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Garmentology is a new tool which aims to provide a 'personal shopper' experience for consumers looking for fashion online.
I've been asking co-founder Susanne Newman about the company and its business model...
In one sentence, what is Garmentology?
Garmentology allows online fashion retailers to create personal shop windows for each user, allowing each user to see the clothes that suit them best based on their unique body shape and colouring.
What problems does Garmentology solve?
Garmentology allows retailers to address the key issues of relevance and confidence for buying in fashion online.
Garmentology allows retailers to address relevance by showing the clothes in the order that will suit each user the best, so the most relevant items for each user will appear on the very first page. This is like giving each user a personal shopper who will ‘edit the floor’ for them.
It allows retailers to address confidence by proving a unique personal suitability rating for every garment for each user, so they will know which ones will look as good on them as they do on the page. We don’t judge garments, just how well they suit each individual user.
When and why did you launch it?
Garmentology started in 2008 as a research project driven by the need of users to find out if was possible to automate the matching of garments to people with the same consistency and quality as delivered by professionally qualified image and style consultants.
Once we found that we could, we then set about developing a service that could be integrated into retailers’ web sites, whilst still delivering the needs of the users , which we launched earlier this year.
The motive was driven by a desire to democratise professional style and image advice. As an image professional, I knew the benefits that clients derived from the service I provided, but also that relatively few people were in a position to hire personal shoppers.
By automating the process, it could be made available to all who wanted it on a 24/7 basis at no cost to the end user – a classic case of identifying a need and fulfilling it.
Who is your target audience?
Garmentology has two audiences. Our by-line is ‘inspired by users, designed for retailers’.
As for retailers, any stores whose users fall into one of the categories above are good targets for us. Also, retailers who know that personalisation is a key differentiator on-line, or want to bring their on-line experience closer to their High Street experience are good candidates.
What are your immediate goals?
We’re currently working with a number of well-known retailers to integrate our service into their web sites. Our immediate goals are going live and supporting our retailer partners through this exciting but crucial period.
What were the biggest challenges involved in building Garmentology?
We learnt quite early on that we had something unique so one of the biggest challenges was keeping quiet while we tested and proved what we had, and turned an idea into a product. When we had a prestigious reviewer pronounce that ‘it’s clever, it’s fast, and it works!’ we knew we’d done the right thing!
Retailers are building increasingly wonderful websites and we’ve always been attracted by having something that would dovetail into existing sites. This meant designing our whole process around making things simple and fast for retailers.
How will the company make money?
We provide a service to retailers and charge for this service. Retailers can put any number of users through our online consultation process, and can request garment ratings as often as they like, 24/7.
An essential part of our process is how we capture details on each garment a website has for sale.
This part of our process is manual – we capture about twenty different details on each garment – and a key part of our research was to make this process as efficient and accurate as possible, so every garment is ‘double coded’ and checked, but it all happens very quickly and is fully covered by our service fee.
As our user base builds up, we increasingly see great value in the data we collect about body shapes and colouring, which means that personalisation can go well beyond the website and reach right back into the buying process.
This data can be quite personal so we will only release it in aggregated and anonymous form, but doing so won’t detract from its value.
What is your pricing model?
Because retailers are in total control of how they use our suitability ratings (and there are many ways in which they can use them) a monthly service fee based on the retailers’ range and anticipated churn is the most straightforward way to price the service, but we are also open to shared risk arrangements where appropriate.
Who is in the team and what does it look like?
Garmentology was founded by Rob Macdonald and I. My background is in image and style consultancy, but also in corporate sales. Rob has a varied background in IT including (many years ago) a background in the artificial intelligence technology that underpins our service.
Not surprisingly, we have a team of IT people making all the technology work, and a head garmentologist (Kirsty) who looks after the team of coders who run the manual process of capturing garment details. On top of that we have some great people helping us promote the business.
Where would you like to be in one, three and five years time?
There is no simple answer to this. We are committed to delivering a service that customers/users want and this will drive the direction in which we will grow and develop.
There are many amazing applications for our technology, and we probably haven’t even thought of all the ways that it can be used, yet! It is going to be about staying agile and responsive to our customers needs.and we keep learning new ones as we talk to retailers and users.
The road map includes some very exciting projects of developments in personalisation allowing access to our service from many different devices and location, not just in retail but publishing too.