Choice. It’s a good thing, right? Online shopping opens up a whole new world of decision-making, one where you sit at your laptop and choose from thousands of different pairs of shoes, and hundreds of little summer dresses.
The problem is, this much choice can be paralysing. How can you decide what to buy?
One way to cut through the confusion is with a personal styling service. It can make the eCommerce experience less daunting for consumers by ‘editing down all the noise,’ as Birchbox co-founder Katia Beauchamp put it in her interview on the subject with USA Today.
This blog post takes a look at two brands that have pioneered personal styling online (Baukjen and ASOS), and two multi-brand styling services attempting to draw in fashion consumers (Style Nibble and Dressipi).
BRANDED PERSONAL STYLING SERVICES
An off-shoot of the maternity brand Isabella Oliver, Baukjen are a rapidly-growing online womenswear label. They recently introduced an E-Stylist service which seems to be the first of it’s kind in the UK. And it’s pretty impressive.
Customers sign up for a 1-2-1 session with a stylist who takes them through the Baukjen collection via Skype. You fill in a questionnaire with some details about yourself and what you’re looking for first, so the stylist can pick out appropriate pieces.
What’s clever about this? Well, it’s a great opportunity to cross-sell product. It’s also a way to get more information about the clothes across to the customer. As they say in their introductory video, you can get a better feel of the stitching, the detail of a button, and the way the fabric hangs. It will be interesting to see if this kind of initiative can increase the average order value from customers, and encourage return visits.
It’s also a brilliant PR idea. Baukjen launched the service with a party for fashion journalists and bloggers, and it’s had some great press, including this post from That’s Not My Age. There’s also a review from Drapers here – they were very impressed by the lack of hard sell and the quality of the service.
ASOS Personal Styling
ASOS’s has been trialling digital personal styling for a while, but it’s not a permanent feature yet. They use Skype to offer customers a one-to-one consultation using an online live chat format – it’s also totally free!
This service is much less personalised than the Baukjen e-stylist, understandable given ASOS’s huge volume of customers. The messaging format suggests that each stylist is covering more than one client at a time, which would make it more cost-effective to run. That’s backed up by this interesting review here from a fashion blogger who found the service slow but helpful.
The feedback on Twitter was pretty positive – could this make the tiresome chore of trekking the Oxford Street square mile on a Saturday afternoon a distant memory? We’ll be keeping a close eye on whether ASOS continue the service.
ONLINE PERSONAL STYLING SERVICES
While retailers may be slow off the mark when it comes to personal shopping, there’s a whole host of startups who claim to offfer personalised shopping recommendations to customers. They have the advantage of being able to select from a range of different fashion brands. Here’s a look at two of our favourites:
Dressipi are an online service offering free personalised purchasing and styling advice. Customers fill in a questionnaire with details about their preferences and sizing, and then Dressipi recommend various purchases from a variety of stores. You can sign up for a weekly fashion update which hand-picks the perfect items for you.
It’s all powered by a clever combo of real life stylists, and a back-end tech system that gets better at predicting your tastes the more you use it. The results seem impressive – according to this article returns of items bought from Dressipi are at 10%, compared to an industry average of 30%.
Dressippi have also partnered with Boden to provide a service called ‘Your Style Advisor‘. It’s the Dressipi technology applied to Boden’s stock, and could be a useful avenue for brands who want some of that personal styling magic without having to invest in their own systems. It’s also a way for retailers to get valuable product feedback – if most of their customers say they want to hide their arms, for instance (something Dressipi lets you specify), it may explain why all those sleeveless tops are still sitting on the shelves come sale time.
Ultimately the future of fashion online is going to be all about data, and that’s where Dressipi are adding value.
While Dressipi feels quite scientific with its detailed questionnaire, Style Nibble take a more light-hearted approach. This styling service has a visual quiz that lets you pick your favourite outfit from a line-up of photos.
Once you’ve made your choices, you get an email with your ‘style profile’, and the name of your stylist (there are four). It’s never made totally clear if these stylists are real or virtual, but you get a weekly email from them with selected picks.
You can decide whether you ‘love’ or ‘hate’ each item, and your preferences inform the picks you get in future. There’s also a cute ‘credit or debit’ feature, where you can click on high-end pieces of clothing to reveal a cheaper high-street alternative.
Style Nibble don’t try to provide a comprehensive styling and sizing service, like Dressipi. Instead they offer an engaging curated experience that’s lots of fun to look through every week. They also have themes to their emails – this week was inspired by London Fashion Week, and in the past they’ve had exercise gear and Christmas jumpers (all super-stylish of course).
From a retailer’s point of view, as with Dressipi this service gives invaluable feedback on products and types of consumers. If you choose to ‘hate’ a product, rather than choosing from a drop-down list of choices, you can tell Style Nibble your exact reasons for disliking it. Presumably that data is all being kept and analysed.
Using the quiz is a clever way of drawing in users. Who doesn’t want to find out their ‘style personality’? It’s a classic women’s magazine tactic! Style Nibble already seem to have a highly engaged customer base, and it’ll be interesting to see where they go next.
Personal styling for retailers – what are the advantages?
Personalisation is the next big frontier online for retailers. It’s the perfect tool for increasing cross-selling and engaging customers - after all, if they’ve taken the time to set up a personalised profile, it’s a no-brainer to keep purchasing from that brand.
That’s why we’re intrigued to see how Baukjen’s innovative service take off. Perhaps it will persuade other brands to do something similar. And we’ll be keeping an eye on the multi-brand styling services too. If you have any favourites, let us know!