The fashion industry isnt necessarily racing into the future, but some startups and even some big brands are taking steps toward technology that not only help end-users but also help the brands and retailers themselves.
One such startup is PS Dept, founded here in New York.
PS Dept turns the idea of personal shopping into something as simple as a text conversation.
When it comes to high value items like designer bags, clothes and shoes, many customers want immediate and accurate information across a number of brands and retailers.
PS Dept allows these customers to ask questions about availability, price and even purchase directly from the app.
But its not just about specific requests. PS Dept wants to replace the personal shopper section of retail stores, letting users ask broad questions to get recommendations from actual human stylists.
PS Dept does this by hooking into inventory/back-end systems for brands and retailers, offering PS Dept stylists a massive database of information around items. This could be as simple as finding the right size in the right shoe, or as complicated as matching the exact color thread in a dress to a customers existing matching shoes.
With the help of AI/bot technology, PS Dept is able to answer questions quickly. But the company believes that actual recommendations based on broad information should always be checked by an actual human.
Last year alone, PS Dept served up 45,000 items with a staff of just 5 stylists.
Alongside the conversation part of the app, PS Dept also offers a home feed featuring the most popular items currently being searched for on the app.
The idea for PS Dept came to cofounder Michelle Goad when she worked in merchandising at large fashion brands, watching sales associates struggle through the recession to earn commission without any customers in the store. Online shopping picked up steam, but the experience (while convenient) didnt hold a candle to having a dedicated sales associate walking you through specific items you might like.
I saw the decline of retail happening before my eyes and the lack of tools out there provided for the traditional sales force and wanted to power them to service the future, said Goad. Being super knowledgable about products your store carries doesnt do customers any good if youre stuck in a store and not accessible from a screen these days.
PS Dept was built to connect the dots between the convenience of shopping online and the quality of service of shopping with a qualified associate at your side. Plus, PS Dept offers an awesome employment opportunity to sales associates working at struggling fashion retailers.
PS Dept makes money through an affiliate model, taking a slice of transactions made through the platform.
The company has 1.4 million products on the platform across hundreds of brands and retailers, and stylists from PS Dept have achieved an average conversion rate of 30 percent.
PS Dept has raised a total of $6.4 million thus far.
You can check out the platform here.