Cynthia Holcomb

Founder | CEO, Prefeye - Preference Science Technologies Inc.
Cynthia Holcomb, CEO and Founder of Prefeye, is pioneering the Art and Science of Preference. Her mission: humanize the digital experience, crossing the current emotional and sensory engagement barriers imposed by the digital world. Prefeye technologies are inspired by Cynthia’s 20+ years in the apparel and fashion industry, designing and building products for dozens of retailers and brands, including Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy's, Bloomingdale's, Lord and Taylor, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom Product Group, Pendleton, QVC, Speedo and the home products industry. As Design Director to Nordstrom, Cynthia spent years watching shoppers make the decision to purchase or NOT to purchase. Curious, this led to 15 years of research and technological development based on the cognitive sciences of psychology, artificial intelligence and neuroscience. Cynthia’s focus: develop an agnostic, digital platform to decode how information is represented, processed, and transformed by human sensory perception, memory and emotion into the decision to purchase a product or brand by an individual shopper. Prefeye, Cynthia’s 5th startup, is a preference recommendation platform, individually preference-matching people to products. Prefeye is the digital equivalent of in-store shopping for products humans purchase based on emotion and individual sensory preference. Products like apparel, cars, homes, home furnishings, shoes and art. Cynthia’s work has appeared in Time Magazine, CNN, WWD and Apparel Technology. Cynthia holds a B.S. in Clothing and Textile Science. Nine patents filed in Preference shopping science. To learn more, visit:
  • Posted on: 12/06/2019

    Will Rent the Runway‘s hotel concierge deal change how people travel?

    Great idea. Success will depend upon how well RTR manages the subjectivity of individual client fit, look and feel preferences, while under the emotional pressure and expectations of a long awaited vacation or important business meeting. Four hotel experiences may give RTR insights, invisible during the in-home experience, to individual human responses to the RTR algorithms. A test lab of sorts.
  • Posted on: 12/05/2019

    Amazon decides it has sampled enough

    Waste. Time. Resources. Hard on the environment. Likely these are not the reasons. ML gone awry? Amazon a slippery slope for brands? Lack of results? Next!
  • Posted on: 12/04/2019

    The holiday season promises many unhappy returns for retailers

    I blame retailers for their own misery. Shopping online is devoid of the sensory aspects of the physical world. Three-dimensionality, Touch, feel and look are non-existent. What do retailers expect? So what practice should retailers implement to reduce returns? Unfortunately, this is not the question retailers ask themselves. Rather, retailers are tied up in knots expecting humans to shop their enormous digital offerings through the lens of the physical world. This is a HUGE disconnect. There are breakthrough technological innovations available right now to solve the return problem. AI-enabled algorithms are able to process the minutiae of human and produce preferential sensory inputs into the physical world outputs. And because men and women shop differently (yes, you know that is true if you are a retailer) these same AI-enabled algorithms can be trained to shop like a male or shop like a female. The new frontier is female brain-based AI. Counteracting 24 years of computer science based linear algorithms. Female AI is the obvious and most important innovation ever to reduce returns year-round.
  • Posted on: 12/04/2019

    The holiday season promises many unhappy returns for retailers

    Good perspective Paula.
  • Posted on: 11/20/2019

    Will a hack ruin Macy’s Christmas?

    Two data breaches within two years, especially at customer-facing "checkout" and "my wallet" tools is unacceptable. The negative effect on holiday sales will depend upon the reach of media coverage of Macy's latest breach. As a shopper who has to personally deal with the unnecessary time spent dealing with their credit card info being stolen, why take the chance to shop Macy's just to buy Aunt Sue a Christmas sweater? Amazon awaits.
  • Posted on: 11/18/2019

    Will a purpose-driven site do good for Zappos?

    Shopping reached environmental overload during the cheap decade; the fast fashion phase of product creation. There are several prongs to the question of purpose-driven brands beyond manufacturing new goods for eco- and socially-conscious consumers, no matter their age.
    1. The world is filled with billions of products stored in landfills because there is no other place to dispose of these products.
    2. The advent of one-day delivery and 30-minute delivery of products may counteract the good of buying eco/socially-conscious goods. Studies are already being done on the environmental impact of one-day/30-minute delivery as retailers compete with one another.
    3. The age of digital inventories has spawned warehouses filled with millions and millions of products never possible to contain in a physical store, creating $207 billion in returns in 2018. With UPS forecasting a Black Returns Day for 2019 holiday shopping.
    4. Shopping technologies have failed in their attempt to cross the sensory chasm of digital shopping, creating a sensory/intelligence gap between shoppers and products. Resulting in the creation of "burn zones" where millions and millions of dollars of RETURNS are burned in the dead of night.
    So while eco- and socially-conscious shopping is nice, it is a drop in the bucket of the environmental mayhem most of us as consumers have "bought" into under the umbrella of convenience. We are at shopping's environmental "tipping point" now. Soon a consumer backlash will be upon us.
  • Posted on: 11/14/2019

    Shoptalk makes a statement with a conference featuring only women speakers

    "Women only" speaking fully demonstrates exactly how low the bar is for women in the business of retail. Only women speaking at a conference means nothing in light of the hidden male bias embedded in algorithms. Women think differently than men, it is a fact. Female AI is the new challenge for women to solve to move towards parity with men.
  • Posted on: 11/13/2019

    Study: Consumers don’t enjoy doing their holiday shopping online

    Online holiday shopping is tedious at best. Hours and hours of time, searching, hunting, reading reviews, imagining the product in the physical world. Too many choices, too many third-party sellers selling the same item, requiring shoppers to investigate the merchant delivery record in the hope that the gift will arrive on time. In the beginning, online shopping was billed as efficient with vast selections of merchandise. In reality, holiday online shopping is inefficient and overwhelming. UPS expects soaring holiday returns this year; with a peak return day 26 percent higher than 2018. In 2018 online returns reached $207 billion. Conversion remaining at 3 percent means 97 percent of shoppers are not enjoying their shopping experience!
  • Posted on: 11/12/2019

    What’s in store for retail in 2020?

    Until retailers face the fact that technology is the key to linking all the pieces together at scale, the blurring of lines, IoT, and support networks will be nothing but talking points. All trends will be impacted by the technical chops of leadership and the people they select to once and for all connect the dots between the business, the product, and the consumer under the mantle of a retailer's reason for being, existing to inspire. Leveraging talent and AI are key. Retailers, as master merchants, must dive deep into technology to take part in creating a holistic customer experience for their brand. Amazon sure knows how to do this! C-suite needs visionaries to engage and inspire the troops, which means seeking talent outside the walls of inside politics and fiefdoms. Change happens incrementally. Without a solidly engaged C-suite and technical roadmap? Well, we have all seen the effect of failure in mass store closings.
  • Posted on: 11/08/2019

    Gap Inc.’s CEO steps down. What comes next?

    The focus “on strong leadership candidates with operational excellence to drive greater efficiency, speed and profitability" is actually the problem. No mention of the product. Very sad.
  • Posted on: 11/07/2019

    Can J.C. Penney reinvent itself with its offbeat lab store?

    Reinvention rarely works. J.C. Penney might look to Nordstrom, a master of reinvention over a decades-long, continuous reinvention while still staying true to both product and customer. The lab seems like noise, a distraction of focus to avoid the real challenge -- does J.C. Penney have a place in 21st century retail? Such thinking requires tremendous bravery on the part of leadership. Outsiders are connecting the dots, as insiders avoid hunkering down to problem-solve for a real reinvention of JCP. Meanwhile, distractions like spa treatments, selfies, video gaming, and barbershops seek to engage a customer to buy services rather than products. Promoting services rather than product indicates internally JCP leadership does not have a relevancy plan in place.
  • Posted on: 11/06/2019

    Will consumers decide that buying less is better than buying ‘green’?

    "Limited environmental impacts" is a subjective statement. Just as "organic" is subjective to thousands and thousands of individual product variables in the food supply chain. Environmentally speaking there seems to be a big "trade-off" hack going on masquerading as being "green." A few examples. Does the trade-off of renting clothes, for instance, involving packing, shipping, delivery, dry cleaning the same garment dozens of times being delivered over time to dozens of people, multiplied by thousands of products, reduce the environmental effect of buying the garment? Or how about buying "green" products on Amazon? Because digital shopping is devoid of sensory cues experienced in the physical world, it is a common practice for people to buy two or three of the same item knowing they will return two of the items. What is the cost of reverse logistics to the environment? Lastly, we see news of major companies secretly burning millions and millions of returned products, as the only economical method to dispose of millions of products. Just like most everything else in the world of "awareness" marketing, "the devil is in the details" truly applies to "green buying." Buying less is healthy for both humans and the environment in my opinion. For more insights watch this CNBC report.
  • Posted on: 10/30/2019

    Nordstrom nails its NYC flagship opening

    Bravo to Nordstrom. I know from my years at Nordstrom that the NYC flagship is a decades-long vision realized. While others have closed flagships, Nordstrom continues to be one of the best merchants in the world. Nordstrom does not chase business, Nordstrom leads with class and style, always true to the customer while giving each associate the freedom to thrive.
  • Posted on: 10/29/2019

    AI needs to be more than just a bright, shiny object

    Retailers have only themselves to blame. Retailers have had at least 20 years to learn and understand the digital world. AI and its retail applications are reflective of the fact that retail technologies continue to evolve whether the C-suite has an interest or not. Here is the deal, a person or entity can only be "taken for a ride" if they choose to be ignorant. Digital is not a side note, it is the business of retail today. With digital comes the opportunity to leverage new retailer-specific customized AI driven solutions in many areas from improving ROI in the supply chain to banishing the bane that is the $208 billion return market by offering shoppers recommendations based on a shopper's sensory preferences. The litmus test for a retailer? Know what you are solving for, which is a human problem. The use of technology is the opportunity for a digital solution to solve a physical world problem. Take the time to talk with vendors, dig deep into detailed use cases you are trying to solve, ask many questions. Track the solution from beginning to end with the vendor or consultant. Learn on the job! Track the humanness of the solution the vendor offers. Does it make common sense to your business; to an individual customer? Retail is technology, requiring an investment of time to understand and then to solve the big ROI drains retailers face in the digital world. A quote I recently heard is that there is "not enough thinking going on" in retail.
  • Posted on: 10/28/2019

    What makes voice assistants creepy?

    Seriously, suspending disbelief that Alexa is always listening is to ignore the facts. Alexa targeted advertising is the tip of the iceberg, as they say. Whoever they are, they seem to be right. But creepiness is not confined to Alexa. My iPhone asked me out of the blue the other day how I liked lunch at a restaurant I had visited the day before. My iPhone, without being asked, guesses where I am going and how long it will take to get there. Who or what else is observing our day-to-day life? Likely all this data will become the basis for AI enabled "listening" to every aspect of our lives. To what end?

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