the latter for its net of independent boutiques. Within a year they may also develop a system of smart-delivery. The new version of the app will also contain a system to reward customers, giving them points to spend in discounts and vouchers.
Being startuppers is not easy. Alberto and his partners, a mix of Bocconi and LSE alumni, came up with this idea during a night out, and their experience is just at the beginning. They were lucky and good enough to find some business angels, thing that in Italy can be pretty arduous. They were between the winners of Welcome Startup Europe and they presented their idea in San Francisco, Milan and Dublin. Alberto’s message is clear and straight: there will be hundreds of obstacles and difficulties, your ideas may change. Failure can also be an option and an important learning experience, but as a startupper you always have to dare, to believe that your idea will be a “stratospheric success”. Will it be? Only time will tell. In the meantime, Papèm is definitely an app to check out.