A question we get asked a lot at HOLM is whether personal styling technology limits customer choice. Good fashion retailers are proud of their entire collections, so is it not bad business to tell a customer which five or six dresses she should be wearing?
The HOLM app was designed to curate rather than dictate customer choice. This factor was one of the reasons we designed it as an in-store-first experience. Here we explain why:
Clothes shoppers are already only looking at a limited selection of your range
One thing we learnt from twenty years on the shop floor is that customers can be overwhelmed with choice (we’re actually fascinated with the modern phenomenon of ‘too much choice’, but we’ll leave that to the many excellent TED talks and books on the subject).
The other thing we know is that a lot of customers lack time: it is no secret that convenience is the reason that 51% of UK shoppers prefer to shop online. Combine these two factors and you’re left with a shopper who might enter a store, take one look and walk out again.
On the flip side, there is another group of shoppers that know exactly what they want. They’ll make a beeline for their usual styles and head straight to the cash register. While a better outcome for the retailer than the walk-aways, there is also a missed opportunity. What about all the styles or even entire brands that our confident shopper dismissed as ‘not for me’?
Personal stylists suggest and encourage
So how do retailers get these groups of customers to try new things? Store groups, from Selfridges to Topshop have known the answer to this for years, use a personal stylist. These advisors don’t tell customers what to wear, but suggest items that they know will make their clients look great. They also add a social element to the shopping experience, giving customers one-to-one affirmation of their purchases. We set out to design an app that would help sales assistants do exactly these things.
Along with a key ingredient for customers – a totally unbiased affirmation, de-risking the chance a sales assistant is only interested in hitting their sales target!
Surely, personal styling is a question of creativity, not algorithms?
A good personal stylist helps their clients select clothes that look good on the client. Creativity plays a large part in this, but so does science. The HOLM app takes care of the science in order to showcase a brand’s creativity to its full potential. Time and time again our research highlights customers dismiss styles without ever trying them on. Yet we know the science and use it to ensure the customer does try it on.
Standing in front of the mirror, we change that ‘NO to an OH’ in a matter of seconds. Creating not only a nice surprise… but most often the sale too.
The science bit
Our algorithms are based on body shape. Our science is so precise because we accommodate for more than 4,000 female body forms alone. There is an intuitive understanding among clothes shoppers that certain styles of clothing look better on particular body shapes. A quick Google search, for example, on ‘dressing for body shape’ yields over 66,400,000 results. Elsewhere, this scientific study tells us why: to put it simply, humans find symmetrical bodies more attractive. The HOLM styling service plays to this by showing customers which clothes will suit their particular body shape.
A showcase for creativity
A good personal stylist would never tell a client what to wear. Instead, they make suggestions based on their experience of what looks good on whom. HOLM’s technology gives any sales assistant (even part-time Saturday staff) the authority to do just this. Rather than limit customer choice, HOLM allows store staff to suggest clothes that the shopper might have usually dismissed. Moreover – and going back to the science bit – the customer might not know why these clothes will suit them. Neither do they need to. It’s a magic moment for staff and customer when they see if for themselves.
Thus providing the perfect foundation for a sales assistant to guide the customer through the rest of the brand’s collections, in order to outfit build and accessorise.
Personal styling technology increases sales
Perhaps the best way to answer our initial question – ‘does personal styling technology limit what my customer might buy?’ – is to look at the figures. In a recent trial with a major mid-market womenswear retailer, HOLM’s express styling
An outfit normally starts with one garment type. Getting that one right unlocks the rest to follow. Get it wrong and there’s no sale at all… so why leave it to chance? Where’s the service in that?
HOLM’s in-store personal styling technology matches clothes to customers depending on their body shape (one of more than 4,000 body forms for women alone, calculated by clever algorithms). Our USP is
The result? Delighted, loyal customers who are instantly gratified to ‘feel good’, who cannot then stop themselves from promoting their experience by word of mouth and when they are complemented – as others also see when they do look good; creating a thriving, experience led, bricks-and-mortar store and a customer profile (data set) that boosts sales across all channels and more than halves online returns. Happy and motivated staff too, hitting their targets. By using an application that’s been carefully designed for simplicity and ease of use (so training is minimal). Where they now have the ascendancy to advise and help customers like never before.