This home page will have a mix of content: publisher-driven stores, algorithmic and programmatic stores (from workout wear collections to workwear) and other product recommendations. The personalization experience aims to improve over time as users interact with brands, save items to their feed, create stores (collections) and make purchases on the platform. So far, Shoptrue’s website features brands such as workwear brand Carhartt, luxury brand Burberry, North Face and Nike, among others.
Analysts said Shoptrue’s data-driven curation approach is theoretically possible, but added that there are substantial challenges to overcome from customer acquisition to retention. Retailers such as Farfetch, Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus have invested heavily in similar capabilities and are still developing them. Separately, Pinterest this summer acquired e-commerce platform The Yes, which is also powered by artificial intelligence to help transform the shopping experience on its platform.
Evans described the Shoptrue experience as creating a “fashion playlist” and putting users back in the driver’s seat of the online shopping journey, inviting them into the discovery process with options to select and share their own stores or collections , delete the items that do. I don’t like them and build collections that reflect their style, brands, fit and size.
“Algorithms don’t buy clothes, people buy clothes. And what we’re trying to do is put the controls in the buyer’s hands, put them in the driver’s seat and really put the person back on that personalization journey,” Evans said. “These collections that people create for themselves can become a source of inspiration for others and it really means that inspiration doesn’t just come from the top down of the software algorithm,” he added.
Shoptrue will operate under a standard marketplace model and act as a “matchmaker” between brands selling on its platform and users, Evans said. Shoptrue said it will charge retailers a commission for orders placed through its platform. The company will not own or maintain inventory, and retailers will ship products directly to their customers after ordering. “We’re making all of our investments in product discovery. Our bread and butter is really around style curation and style discovery,” Evans said.
According to Shoptrue, they have a “no shopper left behind” philosophy when it comes to brands they sell on the platform, so the large selection of brands improves the likelihood that customers will find something they like. The company said it aims to cover all customers and price points, from luxury shoppers to value shoppers and appeal to a wide variety of styles, sizes, etc. in men’s and women’s fashion.
Shoptrue’s launch comes at a time when online shopping in the US is becoming highly competitive with formidable players like TikTok entering the space and reportedly testing their products with select merchants and sellers in the country.
“It takes time to develop a user interface that is intuitive and streamlines the path to purchase,” said Matt Moorut, principal analyst at research firm Gartner. “You need to have the data to see how customers are using your platform to really know how to guide them, so it’s not something you can do easily from day one or with a limited amount of user testing,” he pointed out. outside Moorut.
Andrew Lipsman, principal retail and e-commerce analyst at Insider Intelligence, said customer acquisition could be a costly proposition for Shoptrue. “The costs associated with them can be justified if there’s a sticky customer experience that keeps shoppers coming back. In the algorithmic shopping space, retention has always been a big issue, and I’m still not convinced that something as subjective as individual taste is easily solved by algorithms,” Lipsman added.
The likes of Amazon and Google have tried to develop curated fashion experiences that have yet to hit the mainstream. Italian online fashion retail giant Yoox Net-a-Porter Group did not become an overnight success and has built its audience of more than 4.3 million users over the past seven years. Farfetch announced this summer in August that it will acquire a 47.5% stake in YNAP in a bid to become a global luxury platform.
The white space Evans said he discovered is that fashion consumers don’t always know what they’re looking for until they see it. “So I think the Amazon model has historically been very good at satisfying users who know exactly what they’re looking for, but if you don’t know, it can be a little overwhelming at times.” In terms of customer acquisition, the company said its big marketing push includes press outreach, digital ads, SEO, social media and influencer campaigns.
Moorut added that it will take a lot of optimization until Shoptrue’s algorithm reaches a point where it is able to show perfect recommendations. “You need customers to get the data to make the improvements to attract and retain customers. That whole chain needs significant resources to run,” he said.
Another challenge will be managing relationships with all the brands that appear on your platform. “If Shoptrue aims to position its USP around having more products from different partners than anyone else, then that will require significant partner management,” Moorut added.
Ultimately, Lipsman said, the odds are largely stacked against Shoptrue. “There have been many startups in the personalized recommendations space, and most have struggled in the long term. Fashion shoppers may be skeptical that this iteration will finally crack the code, so getting them to invest enough time and attention to make the service being useful to them could be a real challenge,” he added.