The short article, below, from Susan Reda, editor of Stores Magazine for the National Retail Federation, talks about a San Francisco start up, Stitch Fix, that delivers "a customer-centric, personalized shopping experience - two things today's shoppers crave." It does so by leveraging customer 'data and analytics to hone shoppers' preferences.'
You may have your customers' data and analytics, but what are you doing with them? How are you using them to nurture and further engage customers?
Stitch Fix's prolific growth attests to its strategy's relevance to retailers, but it also is proof perfect that brands need to do the same for their customers.
Last month I attended a breakfast hosted by Les Berglass, the founder and CEO of executive search firm Berglass + Associates. He introduced Katrina Lake, the founder of a San Francisco-based startup called Stitch Fix and someone Berglass believes represents the future of retail leadership. Lake, a Stanford graduate with an MBA from Harvard, created the subscription-based personal shopping and delivery service with an eye toward helping women feel more confident in their apparel choices.
Using data about size and style preferences collected via an online questionnaire, as well as information about how certain brands fit, Stitch Fix personal stylists choose pieces that fit subscribers’ lifestyles and flatter their bodies. Consisting of five pieces — typically four apparel items and one accessory — a “fix” arrives as frequently as the shopper desires. The first box may not be a home run, but as shoppers share feedback about their likes and dislikes, the data is crunched to ensure that each ensuing fix is more in sync with shoppers’ ideals.
It’s what’s going on behind the scenes that is especially impressive. Using a proprietary engine, Stitch Fix leverages data and analytics to develop algorithms that hone shoppers’ preferences. Ultimately they’re delivering a customer-centric, personalized shopping experience — two things today’s shoppers crave.
“We collect information … and blend it with what we know from inventory and from other clients,” Lake said at the breakfast. “That helps to inform the data and algorithm side, generating recommendations from the stylists. It combines art and science — the more we know about you, the better we become at creating a ‘fix.’”
Berglass, a veteran retail recruiter, believes this industry’s future leaders need to be equally adept at picking a team to execute their vision as they are at picking products (for more of his insights, see our cover story). Lake fits the bill. Her team includes the former COO of Walmart.com, the former vice president of engineering for Opower and the former vice president of data science and engineering for Netflix — in other words, someone instrumental in creating the company’s preference engine.
While Lake was reluctant to share specifics, she said the company has grown at a rate that is exceeding expectations. Stitch Fix recently raised $12 million in a second round of financing led by Benchmark. The company employs over 500 people and has finalized plans for an additional distribution center to open later this year.
Managing inventory against the data is key to the company’s success; so, too, are affordability and the customer experience. On average, items retail for $55 (it’s rare to find something over $200) and product is sourced from a unique mix of vendors. Each fix comes with a suggestion card on how the items can be worn together or separately.
Let’s recap: Stitch Fix delivers the convenience of online ordering and delivery, the luxury of personal styling and the cache of affordable pricing. And every time someone places an order, its systems get better at figuring out what she likes and what will fit just right. I’m in.