Amazon just got a lot more fashionable.
The tool uses a mix of algorithms and human stylists to select the best looks for shoppers. Tony Bacos, chief technology officer of Amazon Fashion, said it is precisely this blend of computer and human intelligence that makes the tool so valuable.
“Many platforms are overwhelming and hard to navigate,” Bacos told WWD. “The customer feels like they’re on their own. For people who have specific requests, what the personal shopper does, it gives them an opportunity to share those [requests] in a way that they couldn’t if they’re just using the search box.”
While Prime Wardrobe — the try-before-you-buy apparel and accessories program — is free to Prime members, the new virtual style assistant works as an add-on feature for Prime members. For $4.99 a month, shoppers plug style preferences into an online survey — such as budget restrictions, fit preferences, looks to avoid and trends they love — and Amazon will curate a look (up to eight pieces a month) for them. Shoppers only pay for the pieces they keep and have seven days to return anything they don’t want.
“It’s pretty low risk for customers to take some chances through Prime Wardrobe that they would feel less comfortable taking with a traditional purchase,” Bacos said. He added that the service will only get better — generating more precise recommendations — the more the shopper uses the tool, since all preferences are saved in the company’s database, creating a more accurate algorithm on each individual member.
“We absolutely have diverse customers, so not everybody is looking for the exact same thing,” Bacos said. “You can really lean into the convenience side of this as well as the style advice.”
It’s unclear just how big the online personal stylist market that Amazon is going after is worth. There are several companies in the field offering personal, online styling services, such as M.M.LaFleur and Trunk Club. But perhaps the biggest — and the only other public player in the field — is Stitch Fix.
In the last 12 months, Stitch Fix has had nearly $1.5 billion in total revenues and sports a market cap of $2.77 billion.
In 2018, Stitch Fix founder and chief executive officer Katrina Lake told attendees at the Code Conference in California that Stitch Fix has not “had any serious discussions about combining” with Amazon.
Still, with competition comes added options for consumers. It might be hard for budget-conscious shoppers not to notice the price difference between Amazon and Stitch Fix’s styling services. Amazon’s Personal Shopper is $4.99 a month, offers free shipping and returns and only charges shoppers for what they keep. Stitch Fix doesn’t charge a monthly fee, but charges a $20 styling fee for each shipment — even if all items are returned. And the fee cannot be rolled over to the next order.
But if the company is worried about Amazon’s looming presence, Stitch Fix investors are not. Shares of the San Francisco-based company are up 57 percent year-to-date.
Even so, Amazon is growing as well — with seemingly no end in sight. Sales jumped 20 percent last quarter, tacking on an additional $2.6 billion in earnings during the three-month period. And those numbers don’t even include Amazon’s annual Prime Day event in July: Sales from the 48-hour shopping extravaganza surpassed last year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined. The retailer, which began as an online marketplace for books, now has a stake in music, electronics, groceries, cosmetics, household items and more.
Fashion might simply be the next frontier.
And while most people don’t think of Amazon as a platform for finding the latest style trends, the e-commerce giant has actually been experimenting with fashion for years, with things like influencers and exclusive brands only available on Amazon.
Bacos said the virtual style assistant has been in the works for at least a year. Meanwhile, Amazon launched The Drop in May. The program sells looks for a very limited time, only making the clothes after consumers place their orders, thereby creating a model of scarcity.
Amazon also bought shoe and apparel company Zappos, leaving it as a stand-alone site, and sponsored the Met Gala, possibly the most high-profile fashion show of the year. Lady Gaga unveiled her new beauty brand Haus Laboratories, available on Amazon, during this year’s Prime event. Shoppers can also find brands like Levi’s, Tommy Hilfiger and Nike on Amazon.
Now, more than half a million items across thousands of brands, both emerging designers and iconic brands — such as Seven For All Mankind, Calvin Klein, Rebecca Taylor, Adidas, Amazon brand Daily Ritual and more — will be offered up to Prime members by way of the new Personal Shopper by Prime Wardrobe tool.
Bacos said the stylist tool is a great way to discover new brands and styles that wouldn’t normally be on a person’s radar. Personal Shopper is currently available for women, but Bacos added that Amazon “wants to serve all customers eventually.”
“Some of our customers, they’re really looking for ways to save time,” Bacos said. “So it is a convenience thing. If there’s a way to have someone else shop for you, and someone who is well informed of your tastes and your preferences, that will be a welcome addition for many customers.
“Other customers may be less time sensitive, but they’re more interested in a traditional styling experience,” he continued. “They want someone who is paying attention to new trends, new brands, to be on the lookout and let them know when there’s something available that they should try.”
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