Fril is a Japanese free-market smart phone app for fashion items strictly limited only to female fashionista users. Launched July 27 after months in “stealth-mode”; media attention and rumors about the forthcoming product garned high publicity in Japan. Fril, is considered one of the up-and-coming young startups selected and incubated by one of the premier Japanese startup boot camps called Open Network Lab (a.k.a. one of those many “Japanese version of Y-Combinator”).
Fril was developed by a small Japanese start up called Fablic, Inc. (the company originally called themselves Jumvle). The company is reportedly a small team with 4 to 5 engineering staffs along with the founders that includes a former EC Navi’s mobile ad staff.
Here is how it works (caveat, I never used it since I’m a male): Users can open an account and upload their items along with high-resolution images from their smart phones (the app is currently available only on iOS). The service is free on registration and usage; there is a 10% commission fee on the transaction value for the seller. Buyers will normally purchase their items within the service and make payments through bank ATMs and/or convenience stores.
The service has strict pre-screening procedures to ensure the users are female. For example, a user needs to identify her Facebook account if she does have one which will allow the company to check user identities. One notable difference compared to more traditional services is that this one is NOT an eBay-like auction type. Sellers set their prices and buyers will determine to buy or not, which makes it much easier and handier for typical target users of teens and 20s – users who don’t want to get too stressed about “auctioning/competing for prices” – this is the typical consumer behavior for this demographics in Japan.
The app is targeted to (but not limited to?) females in their teens and early 20s based on market sentiment on the consumer behavior and orientation of this demographic. Most women in this age category are believed to have a very short term in their fashion preferences particularly in Japan. Some of the fluctuation is driven by the changing phases for women fashion: school uniforms are required up till high school and by the time they enter college they are able to change their fashion. As a result, the flipside is, many young women are actively looking for marketplaces where they can sell their personal items that they are no longer interested in (they are not willing to simply trash it since most of these items are relatively new).
This kind of market isn’t new to Japan, it already existed for some time with the feature-phones (mobile phones with very advanced technologies). However, smart phones are better equipped for uploading high-resolution pics with decent sizes (feature-phones also had high resolution digital cameras installed but were much smaller because of the physical size of the phones) as well as the pc-like screen enables more user-friendly interface for users. Since users of this market segment are more m-commerce oriented, the service seems to be well positioned for penetrating the market.
In a nutshell, the m-commerce space has been very active in Japan for almost a decade, ever since the introduction of highly functional feature-phones in mid 2000s: much earlier than the U.S. The current smart phone trend should further accelerate the increase in number of the players with similar services both from startups and existing commerce players including social platform players and bricks-and-mortar retailers.