The Future of Fashion Retail: Marissa Evans

Portrait of Marissa Evans, founder of fashion startup Go Try It On

Photo: Courtesy of Marissa Evans

Rise of the personal e-stylist

There is no denying that the current polyphony in the fashion world can be confusing, especially when it comes to defining what is stylish and what is not. However, that doesn't mean that all these opinions stemming from people from all over the globe can’t be beneficial — if channeled right. That seems to be the premise behind a wave of fashion start-ups that utilise the power of crowdsourcing in order to offer sartorial advice to their members. The procedure is simple: people open up their closets to strangers — that range from people next door to experienced stylists — and they get feedback on what suits them best.

As this trend is catching on, the companies behind the real-time fashion advice websites could soon have a wealth of useful data in their hands, allowing them to offer personalised recommendations to their users based on the feedback they receive when trying out items. Once the user purchases a recommended item, the websites get a commission from the stores.

Of course, there are some challenges ahead for the start-ups, like ensuring that the advice offered is actually useful or where they should draw the line when filtering comments. Another important issue? How can one offer interesting enough visuals to trigger interest (and responses), when all submitted material reflects the taste (or lack of) of the users?

What does 'Go Try It On' bring to the fashion consumer's table, and what kind of needs does it address?

We offer consumers advice on what to wear. We are all about bringing together experts, friends, and brands and offering a place to get ideas and opinions on what to wear and what will look great on you.

Fashion is all about great visuals and style. Since you are relying on user-generated content (images, to be more precise) how big of a risk is this for your website's overall aesthetics?

This is true. We’ve got a very talented designer helping us to ensure that any outfit uploaded is presented in a clean and clear way. At the end of the day, the best way we can offer people real advice and suggestions is by helping them see what they actually look like. The idea is that we all try on lots of outfits when deciding what works best or when shopping and 'Go Try It On' offers a snapshot of these moments.

How challenging is it to make users engaged with 'Go Try It On' and how do you plan to sustain its relevancy and helpfulness?

We are offering a solution to a real problem that many people face daily. Trying to help people answer the age-old question — what should I wear? — fits right into their lives. It's more about are we serving these users in relevant ways? Are we slotting into their lives the way they want us to and are we offering the most helpful solutions? We just need to constantly be asking ourselves those questions in order to be most effective for our user base.

You filter any negative comments, but how do you make sure that the fashion advice offered is actually helpful and/or relevant to the user's needs? How much do you rely on professional stylists for generating tips for your user base?

We filter out non-constructive comments. We’ve built an operations team to determine what specifically is non constructive. If you use our product, you will get a very unbiased sample of people’s opinions and thoughts. We are creating user-generated community where spammers or non-constructive contributions are not tolerated. We made that choice early on and I believe our community is much stronger because of it. We have a strong network of professional stylists who have been advisors and friends of the company. Our editorial team is educated in styling and many of us have worked in fashion before joining 'Go Try It On'. We also have branded stylists on the platform; consumers can get tips from Sephora, Grazia and Vente Privée.

You have said that 'Go Try It On' is making a greater investment in data and analytics, when compared to its competitors. Could you please tell us a bit more about this? How is it affecting the user experience and your business model?

As our members use GTIO we can create outfit metrics profiles around them. So when do they get a “wear it” and when do they get a “change it?” and what are the relevant factors associated with these crowd sourced decisions? If you constantly get “wear it” votes when you wear red or black jeans, we can start to suggest other items that you might like based on what you look good in.

In your view, how does social media influence the way people interact when it comes to shopping? What kind of selling models do you see emerging due to this trend?

I think social networking is a great way to get more personalised ideas of items you want to buy. Your friends know you best and know about your lifestyle. Getting ideas from them is a great resource and can be a lot more trustworthy than a general 'five star' rating.

The fashion industry was a bit slow to catch up with the new trends in technology, but we are now seeing a lot of start-ups trying to get a piece of the industry. How do you feel about this?

All the attention and savvy entrepreneurs with a love for fashion will propel this industry forward. The Fashion 2.0 space is still emerging and becoming something new. It’s a very exciting time to be involved in defining what this space will look like for consumers around the world.

Chuck Townsend of Condé Nast said in WSJ: "€œMy eyes are wide open. I don'™t consider [the traditional ad-revenue model] to be a perennially sustainable stream of revenue". We see brands becoming publishers and publishers stepping into retail sales (for example, Telegraph's 'FashionShop'). Is this the beginning of a new era for these industries? How do you see the relationship between media and retailers developing in the future?

Very much so — our plan has always been about defining a new way brands can connect and communicate with their consumers. On our platform, brands have profiles and can engage with members by suggesting items for them to wear. Who knows merchandise better than the shops themselves? I believe a model which brings traditional sales associates online and gives them the opportunity to scale their connectivity and communications with customers who love and adore them is the way forward.

As a consumer, how have your shopping habits changed this past year?

I'd say now that I'm familiar with all these wonderful fashion bloggers, I check out what they are wearing and use that as my shopping guide.

Which trends do you identify with most strongly in the world of fashion ecommerce?

The idea of social shopping. I want to know what my friends think I should buy—each one of us has the friend who 'knows' about something specific, whether it be that 'great Italian restaurant' or the 'best bike to buy'… that translates to fashion as well. We all have our most stylish friends who always have great items and mix and match them together. I believe that they will become the editors of the future, or at least on a micro level, a personal fashion editor…

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