How Boon + Gable is Bringing the Personal Shopper into the Digital Age
The idea for startup Boon + Gable's unique take on online fashion retail came from founder Diane Loviglio, a former qualitative user researcher at Mozilla. As with many people, Diane realized her busy working life had left her little time for clothes shopping - preferring instead to stick to tried and tested styles.
"I got super frustrated when I went shopping," Loviglio explained. "I was at Mozilla, I turned 30, and I was wearing Teva's, Gap jeans...and just a solid tee. And that was my uniform. [...] I had tried working with the in-store stylists at local retailers, but didn't have any success until I met stylist Nicole Chiu-Wang, now Boon + Gable's co-founder and COO. She helped me at my home, which made so much more sense than helping me at the store."
The Problem with Personal Shoppers
Personal shoppers can be very useful when customers need assistance in a brick-and-mortar store. They are familiar with the ranges their store carries and can make suggestions they believe will flatter your build and figure, while also able to put separate items together into a stylish and coherent outfit. However, personal shoppers have a few major drawbacks.
Firstly, they only have access to the items their store has for sale. This means they are unable to source products in other locations and bring them together for the customer. Personal shoppers also often work on commission, meaning their focus can often (understandably) be on making a sale, rather than making certain the purchases are the right choice for the customer.
(Image source: bucketlist127.com)
While personal shoppers can be a great help in-store, their knowledge of individual customers is usually rather superficial. They may know the customer's name, and can tell a certain amount about them from a chat and a look at how they are dressed at the time - but there's no way they can know the whole story.
Then there's the issue of buying clothes online. There's no way to really tell if the clothes will fit or suit a person until they arrive at their home and they can try them on. This often leads to disappointment, and having to navigate inconvenient returns policies. Virtual personal shoppers and fashion clubs can send suggestions based on user preferences, but there's still the delay before customers can find out if they like them - and still the returns policy to deal with.
Boon + Gable wanted to tackle all these issues by combining the elements of online shopping which are convenient, with the assistance and service of a personal shopper.
Enter the In-Home Personal Shopper
Boon + Gable has developed an app - available only on Apple devices at time of writing - which enables customers to explain a little about themselves, their favorite styles and clothing brands.
(Image source: itunes.apple.com)
Once a customer has entered their measurements, budget, personal information, and favorite brands, they book an appointment for a time convenient to them. Boon + Gable's bespoke recommendation engine, Clark, then uses the customer's information to browse the clothing available at local stores and whittle it down to a few hundred items which fit the parameters.
These items are then sent to the mobile devices of Boon + Gable's style experts, who select 20 items they think are the most suitable. The style experts then arrive at the customer's homes at the arranged time, and spend an hour helping them try the items on.
The service doesn't stop there, however. The style experts will also look at the customer's existing wardrobe, and offer suggestions on outfit combinations which will go well with the new items. Boon + Gable's style experts are paid a wage regardless of whether any items are purchased - so customers never have to feel like they're in for a hard sell.
"Kiia threw a bunch of fun clothes my way with fringes, floral prints and faux suede." Said Sarah Bur, journalist and customer. "I tried all of them on and she gave me a thumb up or down. 'I don't like this one for you,' she'd say. Or 'What do you think? You could wear it on a night out!' It felt like a good girlfriend helping me shop - albeit with an ulterior motive to sell me something. But Kiia seemed honest with me on most outfits, confirming what I already knew worked, or not, with my body."
The idea is, as stylists make more visits to a customer, their recommendations will get better. Boon + Gable will continue to develop and upgrade the software which allows it to make its recommendations, but the company is equally committed to keep building rapport and relationships with clients.
The last word goes to Diane Loviglio.
"You crash your car, you call a mechanic. You clog your sink, you call a plumber. Hungry? Order in. Style should be no different. It's time to call a pro. Leave the whole shopping thing to someone who gets a kick out of it. Let our style pros do the running around then come to your home and fast-forward you to the good part."
Download the eTail West 2018 Agenda to learn more.