Within our series of CXM interview, our Editor-in-Chief, Marija Pavlović, talked with Dressipi co-founders, Sarah McVittie and Donna North about their interesting personalisation solution for the fashion industry.
CXM: Dear ladies, thank you for your time. Can you first explain to our readers what makes Dressipi so special and tell us more about the core value of the customer experience it provides?
Sarah and Donna: When Dressipi started in 2011, we found ourselves increasingly overwhelmed by the millions of garments to choose from across thousands of retailers who were going online. Retailers (like any content provider) suffer from the problem of what to show to whom, so instead show everyone everything which results in a very poor customer experience. Every retailer was pushing product but there was no one genuinely servicing the consumer to help them work out what suited them, their wardrobe and their budget.
Dressipi is the first ever truly 1-2-1 personalisation solution for the fashion industry which addresses this issue, providing a service that enables retailers to show individually personalised product recommendations (to each of their customers, rather than the same recommendations to groups or clusters of customers). Dressipi has always remained true to its aim, which is to make clothes shopping and dressing hassle free for all women, ensuring customers find the clothes they will love, buy and keep, removing the frustration of filtering through hundreds of products.
Women go to the retailer’s website and take a short quiz to create their Fashion Fingerprint®, which captures their shape, lifestyle and feature preferences. Dressipi tags every garment with up to 30 data points and then goes through a process of reviewing every garment to find the best match for with that customers’ specific Fashion Fingerprint®. So what magically happens is instead of the customer seeing 100s of items they see their ‘perfect edit’ – a surefire way to get the right product in front of the right customer at the right time.
We also understand how to deliver this content in a way that is helpful and valuable to women. Most women want to know the best key styles for them, they want to know the best edit of each retailer for them specifically, they want to see how they should wear items in outfits that are tailored to them and they want to understand how these items work with their existing wardrobe to make sure it is a good investment.
What separates us from other companies in our space is our unique marriage of real world fashion advice and technology. We have a team of industry renowned stylists and world leading technologists working alongside each other to capture the complexities and nuances of something as dynamic and personal as fashion.
CXM: Your clients include some of the biggest names in British retail, such as M&S, John Lewis, Shop Direct Group, Arcadia Group and many others. What’s it like working with such big brands and what are the challenges you face in offering them top solutions?
Sarah and Donna: We are passionate about technology, data, and solving real customer problems so we have come to see the challenges facing retailers in an environment where customers are becoming more demanding as a big opportunity.
Our offering is very unique, and has the potential to be disruptive and transformational for both the retail industry and the customer. When we started Dressipi the retailers’ understanding of our technology and what we were able to provide was limited and personalisation was definitely a “nice to have” not a “need to have”. This has definitely changed over the years as retailers become more open to the idea of collaborating with technology businesses to address key issues such as personalisation and returns reduction.
We have also taken the time to build real partnerships with each retailer and we have both benefitted from that partnership. Working together to state and understand what problems we are solving for their customers and then working iteratively to ensure we are delivering that in the best possible way.
Having worked tirelessly with our partners over the last 2-3 years we now typically see 1 in 3 customers creating a profile in the first year. We also deliver up to 30% increases in net revenue per customer (who shops with a profile) and 5% (percentage point) reductions in garment returns.
The personalised weekly emails we send out to customers with a profile also get fantastic engagement, and almost always outperform the retailers own emails. We typically see average email click through rates of over 30% and open rates of over 45%.
CXM: Our monthly theme is trying to touch upon the subject of seasonal approaches to marketing. I believe seasonality is especially important in the retail business. Have you noticed some important aspects of seasonal approach while working for big retail brands?
Sarah and Donna: Yes, we see also that seasonality has an impact on customers shopping for fashion. Aside from the obvious variation in the type of categories and styles of garments that customers buy across different seasons, we also see a difference in their preferences for different features, price points, frequency of purchase etc.
CXM: Can you tell us more about how the Fashion Fingerprint® works?
Sarah and Donna: Click-based recommendation services, which work off what customers have clicked on or looked at, are limited in their benefit and in their scope and also fail to capture fundamental preferences of each customer at an individual level. As any woman will tell you, fashion is a deeply personal and emotional purchase. Unlike more regular categories like books and electronics, Fashion is far more dynamic. What we buy and wear in January is different to what we buy and wear in June, because the weather is different. Even if women have similar tastes, what
looks good on one may not look good on the other if their size and shape is different. Fashion as an industry changes every season so certain features come in and out of fashion (shoulder pads, jumpsuits etc) and fashion one industry where past purchases are not always a very good indicator of future purchases. A woman who loves to follow trends might well have indicated that she really does not like floral prints but if floral prints are the key trend that season she will go and buy a couple of pieces with floral prints. And, to make it even more complex clothes only exist to be sold for 3-6 months, so relevant data is a moving target!
The Fashion Fingerprint® is therefore a way for us to get to know each and every woman and start to capture their intent and their preferences. This is essential in delivering true personalization that drives excellent customer service.
We started out by sitting down with our stylists and asking them for their professional opinion on what it was they considered if they were styling someone in the flesh. Everything from height to body proportion, to hair colour and skin tone were important to understand in order to make good clothing recommendations. Capturing their style and the more emotional side of fashion was also essential, so questions to do with fashion confidence, lifestyle or whether the customer is particularly adventurous or not were also integral.
Turning these set of questions into an algorithm which would work alongside the garment data to provide accurate recommendations for each individual customer was no doubt challenging – as we all know fashion is an extremely personal thing and as an industry it is very dynamic and constantly changing. However, after years of testing and refining, each individual customer has their own personalised algorithmic model which continually learns and evolves with them and their purchasing habits.
The name came from the idea that everyone’s fingerprint is unique and so is their attitude to fashion. Our algorithms learn with each individual’s shopping and browse activity (across retailers) and understands the dynamic nature of the fashion industry, as well as how people’s lifestyle changes their fashion requirements over time.
Ultimately we are creating a service where every customer can use their Fashion Fingerprint® across all retailers both instore and online to guide every single purchase they make. Where each and every one of us looks and feels better as a result of excellent guidance when shopping or dressing.
CXM: Your service is obviously all about personalisation, which is showing to be one of the most important drivers of the successful customer service. In the vast sea of data and the number of customers, how does one achieve a truly humane and honest customer experience without falling into traps of the market?
Sarah and Donna: True personalisation has to be just that, it has to be truly humane and honest. It has to be customer-led and as soon as you lose your integrity with your customers you will lose their business.
The way we, as customers, use technology is constantly evolving. Never before have there been so many brands or products available with different channels to use for each step of the customer journey. Conversely, this abundance of choice leaves the customers overwhelmed, increasing the need for ever more personalised marketing and selling. Where each customer is recognised, wherever they are, and gets a differentiated experience based on their intent and their preferences.
Customers are now demanding retailers to think in the truly personalised realm, no longer the mass or even the cohort realm.
We believe that ultimately the customer will own his/her own data, they will choose who they share it with in return for excellent customer service.
We never push product to a customer unless we genuinely believe it will suit their shape and style. It is building that trust between the customer and the brand which is essential to maintaining brand loyalty and ensuring that the customer shops with you again and again. By providing a personalised service such as ours that aims to work seamlessly between the instore and online environments, customers will have even more reason to return.
Customers will shop with the brands that recognise them, help them and inspire them. In return for that amazing experience they will share valuable data about themselves, their intent and their preferences. This will provide brands with the data and insight to create better products, targeted selling and more efficient merchandising and distribution. Which in turn means shoppers feel more connected to the brand and better serviced. So used correctly, everybody wins.
CXM: Any tips for the young businesses out there? Any tips for the ladies in business in general?
Sarah and Donna: It’s not about being male or female it is about having the tenacity and drive to push your company forward even when regularly faced with big challenges. It is important to find a network of people (male and female) that can support and help you through your journey.
We were recently out on a Female Founders Scale-Up mission to Silicon Valley. We were chosen as 1 of 14 female led companies that are scaling quickly. It was an extraordinary trip with extraordinary women running really great businesses. The key take-aways from that trip that are great tips to all of us trying to build great businesses:
- Purpose first Revenue will follow: state and know what problem you are solving
- Speed vs Perfection: expect to get 20% wrong
- Clearly Defined Goals: Steps should be fluid because they change
- Purposeful Building of Culture
- Hire Well: your team will define your success
- Be Ambitious: think faster and bigger than anyone else
- perational Rigour: but don’t forget the detail and the KPIs
- Be Visible: you can’t be what people cannot see
- Pay It Forward: go out of your way to help people, you’ll reap the rewards
- Find Your Tribe: find your network and contribute
CXM: That’s a nice way to end our interview. Thank you again for your time.
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