Q&A: Lihi Pinto Fryman, Co-founder and CMO, Syte
Israeli startup Syte was recently shortlisted by the 2018 Tech. Awards in the Tech Supplier of the Year and Tech Collaboration of the Year categories, for its partnership with boohoo. Co-founder and CMO, Lihi Pinto Fryman, tells RTIH why the time is now for visual search technology.
RTIH: Tell us about Syte.
LPF: Syte offers solutions to retailers that allow their users to interact with the images that inspire them. Shoppers can upload an image of something they want and receive all of the most visually similar options within that retailer's inventory. Syte connects not only the visual world, but also the social world, with retail. Our InstaSearch solution allows users to shop from a feed of their favourite social media influencers within a retailer's inventory.
But our mission is not only to enhance the user journey, we want to empower retailers with as much back of house data as possible. With our Deep Tagging feature, retailers can receive automatic and accurate textual tags for their entire inventory from only the product images. This enhances textual search and provides detailed data for all pieces within a retailer’s inventory, assisting with predictive analytics and trend forecasting.
RTIH: What was the inspiration behind setting the company up?
LPF: When we founded Syte it was born from our own personal desire to interact with the images around us. We truly believe that it is natural for people to be able to interact, on a deep level, with the images that inspire them. From this firm belief, we started Syte. Since launching in 2014, it is clear that we weren't wrong. People love to scroll, like, share and shop from the world around them.
RTIH: What has been the industry reaction thus far?
LPF: If I had to pick a word I would say, shock. For those who haven't spent the past few years occupying their days with retail tech, what we do at Syte still seems like a sci-fi dream. When we show people live demos of our technology it can take a while for them to really believe what they are seeing. Once they come to accept it they are usually ready to see how they can implement it on their site. I believe visual search is so inherent in nature, there is not much to have to sell; once you see it, you get it.
RTIH: What has been your biggest challenge/setback?
LPF: Being among the first to implement such a revolutionary technology is bound to come with some obstacles. The challenges we have faced mostly revolve around teaching the market how to fully utilise such a valuable, yet unknown feature. There is a learning curve with new technology, but also a freedom in paving uncharted territory. As the retail sphere becomes more comfortable with the role AI is playing, we are seeing much more willingness to take chances and eagerness to try innovative solutions.
RTIH: What are the biggest challenges facing the omnichannel retail sector right now?
LPF: I keep hearing over and over, "is e-commerce the future of retail?" or "is the bricks and mortar store dying?" etc. I think the biggest challenge for the omnichannel retail sector right now is trying to predict what the future will look like, and what the future shopper will look like.
Right now we are currently standing at a big fork in the road, trying to guess which way it will go. But I think the future is not one or the other, bricks and mortar stores will never "die" and e-commerce is clearly not going anywhere. I believe those who succeed will be those who understand which aspects of human nature will never change within the shopper journey, and which aspects can be improved and simplified.
RTIH: What's the best question about your company or the market asked of you recently by a.) an investor and b.) a customer?
LPF: I think one of the best questions is also one of the most frequent: Why should we work with you? Our technology is unparalleled in its accuracy and speed, but also in its ease of integration. One of the biggest reasons retailers are hesitant to innovate is the R&D resources it requires on their side. With Syte, all of our solutions are integration-free. The retailer only needs to implement a simple Java Script onto their site and they can have visual search live.
RTIH: What can we expect to see from Syte over the next 12 months?
LPF: We are really focusing now on connecting users with social media. We already have a solution, InstaSearch, that allows users to receive inspiration within their favourite retailer's site by uploading an image of interest. Users can scroll through different looks and shop the one they like within that retailer's inventory. This allows shoppers to experience the whole journey, from inspiration to purchase, on the app or e-commerce site of their favourite retailer. Syte is split between two of the most quickly evolving spheres, fashion and tech. That being said, there's no telling what amazing things Syte will be doing in a year from now.