Subscription Commerce

Startup Handpicked Fashion Is Dressed For Subscription Success

There’s a new subscription apparel box on the market. Decidedly anti-tech and anti-expensive, Handpicked Fashion is aimed at the eCommerce shopper that might be just a little disillusioned with current offerings on the market. The service is an outgrowth of StyleBox, a guided in-app shopping platform, and creates personalized subscription boxes curated by professional stylists. Each box has a complete outfit, based on customer style preferences and selected from premium brands at what the company says an affordable price.

“Today’s online style shopper is overwhelmed by choice,” says Founder and CEO Janet Proger. “Online shopping sites, Instagram and Pinterest are filled with pictures of beautiful clothes and stylish models. But translating inspiration into personal style that fits and looks great is a major customer challenge. How many of us have bought something online, that looked great on the model, and then been disappointed when it doesn't look good in the mirror? We want to solve that problem taking the outfits you like and adjusting it to your unique body and style."

If the model sounds a bit like Trunk Club or StitchFix, Proger would agree, to an extent. Handpicked Fashion uses professional stylists to work with a customer's preferences and then they select clothes to fit the preferences. Like other services, it keeps track of preferences and history. But Proger is adamant that stylists, not algorithms, handpick every item from premier brands at the best prices. She sees limitations in all the subscription boxes on the market, as well as some of the leading eCommerce and brick-and-mortar brands.

“Nordstrom, Macy’s and other retailers with an online presence are too traditional and too limited in their searching and browsing approach,” Proger says. “Stitch Fix and Trunk Club are interesting and successful approaches that indicates that online shopping is changing. This is just the beginning of market transformation into personalized, guided shopping. But the product propositions are limited. Shoppers have no control of what they receive and can’t learn from the process. It is a one-way approach. We focus on shoppers and their needs. All shoppers are different. Some believe in a minimalist wardrobe, other prefer bright outfits with many accessories. Our platform was designed for conscious shoppers, who have full control, communication and feedback.”

StyleBox, the mobile app that Handpicked is built on, has a similar model but a wider array of products. Proger says it has thousands of registered users and is focused on building long-term, personalized relationships, analyzing customers' tastes and adjusting to their needs. It is currently focused on U.S. consumers who she says are conscious about their current fashion choices and willing to experiment with new ones. As the two businesses grow in parallel, she wants to engage more prominent stylists and use Instagram influencers to build buzz about Handpicked. That approach, she says, will keep algorithms out and instincts from her current stylists in the driver’s seat.

“The success and scale of Stitch Fix are proving that subscription model makes sense in fashion eCommerce, but I believe it should be a fair game,” she says. “I want to provide our customers with freedom to decide if they want to have a subscription model or just a one-time purchase. We provide our consumers more value for their money by shipping them high-quality, known brands for an affordable price.”

Proger says she has seen a bump on StyleBox since the pandemic. It has convinced her that options in the subscription commerce space are more necessary than ever. She’s hoping Handpicked can have the same attraction as the pandemic continues and then hopefully ebbs. Her sentiment is supported by Recurly CEO Dan Burkhart, as quoted in the July installment of the PYMNTS Subscription Commerce Tracker.

“COVID-19 has [redirected] the trajectory of subscriptions into the future, because the notions of convenience, safety and access that have been appealing to subscribers before have only been accelerated now that they are reconsidering the true cost of going to the store or the mall, browsing aisles and racks, finding something they like and then bringing it home,” Burkhart says. “Offering consumers a variety of procurement and payment options — from longer free trials and pausing existing subscriptions to delivery and contactless payments — are just a few of the tactics that merchants are using to not only survive the economic impact of the pandemic but to thrive in spite of it.”

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NEW PYMNTS DATA: HOW WE SHOP – SEPTEMBER 2020 

The How We Shop Report, a PYMNTS collaboration with PayPal, aims to understand how consumers of all ages and incomes are shifting to shopping and paying online in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research builds on a series of studies conducted since March, surveying more than 16,000 consumers on how their shopping habits and payments preferences are changing as the crisis continues. This report focuses on our latest survey of 2,163 respondents and examines how their increased appetite for online commerce and digital touchless methods, such as QR codes, contactless cards and digital wallets, is poised to shape the post-pandemic economy.

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