Swedish Startup Space

Rêve cracked the (bar)code

Written by on June 17, 2014

Rêve is a STING startup that enables shoppers to scan barcodes in the store and find the products online. The app was launched recently and I met up with co-founder Josep Maria Nolla to chat about their story.

The core problem Rêve aims to address is the lack of context when you shop in a store. With internet we’ve gotten used to have all information at hand when we shop – colors, availability, sizes, discounts, etc. Rêve wants to hook up every item to the web and give the consumer a broader context, bridging the gap between physical and online shopping experiences.

Rêve wants to hook up every item to the web and give the consumer a broader context, bridging the gap between physical and online shopping experiences

The Rêve App

What if you could just do something with your smartphone in the store and find the shirt you are holding in your hands, online?

If you are thinking object recognition, well – no. Instead, the team behind Rêve used another approach, namely barcodes. Josep Maria Nolla, co-founder and CEO, tells us the story. “We studied hundreds of different barcodes and price tags from top retailers. Things were quite frustrating at first as there were no indicators that we could use to decode the barcode data. Obviously we could ask for APIs/feeds but that would create a dependency on retailers and impede our ability to roll out quickly. There had to be a way…”

Josep still remembers the day when they finally managed to crack the code. “When we cracked it, we were skeptical. The retailer had no presence in Scandinavia, so we could not just go into a shop and get more price tags. But we saw a pattern and started applying it to other retailers with similar barcodes and – bingo – it worked. The days after, we ran all over town taking thousands pictures of price tags from multiple retailers. When the pattern was “working” in 50% of the retailers we said ‘we might be onto something’. And here we are.”

When the pattern was “working” in 50% of the retailers we said ‘we might be onto something’

So, by scanning barcodes Rêve will show the user relevant information about the shopping item. But the app will of course also allow you to comment, rate and share stuff with friends and family.

Building a company

When it comes to the business model things are still a bit vague, although I sense a grander vision down the road. The app will be free of charge and ads, instead the goal is to build a broad consumer base and somehow leverage it in their business model. H&M knows everything that happens in hm.com, but what about their physical stores? Rêve could potentially supply customer insights and actionable metrics similar to what e-commerce players use to optimize their businesses every day.

Still, Josep understands the difference between vision and reality: “None of the above is relevant if you can’t prove consumer adoption. If we can help people improve their shopping experience by providing them with a simple tool to recognize physical products and enjoy the same benefits as if they would see that product online, then Rêve could become big.”

None of the above is relevant if you can’t prove consumer adoption.

Before we wrap up, I ask him about the biggest challenge they’re currently facing. “Staying focused, saying no, and working on fixing the problems that can have an exponential impact for the company is one of the key challenges ahead. And, finding top talent that shares our vision and mission and that is willing to commit with the project.”

Going forward

Now that Rêve has been launched, we will see if they’re able to revolutionize – or simply improve – the physical shopping experience. With an app that according to them is compatible with 80-90% of high-street fashion vertical in Scandinavia including brands such as H&M, Zara, Lindex, Monki, Gina Tricot, KappAhl, MQ and more, they are off to a good start.

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