LONDON — E-commerce is a multiedged sword: While there may be endless product possibilities, consumers are too often faced with choice paralysis. Tech start-up StyleAtom, founded by Chungaiz Khan Mumtaz and Phil Gulliver, is hoping to help retailers enable their customers to shop more efficiently.
Launched in 2017 with initial funding from Collider, StyleAtom is a three-in-one, plug-and-play tool for e-tailers. It’s a visual search tool — online shoppers can upload a product image and get recommendations — as well as a categorical tool that sections product matches into different styles of dress. It also offers style tips.
E-tailers are quickly catching on to the power of search tools. Last year, Asos rolled out a visual search tool for its mobile users and YNAP’s chief executive officer, Federico Marchetti, claimed that the group’s new tech hub in White City will be developing tools and using artificial intelligence to “serve the customers better and help personal shoppers propose a selection of products that makes even more sense.”
While product recommendation tools have long been an e-commerce staple, Mumtaz believes that the current web experience still falls flat. “We found that the web experience wasn’t dynamic enough. To be bespoke, a web site should change itself to suit your individual taste and personality,” he said.
StyleAtom prides itself on an algorithm that listens to the “signal” shoppers send when they are navigating a web page. By clicking on certain images, filters and styles, clickstream data is able to predict adjacencies to what they are searching for.
“Instead of showing you more corduroy jackets, it’s about showing you what would go with a corduroy jacket based on the styles that you have indicated by clicking around a site,” Mumtaz added.
The tool is primed to help overcome choice paralysis for any product where style is an integral part of the purchasing decision, and Mumtaz and Gulliver’s long-term ambition is to introduce StyleAtom to interiors and art.
As of now, they are launching with Peggs & Son, a British men’s wear retailer where the product can be put to the test. “We definitely recognize that it’s a bigger problem with men and their fashion education. There’s a greater opportunity to help them across that journey,” said Gulliver.
Charlie Haywood, head of marketing at Peggs & Son, trusts that StyleAtom can understand the mind-set of their consumer. “It is great to be able to offer customers alternatives when they are browsing on our web site but to manually do this takes a lot of work and still feels somewhat like a stab in the dark. Our hope is that StyleAtom will remove this guess work by using its algorithms to present a list of suggestions that customers want to actually see, and purchase. They don’t just want to see any old product, they want to see a carefully curated selection based on style, color and fit.”
Much like the corduroy jacket, men like Gulliver can input a search for a classic white shirt that will lead them to a drop-down menu of their desired style choice such as “preppy.” The algorithm will then recommend chinos, loafers and other similar shirt styles such as striped shirts.
“It follows the style footprint of that shirt and really zeros in on certain products,” said Gulliver, who also pointed out that these recommendations will be sorted by price. “It does it without the consumer actually having to set a price filter, which is kind of a depressing reality, and in this way, there is an upsell opportunity of a higher-priced item.”
The technology is in its early stages and, so far, it can recognize 30 different styles such as eveningwear, sportswear and minimalism. The pair has teamed with Istituto Marangoni to “teach” the algorithm 300 more styles of fashion and dress from the Fifties to the present day.
“We understand that even within sportswear you have ath-leisure and all those niches, so it can get pretty complex but it will make a judgment about what percentage it sees sportswear in a certain product,” Mumtaz said.
Gulliver claims that StyleAtom will deliver recommendations of what people actually want and are going to buy, “rather than being dictated to by editors and stylists.”
“From a business point of view, StyleAtom will help optimize their inventory and increase conversion and for the consumers, we’re putting the consumer experience back at the heart of that online purchasing decision. It’s removing that friction from the user’s point of view so that they don’t have to type in an explanation of what they are after,” Mumtaz said.