How E-tailers Personalize Outfits to Customers' Taste

Aug 11, 2015 — Allan Pulga
Photo credit: Danny Kim/Wall Street Journal

Last week (Aug. 5), the Wall Street Journal's Erin Geiger Smith wrote about online clothing retail MM.Lafleur, which asks customers survey questions in an attempt to glean a sense of their personal style.

Questions range from their favorite celebrity, to whether they love or hate a particular bohemian ensemble, to what size they wear in J. Crew skinny jeans.

Online retailers ask customers seemingly random questions to determine their style preferences, fit, etc.

"By asking questions like these, online retailers are putting together the puzzle pieces of your personal style and body type in an effort to make your shopping experience individualized and tailor-made," Smith wrote.

MM.Lafleur operates in a space similar to that of Stitch Fix and Birchbox (for makeup), which send customers boxes of various products -- MM.Lafleur calls theirs "Bento Boxes" -- to try on. Whatever they like, they pay for and keep. Whatever they don't like, they can ship back and return for free.

Smith quoted Forrester's Sucharita Mulpuru, who says the return rate for apparel purchased online is about 20%. For more expensive items, return rates can hit 50%. Brick-and-mortar stores typically see return rates of less than 10%. This is presumably because you are less likely to walk out of a physical store with a purchase you will eventually return. Online purchases, by contrast, may have lost some appeal (especially related to color, texture and fit) once they arrive at your home.

Forrester reports the return rate for apparel purchased online is 20%. Expensive items can hit 50%. Brick-and-mortar stores: 10%.

Like all online retailers, companies like MM.Lafleur, Stitch Fix or New York City-based Keaton Row get to know their customers better as they buy more, predicting future purchases based on previously bought brands, styles and outfits. Smith referred to a similar personal styling service for men, called Bombfell, which competes with the Nordstrom-owned Trunk Club service.

"Bombfell asks customers to click on items they already own, such as a denim shirt, and choose which outfit the like it with best—a black blazer, leather pants, a floral dress, or a striped shirt."

The personal styling via home delivery model is growing, too. Nordstrom isn't the only brick-and-mortar retailer with a stake in the game. Sephora is reportedly entering the space too, in an attempt to compete with Birchbox.

To keep up with changing shopper preferences, and a growing number of channels, retailers must constantly pivot their approach. Download Personalizing Every Customer’s Path To Purchase and learn how to adjust to consumer preferences in real time, and deliver 1:1 experiences that will delight every shopper during every shopping journey.

Get Your Free Whitepaper Now

Topics: Privacy, Wireless Trends, e-Commerce

Comments