Despite being a millennial in her mid-20s, I rarely buy clothes online. A jacket here, a jumper there, perhaps, but I don’t often go beyond that, usually because the choices are too overwhelming and I’m never convinced that what looks good on the screen will actually look go on me unless I can try it on (free returns? Nope, too lazy for that).
Realising many others feel the same were digital retail strategist Kelly Slessor and marketing strategist Emma Sharley, who came together to solve the problem with a platform called Shop You.
Shop You is a personalised shopping app matching users to brands that suit their style, size, and preferences by learning about them through their search and purchasing behaviours over time.
“It’s predicative fashion,” Sharley said.
The app has a dual purpose, Sharley said: to give shoppers a faster and more personalised shopping experience, and to drive higher conversions for retailers on mobile.
As Sharley explained, “Having worked in retail we saw that women were overwhelmed by choice; Google ‘black dress’ and you get 998 million results. We saw more women shopping online and most of this traffic coming from a mobile device.”
Shop You began as a side project, with Slessor and Sharley spending a few years researching the idea before starting the development process last year as they received investment.
Among the statistics uncovered by the pair’s research – based on 40,000 app reviews and a survey of 1,000 women – is that, contrary to cliched stereotypes, 80 percent of women don’t enjoy shopping, with 23 percent stating they can’t find what they want, and 40 percent stating they have either turned down invitations or felt anxious about going to an event because they didn’t have the right thing to wear.
What’s more, the pair found up to 50 percent of online fashion purchases are returned.
With all their research pointing to the potential of their idea, Sharley and Slessor received funding through Investible and other supporters to begin development last year. Though “technology comes with a mind of its own” and some challenges were had, Sharley admitted, the most memorable came as the app launched on the App Store.
“The day Apple approved Shop You and we went live in the App Store, McKinsey acquired our entire development agency – a team of 12 – in Malaysia, giving us ten days notice. So we went from popping champagne, to immediately working through a crisis resource plan,” Sharley said.
The app works by having a user sign up and answer a couple of questions around things like style and brand preferences; this, combined with the fact a tag is created each time they take an action within the app, helps create the user’s “shopping DNA”, Sharley explained.
“Over time it curates their feed based on this DNA. They can search by occasion, individual item, get style inspiration, or simply search the chatbot for exactly what they want, for example a black dress.”
A retailer, meanwhile, once onboarded onto Shop You has their product feed integrated into the app.
Sharley explained, “They own the customer and the sale. We have the ability to market to a consumer based on their unique profile, one-to-one marketing, with brand messages. We also pass data back to the brands around trends, searches and engagement across multiple products.”
Already onboarded are brands including Witchery, Cotton On, ASOS, and Lorna Jane. Given the cofounders’ combined decades of experience in the retail space, Sharley said the industry has been “amazingly supportive” and helped connect them to the relevant people they needed.
From there, Sharley said the cofounders spent “considerable time” personalising the content they sent to each brand as they pitched them.
So what is the pitch to brands?
As Sharley put it, “It gives them access to a clearly defined audience and gives them the ability to market to consumers that are actively looking for their products; it also allows them to be part of the future of shopping without the investment.”
As for Shop You itself, Sharley explained there are three core revenue streams for the startup.
“[These] are built on sales, ability to provide truly personalised engagement, and data insights to help retailers improve their digital presence,” she said.
With the startup’s target market generally busy women aged between 25 and 45, Shop You is working with its retailers to bring users on board while also exploring social media and its ‘power user group’.
As they look to growth, Sharley and Slessor are aiming to raise further funding to build out the team and, in turn, aim for global expansion.
However, the core goal is simple: “Ultimately, we want to save women time and find them what they want when they want it.”
Image: Kelly Slessor and Emma Sharley. Source: Supplied.