The Irish sisters putting the OPSH into online shopping
The McGinn sisters have a history of innovation in the fashion-tech world; their new website helps make sense of the overwhelming array of online shopping options
‘In five years time we’d like to be one of the top five shopping destinations for women.’ From left, sisters Grace, Jennie and Sarah McGinn, who have created the website OPSH.com
Jennie and Grace McGinn, two-thirds of fashion website OPSH, are sitting in a small Vietnamese cafe in London’s Shoreditch. Fresh after a day of meetings with UK retailers, the pair are taking a breather (the absent McGinn sister and head of marketing, Sarah, is manning the home front in Dublin). Talk turns inevitably towards online shopping; specifically its many difficulties.
“This is something we’ve done ourselves. If you were looking for a black skirt on Asos, you would see 700 results. If you look for a black skirt on Amazon, you see about 7,000; then, if you go to Google, you’re going to see about 150,000,” says Jennie, founder and chief executive.
“Million,” corrects Grace, the head of product.
“Million. Sorry, I almost forgot how big Google was for a second. How does a mainstream shopper make sense of that? It’s completely overwhelming.”
She’s right. And in the gap between interview and publication, those already large figures have increased significantly. A search on Asos.com, one of the world’s largest shopping sites, yields 850 results. Amazon.co.uk has a little over 22,000 black skirts in stock. Typing “black skirt” into Google delivers 154,000,000 links.
The McGinns’ website, Opsh.com, is seeking to cut the noise and uncertainty out of online shopping. Jennie explains: “On a very basic, ‘this is what happens’ kind of level, I would come on to OPSH . . . I’m prompted to input my size, so waist size, bust size, shoe size. And then I’m prompted to select my preferred retailers and products. The idea is that from the very outset, you have the opportunity to start controlling what you see. Once I start to do a search on something from OPSH, the whole personalisation aspect starts to kick in.
“Let’s say I have a full-time job,” Jennie continues. “I’m a lawyer. I like to shop in Karen Millen, Reiss and Whistles. I’m always looking for skirts and blazers. When I use OPSH, these should be the only results I’m seeing. Currently, a woman may have 10 different accounts with 10 different high-street retailers online. That means 10 different sets of passwords, 10 different credit-card processors, and it’s just this process of having to flick between different sites and apps.”
The McGinns haven’t just happened upon fashion tech by a happy accident. They previously spearheaded Prowlster, which was originally intended as a social-media network for clothes and was recently acquired by creative agency Sweatshop (sweatshop.ie). Before that, they were popular fashion bloggers with What Will I Wear Today, one of the first Irish blogs to make serious inroads into monetising their content.
It makes sense, then, that the McGinns have put careful thought into the business side of their website.
“With tech, it’s all innovation, innovation, innovation, but a business model is way more important,” says Jennie. “We’re looking to utilise innovation in a way that will make money. For us, there are four revenue streams. First, a retailer will rent space on the site like they would in a department store. Then we’d be looking at commission on sales. And then we’d be looking at things like – and this is where the innovation comes in – the data and the intelligent advertising that we can offer; pulling together a lot of information on both the retailer side and the user side.”
“Data and analytics are a long-term play; we’re aware of that,” says Grace. “But there’s a lot of potential for it to be lucrative down the line.”
“In five years time,” says Jennie, “we’d like to be one of the top five shopping destinations for women. That means that there’s gonna be a f***load of staff. Tech is obviously going to be very important for what we’re doing, so we’ll be staffing around tech, we’ll be staffing around sales and we’ll be staffing around a lot of content.”
OPSH is in soft-launch mode: operational on a small scale. At the moment, it offers a full range from high-street giants New Look, Urban Outfitters, River Island and House of Fraser. They are in advanced talks with several other retailers. “Between now and the new year, we’d look to slowly grow awareness of OPSH being live, and in the new year promote it with an event or a shout-out,” says Grace.
“Ireland is the best test market in the world,” says Jennie. “Obviously we don’t have the numbers, but what we do have is very discerning online shoppers.”
Both McGinns are confident that their product could revolutionise the way women buy clothes. “We have our eyes on the global prize,” says Jennie. OPSH may well take over the world – or the retail world at the very least.