Will a combo of data and personal stylists drive online apparel sales?
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the Retail TouchPoints website.
As with subscription services such as Stitch Fix, Trunk Club and Wantable, Allume promises to offer curated apparel choices for its users based on their styling preferences. The recently-launched personal shopping service, however, takes the further step of matching users with a styling expert — a “real person, not a bot” — to fine-tune selections.
Allume makes its money by partnering with approximately 50 retailers and brands on special deals, but the personal shopper can look anywhere online for merchandise that best fits.
Shoppers first take a “style quiz” offering insights into goals, style, body shape and budget in order to be matched up with a personal shopper with similar interests. The selected stylist reaches out via text message to schedule a one-on-one consultation.
“Think of it almost like the first time you go to a new hairdresser,” founder Mauria Finley told Retail TouchPoints. “She wants to talk through your goals and your hair and how you feel about it. … She really tries to get a sense of you.”
The stylist then browses the internet and sends the shopper a virtual Lookbook of items that fit the individual’s tastes. Items can be purchased through the Lookbook and shipped directly from the retailers, who also handle any returns.
“We’ve done a lot of testing before we launched, and there’s two moments that are important to customers,” Ms. Finley said. “One moment is this feeling of ‘She got me,’ and you hear that phrase in a lot of ways: ‘I’m so surprised Megan figured me out so quickly.’ The sense of being understood is a very important part of this. The second moment is: ‘Wow, she found me clothes I love’ or ‘She introduced me to a brand I wouldn’t have thought of.’ Those two moments drive shopper happiness: feeling understood and then receiving clothes they never would have found on their own.”
Prices are never marked up, and the service is essentially free — customers pay a $20 fee that is refunded with a purchase as long as the shopper spends more than $20.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you think of Allume’s customer service model? Do you think that matching data-crunching with personal stylists will reduce many of the impediments to buying apparel online? What other hurdles do you think retailers need to overcome to be successful selling clothing online?