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: 02/27/2020

    Will a former H&M exec lead Forever 21 into a bright new future?

    Forever 21 will reinvent itself under the influence of H&M and the contemporary leadership of Daniel Kulle. Forever 21 has a place in the business of fashion, versus the dearth of retailers selling boring basics with a twist. In the area of flipping the "fast fashion" issue to a positive sustainability promise, Kulle earned sustainability street creed via his leadership as President of H&M North America. From a retail fashion perspective, Forever 21 has been the stepchild to H&M, with both retailers reliably translating in-the-moment trends directly to the retail floor. Unfortunately, Forever 21 became addicted to fast fashion, high on the drug of executing every single micro-trend into cheap, large-scale fashion assortments of shoddy merchandise. Too much of too much! Forever 21 has a big opportunity under Mr. Kulle to reinvent itself as the fun, fashionable, on-trend, more affordable, sustainable sister to H&M.
  • Posted on: 02/26/2020

    Will fulfilling third-party vendor orders give Walmart an edge over Amazon?

    Long-term competitive advantage goes to Walmart. Why? Their physical stores, and the new WFS platform fueled by consumer trust in Walmart and Walmart logistics, enhanced by new third-party assortments. WFS gives a choice beyond Amazon to vendors and consumers. Walmart has worked hard over the past five years to climb the fashion scale, curating fashion brands both known and new to Walmart at excellent price points. Last but not least,'s inventory is easier to shop than Amazon's bloated, redundant third-party inventory. This is great leverage for Walmart now and will be five years down the road in competing directly with Amazon. I believe Walmart may have found the sweet spot of beating or matching Amazon at its own game. This is the business case retail pundits will comment upon for years and universities will explore for decades.
  • Posted on: 02/25/2020

    Amazon goes bigger with its cashier-less store concept

    The video makes shopping look so easy. Not a human cashier or stock person insight. Surely a human will be restocking and "fluffing" the inventory to look fresh and wholesome? What could go wrong? Frictionless grocery shopping sounds great until one has a question, although I am sure Amazon will have a Chabot to help each customer with questions. Maybe talking to a Chabot will be as fun as the self-checkout experience of today. If Amazon Go Grocery inventory at scale ends up as tired and unappealing as shopping Target for groceries, no amount of tech will save the experience. At the end of the day, humans are still humans, satiated by the thoughts of a good, delicious meal. Food is subjectively a personal, sensory experience of taste, visual delights creating an appetite and desire to enjoy food. In the long run, Amazon tech will need to cross the invisible and subjective barrier of individual human experiential sensory-preferences to succeed with Amazon Go Grocery. Of course, this could be considered mind-reading, which in itself is creepy. Be careful of convenience.
  • Posted on: 02/21/2020

    What does it take to make collaboration work within organizations?

    Equality to speak and be heard is a powerful experience for all at the table. The flipside of the equation is being heard within a collaboration yet having individual contribution not affect the outcome. Diversity of thought, experience, and knowledge of the organization and product can cultivate new insights and camaraderie. But -- there is always a but -- Groupthink, design by committee, the inside game of politics hidden under the guise of collaboration is a dangerous playing field to both people and products. Organizations that "play" the collaboration game abound. Corporate lip service to collaboration is a killer of human emotion and the courage to contribute to the conversation.
  • Posted on: 02/19/2020

    Shoppers have a love/hate relationship with self-checkouts

    Without naming retailer names, self-checkout has become for me the preferred poison over the bored, sometimes rude, throwing the groceries in a bag "service" of today's "new" customer experience cashier. Both methods are becoming so customer/consumer adverse that the pleasure of shopping for a week of groceries is now a stressful event. Those in charge of CX need to shop their own stores. New ways of customer service seem to be invisible to customers. CX is now the equivalent of the Emperor's New Clothes hoax.
  • Posted on: 02/14/2020

    How will Jetblack lessons inform Walmart’s conversational commerce efforts?

    An innovation lab in search of an "exploration," funded by resources almost every other startup has to bootstrap to achieve, utilized on a project to gain insights into how rich people use conversational commerce. Common sense would dictate that such an "exploration" should surely explore the masses of Walmart customers rather than the proclivities of the rich. There are plenty of startups working with very little capital to solve real problems. Well-funded retailer innovation labs quickly become well-funded projects in search of a real-world reason for being. This was a misguided use of funds. If Walmart were a startup the Jetblack "exploration" would have never been funded by investors.
  • Posted on: 02/12/2020

    Will the FTC redefine anticompetitive behavior after its big tech acquisition inquiry?

    So many opposing considerations. Startups abound in hopes of an exit. Big tech companies acquire smaller companies for competitive advantage. The government oversight described could in practice slow down big tech acquisitions of small tech. While big tech sucks the air out of true innovation, under such governmental oversight where does the risk/reward for small tech companies go? What motivation is there to innovate? Protecting retailers and consumers from the anti-competitive behavior of big tech is important. As is common in the case of government oversight of rules and regulations, big tech lawyers up and small tech companies are never founded under high risk and low reward. The FTC needs to be careful, the goal of controlling big tech could kill innovation in the tech sector. This is the law of intentional, unintended consequences.
  • Posted on: 02/10/2020

    Why isn’t voice commerce taking off?

    Listening devices dressed up as smart speakers. Likely I know too much. It is rather disconcerting to have a personal discussion manifest itself into an advertisement directly targeting my specific private conversation embedded in a national news website. More than once! Common sense seems to point out either advertisers are magic or maybe one of the many devices in our homes is listening. I am not a fear monger! Only connecting the dots of evidence through personal experience. As far as shopping goes, where do we start? Could Alexa, a product of the world's largest retailer with a foothold in almost every industry one can think of, possibly have biases towards certain outcomes? I agree if shopping for anything beyond canned goods and toilet paper is to be relevant, mobile has the least amount of friction. That said, established mindsets in the field of computer science and new cutting edge tech appear to be leaning toward AI-enabled machine learning which solves for mathematical patterns to apply to humans rather than solving for human intelligence.
  • Posted on: 02/07/2020

    Will a brand refresh make Shipt a household name?

    There are two interesting aspects of Shipt. Target groceries are lackluster at best. Shipt is the equivalent of Uber in terms of hiring contractors to deliver groceries. According to the Shipt website, there are no minimum order requirements and Shipt Shoppers are independent contractors who provide their own coolers and gas. Unfortunately for contractors, most insurance companies do not cover vehicles while delivering Shipt groceries. Hmm. What challenge will unfold first? Non-insured Shipt Shopper accidents? Sustainability and climate blowback for carbon emissions? One-hour delivery becoming a bad word? The good news for consumers is one of the few job requirements is "Knowledge of produce selection." No background checks mentioned.
  • Posted on: 02/03/2020

    Is Amazon’s speed killing the competition?

    With all the intense passion and fervor by presidential candidates and the media regarding the coming extinction of the world caused by human-created climate change, it is extremely interesting to observe the laissez-faire if not non-existent attitude regarding the environmental costs of Amazon executing one-day and same-day delivery services. Planes, trucks, packaging, human toil, racing delivery trucks in towns large and small. For what end? Environmentalists complain about private planes, yet one-day and same-day delivery gets a pass. It is beyond environmental comprehension, the compounded climate costs of delivering millions of individual packages a day, globally. I don't get it. I sure would like to know.
  • Posted on: 01/31/2020

    Will a resale shop deliver bigger sales for Nordstrom?

    "Curated by Olivia Kim." "Processes all returned and damaged merchandise sold in the retailer’s full-price department stores. Nordstrom will clean, repair and refurbish all items before displaying them to Nordstrom’s customers." This is a no-brainer for Nordstrom. Sustainability reinvents returns. Second-life returns curated by Ms. Kim and merchandised under the quality and design standards of the Nordstrom brand is pretty darn smart! In my opinion, it flips the switch from secondhand shopping to frequent visits to See You Tomorrow for a treasure hunt. The Nordstrom mindset, its brands, and its attention to detail has reinvented returns into sales while giving Nordstrom customers the opportunity to participate in the "circular fashion economy" according to Ms. Kim. Brilliant, even if the circular fashion economy fades as a trend.
  • Posted on: 01/30/2020

    Will 2020 be the year of less flash and more substance for in-store tech?

    The yin and yang of being a 21st-century retailer. "Every retailer is doing it, so we need to do it too." Resulting in visionless, superficial viewpoints under the guise of innovation. So much noise! Being a retailer is not easy and never has been. Today "selling stuff" requires huge-picture thinking. In fact the product seems to be lost in many retail calculations, stymied by the call of the "customer experience" and the customerless scorecard of ROI. So what to do? Back to business basics in applying new tech in stores? Balance CX with ROI? These reflections seem to miss the point. There is no back to "business basics" in a digital world. Retail leadership might think about taking the plunge of finally "getting under the hood" of retail tech to understand firsthand that there is no such thing anymore as going back to business basics.
  • Posted on: 01/29/2020

    The measured store, version 2.0

    Inferred behavior even at scale is still guesswork. Tracking shoppers in a store creates data. Data processed by algorithms designed to solve for patterns yielding insights. What is the value of an inferred insight? A prediction predicated upon a host of subjective nuances fed back to a retailer requiring action or response on behalf of the retailer to implement the insight, seeking a return on their investment. Online behavior, unlike the physical world, tracks hundreds of thousands of shoppers at once, depending on the size of the retailer. It's a physical world issue, impossible to scale for relevancy in-store. Watch a shopper make the decision to purchase in the physical world? Good luck.
  • Posted on: 01/28/2020

    Will online food and beverage sales be even bigger than imagined?

    As one who actually enjoys grocery shopping, seeing online orders being filled in-store is interesting to watch. It's grab and go, with staff picking multiple orders at once. There will always be people in a hurry, and people not so picky on the condition of the produce "picked" for them. And those who prefer to pick out their own produce. And as with all new trends, there is a race to capitalize, which in turn leads to over-automation of the trend. Which in turn pits speed against quality. Quality usually is the loser. In my opinion retailers and brands need to keep the quality of delivered or in-store pickup perishables quality in check. Although this could lead to boxed and canned food as the new trend.
  • Posted on: 01/27/2020

    Is IT insourcing critical to omnichannel?

    Balance. Internal teams tasked with the ability and freedom to reinvent IT under decades-old structures and policy politics sounds good! The challenge is that internal dialogues leading to good accomplishments are always subject to the human dynamic. Politics, leadership, groupthink, and design by committee all seem to find a home within organizations. It is like a race. Everyone starts out full of enthusiasm, ideas, goals, and then the day-to-day sets in. The balance requires a concerted effort to evangelize forward-thinking by consistently refreshing the internal playing field utilizing relevantly outsourced thought leaders and vendors.

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